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Arangetram - Sangita Keshavan

Shyla Shrinath
09/30/2005

Bharatanatyam is an ancient art form that originated in South India many thousands of years ago and continues to be practiced with dedication and devotion by generations of dancers to this day. One of the important milestones in any dancers path through this divine art form is the Arrangetram or the first solo dance performance by a dancer who is deemed to be ready by the teacher or Guru to not only dance in front of a large and varied audience, but also to have the stamina, practice and ability to do so for over 3 hours on her own. Arangetram is a Tamil word that literally means ascending the stage. While it is not the culmination of a dancer’s learning process, it is an indication that she is now ready to move in the direction of learning more complicated pieces and performing on stage.

Under the able tutelage of Guru Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai, Sangita Keshavan gave a stellar performance at her Arangetram on Saturday, Aug 27th. The event took place at the Sorenson Theatre at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts and was attended by a large group of family and friends of the Keshavans. The performance started with the traditional Pushpanjali or offering of flowers and went onto culminate 3 hours later with a fast paced Thillana meant to showcase Sangita’s mastery of the footwork necessary for this particular piece. Along the way, the audience was treated to several other pieces performed with great artistry and grace by Sangita. Her rendition of the Varnam, the longest piece traditionally in any performance of this kind, was especially arresting and enthralling to the audience. Sangita’s portrayal of Lord Vishnu in all his avatars needed neither words nor explanations to get the meaning across to them. Her abhinaya (expression) was mesmerizing and she managed to draw her audience into the story, whether it was Lord Vishnu as Vamana claiming his three feet of land by placing the third foot on King Bali’s head or Krishna as Arjuna’s charioteer giving Arjuna the courage to go into battle with his own cousins, the Kauravas, in a beautiful rendition of the Bhagavad Gita.

Sangita is 15 years old and a sophomore at Algonquin Regional High School. She lives with her parents Uma and Rango Keshavan, her younger brother Arjuna and her two cats, in Northborough, Massachusetts. She has been learning Bharatanatyam from Guru Sridevi Thirumalai since the age of six years. To be able to perform her Arangetram, Sangita put in many long hours of practice through this summer and endured many hardships, from aching muscles to blisters on her feet. It is a testament to her stamina, dedication to and love of Bharatanatyam that she was able to accomplish this truly inspiring performance. Of course, none of this would be possible without the devotion and guidance of her Guru, Sridevi Thirumalai, the founder of the Natyamani School of Dance and one of the premier dance teachers in the Greater Boston area. Sridevi is well known for her discipline and for setting high expectations for her pupils and this was very evident throughout Sangita’s performance. It was a privilege to watch this young dancer blossom before our eyes and hopefully we will see more of her performances in the future.



(Shyla Srinath, M.D., lives and practices Internal Medicine at the Fallon Clinic in Westborough, MA. )

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