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Arangetram: Divya Rajan

Janani Swamy

Divya Rajan presented her Bharatha Natyam arangetram at the Maliotis Cultural Center in Brookline, MA on June 3rd, 2018.  Divya is yet another award winning disciple of Guru Sunanda Narayanan at the Thillai Fine Arts Academy, in Newton, MA.  In addition to having performed extensively with the Thillai Academy, Divya has the distinction of having won awards in her age category at the dance competition at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana in 2017 and 2018. 

Divya delivered a recital that carried the distinct stamp of the Vazhuvoor bhani and that demonstrated her considerable capability in the elements of Bharatha Natyam.  The repertoire, carefully conceived and choreographed by Guru Sunanda, was presented by Divya with a sprightly charm of a twelve year old.  Divya’s dance is of a caliber that makes typical note of the elements of form, rhythm and flow somewhat unnecessary- rather, her dance is all of that but then marked by an ease on the stage beyond her years that is both instinctive and imbibed.

Following a Thodaya Mangalam dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses of Vazhuvoor, Divya presented “Om Shakthi”, a composition of Mahakavi Bharathiyar, the great Indian freedom fighter.  This piece, imaginatively choreographed by Guru Sunanda, extolled the Supreme Goddess, Shakthi and depicted myriad forms of prayer and celebration.  Divya danced with a lightness that conveyed a lilting folk feel.

This was followed by a Kavuthuvam dedicated to Chokkesar, the form of Lord Shiva at Madurai. The composition incorporated lyrics from the 16th century Shaivite treatise, “Thiruvilaiyadal” and was but one example of the rich classical elements in the repertoire.

Next followed a rare composition of the late violin maestro Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, “Neeye Thaye dhayaipuri tharunam”- reminiscent of the swara jathis of Shyama Shastri, but interpreted by Guru Sunanda as a jathiswaram. Motifs of the Goddess in various forms were woven into the classic jathiswaram format; the arudi incorporated depictions of the Goddess’ gaze which is an oft used metaphor for Her grace in Hindu literature.  Divya presented this piece with an understanding and ability that brought form to Guru Sunanda’s vision.

Divya then presented a Shabdam, “Venugaananai”, a composition of Maha Acharya Guru Ramaiah Pillai- the master of the Vazhuvoor Bani.  Divya’s sweet portrayal of the heroine, asking her friend to seek Lord Krishna on her behalf, demonstrated her capacity for Abhinaya and showed the impact of uncluttered, unhurried interpretation of lyrics without need for superfluous sancharis.

 â€œSenthil Vaazh Murugaiah”, a composition of the eminent musician, late Sri T.R. Subramanyam, choreographed by Guru Sunanda, was presented as the Varnam.  Lord Muruga was described as the Commander of the Gods, the divine child who was gifted a spear by his mother to destroy the demon Soorapadhman, and the Almighty Lord to whom the Sun bows daily at Thiruchendur.  The Varnam was substantial in concept, complexity of choreography, rhythmic detail and movement.  Divya presented the piece with facility- conveying emotions and stories with her eyes and instantaneous changes in expression. The choreography incorporated many clever embellishments typical of Guru Sunanda’s work- purposeful use of angles and positions and depictions of Muruga in the arudhis and swaram passages. 

The second half of the recital commenced with a very special piece- “Aadum Padhanai”- which was choreographed for Guru Sunanda by her venerated Guru, Smt. Rhadha.  This padam on Lord Nataraja conveyed the majesty of the Lord’s dance at Thillai- and indeed in this piece, we saw the Guru in the shishya.

This was followed by the evergreen piece “Theeraada Vilayaatu Pillai” presented by Divya and her older sister, Smita. The sisters presented the choreography of Guru Smt. Bragha Bessel- effectively depicting the exploits of the young Lord Krishna and the exasperation of the Gopis.

Next followed “Brahmam Okate”, a kirthanam describing the universal truth of oneness with the Almighty. Divya then concluded her recital with a vibrant “Kalinga Narthanam” thillana which she learned directly from Guru Rhadha. Divya danced with joy and unflagging energy to bring the recital to a satisfying close.

The orchestra was ably led by Guru Sunanda on Nattuvangam, accompanied by Smt. Subhapriya Srivatsan on vocal, Sri Murali Balachandran on mridangam, Guru Smt. Tara Anand on violin and Guru Smt. Durga Krishnan on Veena.   The music was, of course, of the caliber we associate with these eminent artists and so sweet, that at many point I found myself lost, eyes closed.  The occasion was graced by the eminent doyenne of Bharatha Natyam, Guru Smt. Rhadha- indeed, Divya was blessed to have her “Grand Guru” in the very first row!

Divya’s arangetram was an experience beyond the sum of the delightful parts- interesting compositions, creative interpretation and sparkling presentation- brought to fruition by Guru Sunanda and this very special young dancer.

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