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Arangetram: Varshini Athipathy

Sanjana Rao

For a successful Bharatanatyam public performance, a dancer must have the required skills, stamina, talent, passion, and love for the art form. On June 29th, 2014, Varshini Athipathy, student of Guru Smt. Sapna Krishna, proved that she had all these qualities and even more, the willingness to work hard. Her maiden dance performance was captivating, bold, and graceful. Having observed Varshini during our dance classes for several months, I realized how her maturity in the dance form had evolved as her arangetram day approached.  She had improved immensely with each day and the Varshini I had known for several years as a classmate had transformed into the beautiful dancer.  

Seventeen year old Varshini Athipathy, graduated from AMSA Charter School in Marlborough, MA this year. She started her early lessons in Bharatanatyam when she was eight with Smt Sridevi Thirumalai.  Later, under the tutelage of the Guru Smt. Sapna Krishnan., she continued to learn different aspects of the dance form to reach the stage to perform her arangetram.  Varshini had grasped the sense of her own culture and enjoyed learning dance. Varshini also participates in various local dance events, and she hopes to continue performing alongside her studies. In addition to her artistic accomplishments, she was part of her school’s National Honors Society, and  also is an AP Scholar. Varshini helps her community by volunteering in many local organizations.

Varshini started her first item of her dance performance bursting with energy in the Pushpanjali in ragam Ghambeera Nattai in praise of Lord Ganesha. She received her blessings from the Almighty, her Guru, and the musicians. This was followed by the Jathiswaram in ragam Kalyani. As it is a pure ‘nritta’ dance, where the movements are highlighted through the use of ‘jathis’, it is filled with intense footwork and graceful movements. Varshini showed her intricate and precise footwork throughout this piece. Next was the Margam,  a Krithi, Devi Neeye, set in ragam Keeravani. This song is in praise of Goddess Meenakshi in the famous Madurai Meenakshi temple. The expressions Varshini portrayed captured the essence of the song admirably.

During the short period between Devi Neeye and the upcoming piece, the orchestra that accompanied Varshini kept the audience entertained with their skills and mastery. Sri E.P. Sudev Warrier provided his strong vocal support, Sri K.S. Sudhaman boldly played the mridangam, Sri Ramani Thiagarajan played the melodious flute. Guru Smt. Sapna Krishnan lent her vocal support with the nattuvangam during the dance performance. With the support of the experienced set of musicians, Varshini danced amazingly on stage throughout the arangetram. The audience clapped along to the joyous music that they produced during the break.

The centerpiece of the margam is the Varnam. The Varnam tests every aspect of the dancer’s artistic talent. Varshini performed “Padam Panindain” in ragam Hamsadwani. In this Varnam, Varshini seeks the lotus feet of Lord Muruga, who killed the evil Soorapadma with the blessings of His mother, Goddess Parvathi. He is the one who rides on the beautiful peacock and who explained the meaning of “OM” to His father, Lord Shiva. Varshini portrays the story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi’s union which led to Lord Muruga’s birth. Next, she shows the story of Lord Muruga receiving his weapons to fight the demon Soorapadma. Towards the second half of the Varnam, Varshini effectively brought out Lord Muruga’s essence and her stamina as she expressed his qualities and, at the same time, danced to five different rhythms.

The next piece, after the brief intermission, was the keerthanam, Bho Shambo, in  ragam Revathi. This dance praises Lord Shiva, the Lord of Dance. Varshini portrayed  her roudhram, devotion, and footwork in this dance, effectively portraying Lord Shiva on the stage. Following this keerthanam was Alaipayuthe, a padam in the ragam Kanada. Here, Varshini dazzles the audience with her expressions, acting as the heroine who longs to hear the ethereal music of Lord Krishna. She yearns for His presence as she eagerly waits for His arrival. The Shivashakthi, in the ragam Shivashakthi, was the next item in Varshini’s arangetram, depicting the powerful Goddess Shakthi, the embodiment of masculine and feminine force: Shiva and Shakthi. Varshini enthralled her audience with her bursting energy and graceful movements.

The last two pieces of the margam were the thillana and mangalam. The thillana was in the pleasant ragam, Dhanashree. Varshini was able to show off her fast-paced footwork and Bhavam to Lord Padmanabha. The last piece was the mangalam, which was in praise of Shirdi Sai Baba. Varshini pays respect to the Almighty, her Guru, the musicians, and the audience.

The entire event was a memorable one , from Varshini’s scintillating performance  to Sapna auntie’s unique and fantastic choreography to the orchestra’s marvelous performances to the audience’s acclaim for each dance item.

Varshini exhibited a sense of talent, hard work, respect and gratitude throughout her preparation for this auspicious day, which ultimately made her arangetram extraordinary. In the end, she expressed her gratitude and said the following:

“I would like to express my gratitude to my Guru Smt. Sapna Krishnan for motivating, believing in me to express myself, and cultivating my passion for Bharatanatyam. I also appreciate all encouragement from my parents, sister, grandparents, relatives, friends and well wishers have given me at every step of the way to this very important day of my life, my Arangetram.  My special thanks to all who graced the occasion in person.”

Clearly, Varshini’s personality and passion helped her become an amazing dancer and an inspiring role model for younger dancers.

Congratulations, Varshini! I wish you best of luck in the future!

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