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Arangetram - Aparna Shanmugam

Ananya Venkatesan

Aparna Shanmugam Arangetram

Aparna Shanmugam recently completed her Bharatanatyam dance debut this past weekend under the guidance of her guru Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan, the artistic director of the Kolam Academy of Dance. Held on July 10th, 2021 at Andover High School, she showed an immense passion, energy, and dedication to this beautiful art form. After the strain the global pandemic has had on everyone this past year, Aparna definitely put a smile on everyone’s faces as she rose to the challenge and put on a stellar performance. 

Aparna’s guru, Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan, hand-picked a beautiful set of compositions, mostly composed by her Guru Kalaimamani Sri. Madurai R. Muralidaran. The teaching and dance education she provides was gracefully shown on stage by Aparna’s grace, energy, and technique. The execution was also shown through the vibrant nattuvangam Guru Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan had done, providing a great aid to Aparna’s footwork. 

Ascending the stage with an energetic Pushpanjali in ragam Vijaya Vasantham and set to Adi Talam, the audience was found to immediately let out a roaring applause. Pushpanjali, literally meaning “offering of flowers”, was a wonderful entrance to her arangetram as she offered flowers to Lord Nataraja and received blessings from her guru. Her beaming smile captured the audience as she seeked the blessings of Lord Natarja, her Guru, Mother Earth, and her fellow audience. Immediately following that mesmerizing performance, Aparna performed a beautiful Ganesha Stuthi in Ragam Nattai and set to Adi Talam. She beautifully depicted the wondrous dance as she brought out the beautiful meaning of each line and rightfully portraying the remover of all obstacles - Ganesha. 

The next piece presented Aparna’s unmatched energy and her ability to comprehend and execute intricate footwork. Sadaksharam in ragam Shanmughapriya and Rupakam Talam, is an intense Kavithuvam on Lord Muruga. This being another composition of Sri. Madurai R. Muralidaran, where Aparna was definitely put to the test by completing fast paced and high energy items. This piece is also a test for stamina due to the fast paced jathis and footwork. She passed with flying colors. 

The Varnam - the centerpiece of the arangetram combines the three main aspects of Bharatanatyam, Nritta (pure rhythmic dance movements), Nritya (mime, or dance with a dramatic aspect), and Natya (interpretive dance). Aparna successfully portrayed all three aspects through her various manifestations of portraying Devi. In Ragam Revathi and Adi Talam, this Varnam demanded an immense amount of stamina that Aparna effortlessly portrayed through her graceful jumps and sharp turning steps. She depicted a beautiful story describing the significance of Lord Shiva’s third eye. Acting as both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, she showed the universe becoming dark when Bhagawathi Parvati closed his eyes. As Goddess Parvathi observes severe penance, Lord Shiva realizes his pure love for her and becomes her husband. Aparna flawlessly executed the story of Dakshayini by immersing herself into the characters and emoting many feelings such as love, anger, playfulness, confusion, etc. Her graceful steps combined with lithe poses were presented in her powerful performance. 

After a brief costume change, Aparna started off the second half of her margam with a powerful and dynamic Shiva Thandava Lahari in Panthuvarali Ragam and Adi Talam depicted the vigorous dance of Lord Nataraja. Aparna’s rhythmic footwork combined with exquisite jumps shone through as she had the audience on the edge of their seats. This piece shows Lord Shiva dancing happily in the temple and this was reflected on stage with Aparna’s happiness. Following this spirited performance, she performed a beautiful Krishna composition, Kuzhaloothi Manamellam, in Ragam Kambhodi and Adi Talam. This piece described the melodious flute playing of Lord Krishna and filled the audience with happiness. The next piece, a folk dance in Ragam Kavadi Chindu set to Tisra Ekam Talam. Aparna displayed strong expressions and charmed the audience as she playfully described the conversation between our beloved Kanna and his mother Yashoda. Yashoda asks Krishna why he has this love (aasai) for Radha as he proceeds to convince his mother to let him go see her while describing all of Radha’s characteristics and assuring his mother that Radha will be a good daughter in law and take care of them both. Aparna successfully portrayed both the characters of Yashoda and Krishna while dancing her folk dance with full energy and happiness. 

Concluding her arangetram, Aparna finished her margam with a vibrating Thillana followed by the Mangalam. This thillana, appropriately set in Madhuvanthi ragam and Adi Talam demanded a copious amount of energy and Aparna executed this beautifully. Her quick feet and sharp poses were presented very well throughout the piece. With a Thirupugazh Mangalam, she was gracefully presented with a roaring cheer from the audience, following a standing ovation.  

As stated by her Guru Sujatha Meyyappan at the end, Aparna presented an energetic and beautiful margam primarily due to her “go getter” attitude. If she is given a task, she will make sure that it is completed perfectly and this shone on stage that day. Her intricate footwork followed by her dazzling abhinaya (expressions) were the highlights of the arangetram. Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan had indicated that she had put Aparna to the challenge by changing her arangetram pieces after she had fully learned it. Aparna’s ability to adapt to change and being a quick learner was completely shown due to the complete faith her Guru had in her. Aparna, being a student of the Kolam Academy of Dance since she was six years old, has grown into a beautiful and motivated young woman and dancer under the guidance of Guru Smt. Sujatha Meyyappan and hopes to pursue it in the future. Aparna’s family was quite emotional towards the end while delivering the speech which resulted in a marvelous ending to everyone’s day. 

Aparnas family and friends did a marvelous job supporting her performance with a gold, green and red theme for decor to align with her spectacular Varnam. Despite the pandemic , the family hosted the guests with hospitality and coordinated snacks and dinner very well. The snacks were distributed at the auditorium and were delicious. Dinner was given out as Togo boxes for guests to pick up on their way out. 

Arangetram literally means “ascending the stage”. It is merely the beginning to one’s dance education and many accomplishments. This process prepares one to work past their challenges and hardship and shows them what hard work and dedication looks like. Aparna, a recent graduate of Andover High School, plans to continue her education in Bio Engineering at Northeastern University in the fall in Boston, MA. Through the arangetram process, she plans to take all the skills she has learned and apply it to the future whether it comes to her education, dance, or just life in general. We hope to see her excel in her next steps at Northeastern University and only wish the best for her!


Picture Credits: Jeyakumar Sathyamoorthy (JK)



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