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Arangetram: Tulasi And Arthi Vithiananthan

Asha Subramaniam

Looking back at the arangetrams of 2018, one stands apart from the rest because of the excellence of the young dancers’ skill. Tulasi and Arthi Vithiananthan’s Bharathanatya arangetram was a stunning treat for all who were fortunate to witness it.  The captivating choreography, the music choice, and the accomplished ensemble kept the audience glued to their seats. Tulasi and Arthi had their arangetram on October 6th at the Norwood High School to a packed auditorium of 800 guests. The Bharathanatya margam was in Thamil, with songs curated by their mother, Shyamala Vithiananthan. The arangetram was compered by their father Dr. Siva Vithiananthan in Thamil and in English. The entire evening was a memorable one and left the audience with a feeling of awe at the passion and commitment shown by the two young dancers.

Tulasi and Arthi Vithiananthan made their entrance to a Pushpanjali set to Gambeera Nattai, in Adi thalam and continued on with the famous Thamil poet Auvaiyar’s prayer “Paalum theli thenum”. This was followed by a Ganesha kautuvam “Ananda Nadam Idum Gajamukhane,” a composition of the contemporary artiste Madurai R. Muralidaran. The Alarippu in thisra nadai was followed by Jathiswaram in Kalyaani raagam set to Adi thalam. The Jathiswaram is a measure of the dancers’ capability for executing the technical aspects of Bharathanatyam. Tulasi and Arthi performed the Jathiswaram flawlessly, showcasing their grasp of nritta and the intricacies of the composition. The Jathiswaram and the Shabdam that followed were musical compositions of the Thanjavur naalvar (Tanjore Quartet). In Ayar Sheriyar, Tulasi and Arthi held the audience spellbound as they depicted the various mischievous adventures of Krishna. The sisters executed each of the dances with ease, never missing a beat, captivating the audience with their beauty and their well-choreographed and skillfully performed dances.

The musical interlude that followed was an additional treat during this arangetram. The accompanying artists were of a high standard and connected well with the engaged audience. The audience was kept mesmerized by the golden voice of the singer Sudev Warrier. The flutist Pathanjali K.Chittoor amazed the crowd with his flute music, and the enthusiastic rendering of the mridangam by Suthaman Subramanian was appreciated by old and young alike. This trio from India was ably supported by Tulasi and Arthi’s vocal and veena teacher Dr. Revathy Ramaswamy of Lexington on the veena.

The next part of the recital was the gem of the entire margam – the Varnam. Tulasi and Arthi amazed the audience with their skillfull portrayal of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s elaborate navarasa navaraaga varnam Angayarkanni. This challenging 45-minute varnam was so skillfully presented that it kept the audience spellbound. Time passed unknowingly. All were drawn into the intricacies of the portrayal. Tulasi and Arthi were loudly applauded by the packed auditorium of close to 800 guests, not just for their excellent execution of the creatively choreographed jathis, but also for the brilliant portrayal of the various vignettes in the varnam. Their performance of the varnam was a spectacular success.

The tea break that followed was marked by the guests exclaiming about the beautiful performance of the two accomplished sisters while enjoying special Sri Lankan tea time repasts. At the end of the interlude, it was interesting to see the ladies in their colorful silks rushing back into the auditorium to make sure their seat of choice was not taken by another enthusiastic audience member. All present were eager to see more from these two talented young dancers.

Tulasi and Arthi began the last part of the evening’s performance with a dance to the prayer “Ullagellam unarnthu” by Sekkizhar to Lord Shiva. This was followed by Tulasi’s solo recital on “Yaar Enna Sonnalum” by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer. Tulasi, a ninth grader at Nobles and Greenough in Dedham, showcased her superior grasp of the intricate jathis with grace. The dance composition of the song further brought out Tulasi’s comfort and skill in portraying various characters through dance.  This was followed by Arthi’s solo dance on the traditional folk song “Maadu Meikkum Kanne.” Arthi’s grasp of the nuances of abhinayam and her effortless portrayal of the mischievous Krishna and the concerned Yashoda was beyond excellent. Arthi who is a sixth grader at the Sharon Middle School displayed expertise in emoting far beyond her young years.

With every dance item that these two sisters performed, the audience was kept mesmerized, eager to see more. The next dance item was a composition of Ambujam Krishna’s “Adum Pathanai.” The dance choreography was electrifying. This was followed by Papanasam Sivan’s “Mayil Vahana.” The story of Murugan coming in disguise to win over Valli was expertly portrayed. Tulasi and Arthi showed no signs of fatigue and continued dancing with their engaging smile and beauty. Thillana in Hindolam set to Adi thalam was the concluding piece. And once again the audience was wowed with the well-choreographed Thillana with its intricate and rhythmic dance sequences, interspersed with beautiful poses.  

The choreography for the arangetram was done collaboratively with their teacher, the very talented Veena, along with Tulasi and Arthi. This is a hallmark of the unorthodox teaching style of their Bharatanatyam teacher Veena, and her confidence in her students. This collaboration resulted in a fresh and exhilarating dance recital far from the usual stagnant repertoire we see at most arangetrams. It is of no surprise that Tulasi and Arthi have won numerous prizes for solo and group Bharatanatyam performances with a talented choreographer like Veena Teli.

At the end of Tulasi and Arthi’s arangetram, one was left with overwhelming happiness that we had witnessed a dance performance par excellence. Their execution of complicated jathis, perfect synchronization, and the emoting and portrayal of various characters showcased the talent of these two young dancers. Their passion and commitment to perfecting this art form made for a stunning arangetram. Tulasi and Arthi Vithiananthan’s arangetram was a treat to watch, and one of the best arangetrams we have seen in the greater Boston area in a long time.

The Chief Guests Professor Nagarasa and Dr. Kowsalya Subramaniam spoke eloquently about the importance of Bharathanatyam as a dance form and how an arangetram should not be considered the final act but instead as the continuation of a lifelong journey. With gifted dancers such as these, the fervent hope is that Tulasi and Arthi continue learning Bharathanatyam with a devoted Guru who can develop their skills and continue to foster their passion for this dance form. And most importantly, while Tulasi and Arthi continue on this journey, we eagerly look forward to their next performance.

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