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Arangetram - Prerana Purohit

Jahnavee Deshpande and Shweta Athilat

Saturday, September 17, 2005 was one of the most amazing nights that ever took place at the Westborough High School. Over 500 people watched in awe as 14 year-old Prerana Purohit performed her Bharata Natyam Arangetram. Arangetram literally means “ascending the stage.” It is a three hour solo dance debut which is completed after gaining a sizeable repertoire of dance items and experience. Prerana, a freshman at Shrewsbury High School, is a disciple of Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai, director of Natyamani School of Dance.

Prerana has been learning dance since she was six and has shown great interest in the classical dance form of Bharata Natyam from the start. Ever since she saw an Arangetram, it has been an inspiration and motivation to complete one of her own. Her intense Arangetram training began in June and intensified as her performance drew close. In her last week before her grand performance, she went to her guru Sridevi’s house every day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for rigorous practice sessions. In order to do this, she missed school and had to balance her time between studies, dance, and extra curricular activities. The end result of this hard work was a fabulously performed, perfect Arangetram.

The Arangetram itself was composed of 11 items. In each and every item, Prerana’s expressions, grace, rhythm, intricate mudras and beauty were flawless.  Her intense involvement brought life into the characters of each dance item and brought tears to audiences’ eyes.   Her Varnam, the climax and hardest piece of the Arangetram was a perfect blend of the three components of Bharata Natyam: “Nritta” (pure dance), “Nritya” (interpretational dance), and “Natya” (expressional dance).

Prerana’s performance began with three items, Pushpanjali, Ganesha stuti, and Alaripu. Pushpanjali is an invocatory dance in which the dancer asks for blessings from Lord Natraja, the guru, and the audience. The Ganesha Stuti is a dance in reverence to Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, who the dancer asks for a sound performance. Alaripu is the first, simple dance piece in which the dancer, Prerana, outlines the classical art form through neck movements, gestures, and rhythm.  

Following these items is the Jatiswaram, a pure Nritta piece. Prerana portrayed this dance through rich and intricate footwork. Her next item was a Kriti which was a shloka on Lord Srinivasa. Prerana’s facial expressions moved the audience as she represented her devotion to Lord Srinivasa. This shloka led to the central piece or climax of the Arangetram, the Varnam.     

The Varnam was based on Lord Muruga. The Nritta was depicted in the Jatis, which are the Adavus or basic steps of Bharata Natyam put together to form a complex, rhythmic dance sequence. Nritya or interpretational dance was shown through stunning expressions and defined hand gestures or mudras which together told a captivating story. Lastly, Natya or expressional dance was illustrated in the story itself. In the stories of the Varnam, Prerana was Valli, Muruga’s consort as well as a nayika who could not bear the separation from the Lord. The audience sat captivated through the stories, laughing as Valli was chased by a wild elephant, crying as the nayika was disappointed every time she thought the Lord would come but didn’t. The Varnam displayed not only Prerana’s dancing skills, but her level of indulgence and love for the dance.

‘Chandra Chooda’, a padam in praise of Lord Shiva followed a short intermission. Here, Prerana demonstrated her full capabilities of expressions, from a gentle, loving Shiva marrying Parvati to a fierce and angry Shiva destroying an Asura (demon). Palisemma Muddu Sharade was the next dance item in which the Saint Purandaradasa sings in praise of Goddess Sharada (The Goddess of knowledge). The expression of complete devotion and praise on Prerana’s face was one that enthralled the audiences. The next dance was a Devarnama in which Prerana depicted a worried, beseeching Mother Yashoda, begging little Krishna to stop causing trouble, not to be away from her and to with her always.  This item was an extraordinary performance and brought accolades for Prerana.   

The Thillana is the finale of the Arangetram. Prerana’s Thillana was in Raga Valachi and set to Adi Talam. Though the dance had many complex rhythmic sequences as well as cross rhythms, Prerana’s sense of talam never faltered and her smile never left her face. This fast paced Thillana left the audience breathless after every jati. At the conclusion of her Arangetram, Prerana performed a Mangalam in which she thanked Lord Natraj, her guru, and the audience for a successful completion.

The crowd roared to its feet, giving Prerana a well earned standing ovation. As friends, we could not have been happier or prouder of Prerana at that minute. Her guru Sridevi along with her parents, Aruna and Prakash Purohit were beaming proudly as she concluded her Arangetram. What Prerana had worked so hard for was now a reality and we expect that she will continue to give many more riveting performances in the years to come.

Prerana’s Arangetram was made even more enjoyable by the mellifluous rendering of the items by the orchestra.  Members of the orchestra included the remarkable vocal support from Shrivatsa Debur, flute by Narasimhamurthy Ramamishra and Mridgangam buy Shrihari Rangaswany from Bangalore, India.  Smt. Tara Bangalore of Boston provided excellent violin support to Guru Sridevi on Natuvaangam.

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