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An Enchanting Evening, Arangetram by Ms. Amrita Saigal

Chitra Parayath

Aspiring to master the intricacies of an art form as demanding and traditional as Bharathanatyam is a challenge to one’s dedication and discipline. Debutant Amrita Saigal showed a rare mastery of the art in one so young by rendering a near perfect performance at the Keefe Tech in Framingham last Saturday.

Uncommon control and an unwavering adherence to purity of form marked her performance, exemplifying the aesthetics and strength of Bharthanatyam. Amrita trained in Bharathanatyam under the tutelage of her mother, Guru Ranjani Saigal (Eastern Rhythms, Burlington, MA) for eight years and underwent rigorous advanced training under Guru Kausalya Srinivasan (Sunartaka, Chennai, India) for a couple of months. Excelling in the two most important facets of the dance style, Nritta, the rhythmic aspect and Nritya, the emotional aspect, the young dancer displayed an extraordinary involvement in every piece she performed.

The show began with a wonderful introduction to Bharathanatyam and Arangetram given by Amrita’s grandfather, Dr. R.S. Ayyar. The first piece, Pushpanjali had the young dancer thank the Gods, her gurus, the musicians and the audience for their presence in her life. Bharathmata kavitvam composed by the great Subramanya Bharithiyar had Amrita extolling the virtues of the motherland presenting the poem interspersed with jathis or pure dance movements.

Sogasuga Mridanga Taalam, a composition of Saint Thyagaraja came next followed by Thirupadam composed by Madurai R. Muralidharan. Seeking the blessings of Nataraja, the dancer acknowledges that it is the cosmic dance of Shiva that keeps the earth spinning.

Varnam, considered by many to be the most important part of an arangetram had the debutant dance to a complex composition by Lalgudi. S. Jayaraman. The varnam was in praise of Lord Muruga with the dancer depicting a devotee, besseching the God to bless her. Varnam is an integrated dance sequence of Jathi, Swaram, layam and Bhavam. Amrita Saigal brought maturity and quality to the piece, her delicate hand movements and superb footwork often eliciting applause from the audience. She gave, with her agile movements and expressions a glimpse of the enchanting beauty of Lord Muruga and portrayed the dedication of a devotee trying to impress her god. There was no sign of the tension that lies beneath the surface of an endeavor as demanding and challenging as this.

After a brief interval the program resumed with another composition from Subramanya Bharathi ‘ Oozhi Koothu’ - Saint Tulsidas’ Hanuman Chalisa followed .

Thillana, a pure dance piece with intricate footwork and elaborate sculpture like poses in Raagam Brindavani, set to Adi Talam was offered as the final piece. Amrita ended the evening’s performance with Narayaneeyam and Tharangam. A verse describing the beauty of Lord Narayana was followed by a Kuchipudi item where she showed off her considerable talent by dancing intricate rhythms on the edge of a plate.

The evening’s success was owed, and not in small way to some captivating vocals by Shri Babu Parameshwaran. He held the audience in constant awe with his amazing vocal range. Smt Tara Anand on the Violin, Shri Raman on the Flute, Dr. Raghavendra on the Veena and Shri Shaktivel on the Mridangam helped elevate the performance many notches. Natuvangam was by the two proud gurus, Smt. Kausalya Srinivasan and Smt. Ranjani Saigal, both clearly moved and touched by their student’s recital. It was wonderful to see the teamwork between Ranjani and Kausalya.

Ms. Mallika Narayanan, a connoisseur of the arts, commented that “Amrita did a stupendous job; actually there are no superlatives that can adequately describe her performance on Saturday. To top it off, the musical selections were out of this world.”

A mesmerizing performance, one suspects that we will be hearing a lot more about this young dancer.

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