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Arangetram: Meera Parthasarathy And Maanya Chitrapu

Dr. Saritha Venkatesh

Namaskaram to all lovers of Indian arts and culture. As much as I enjoy the art of conducting and emceeing for many cultural programs in the New England area, I equally love the art of writing about dance performances as a rasika. After a long break of three years, I had the golden opportunity to attend the spectacular dual arangetram of Kumari. Meera Parthasarathy and Kumari. Maanya Chitrapu, disciples of Smt. Sapna Krishnan of Lasya School of Dance, on July 30th 2022. 

Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Witnessing such a soulful arangetram felt like being brought closer to God, similarly to how we visit temples to wash away our negative thoughts and rejuvenate our mind.

The arangetram began with the chanting of prayers in front of Lord Natarajar, which was led by the senior priest of the Kalikambal temple. He was accompanied by the Guru, musicians, Meera and Maanya with all their family members. A divine aura continued to resonate in the auditorium as Kumari. Harini Parthasarathy, sister of Meera, sang Mooladhara Moorthi, a melodious invocation song on Lord Ganesha, in Ragam Hamsadhwani and Adi Thalam. Harini is a student of Smt. Bhuvana Ganesh and her voice captivated the attention of the entire audience. 

The welcome speech was presented by the respective fathers of Meera and Maanya, Mr. Senthil Parthasarathy and Mr. Kishore Chitrapu, who were the true unsung heroes of the night, as they helped out tremendously behind the scenes. 

The emcee for the evening was Manasa Jayanthi, senior disciple of Smt. Jothi Raghavan and currently the Artistic Director of Nrityanjali School of Dance, which was founded by her guru. I have known Manasa for more than a decade as a dancer and a teacher. It was truly a great pleasure to see her conduct the evening flawlessly with grace and charm, and her enchanting voice effortlessly described all the dances. 

The stage was also adorned by the talented crew of orchestra members, with Sri. V. K. Sivakumar on flute, Sri. Ananda Nadayogi on violin, Sri. S. Nagarajan on mridangam and rhythm pad, Sri. Sudev Warrier for vocals, and Smt. Sapna Krishnan on nattuvangam. 

There were so many notable pieces that both Meera and Maanya performed throughout the night. Meera’s Karthikeya Kauthuam with a unique jathi stood out with her beautiful peacock movements . I was enthralled by the beautiful Hanuman keerthanam, Kalaspuramu, performed by Maanya. Maanya being a gymnast, effortlessly captivated the body languages of all the different roles she was depicting and demonstrated the power and strength of Hanuman through her dance. In their varnam, Maha Tripura Sundari, Meera and Maanya beautifully executed the sancharis that portrayed the stories of Adi Shankara and Goddess Mookambika Devi, as well as the story of Abhirami Bhattar and Goddess Abhirami. Both were such divine treats to all our eyes, and even the Udakai (Damaru) sound from Nagarajan sir’s rhythm pad that interspersed throughout the entire varnam bought such holy and positive vibes, reminding us all of any Indian Amman temple, such as the Samayapuram, Thiruverkadu or Mangady during the Tamil month of Adi.

Following the varnam, Meera and Maanya lit up the stage with Brahmamokate. Not only is this piece another gem of Saint Annamacharya, but also a precious gem to crown Smt. Sapna Krishnan’s choreographic skills. The piece was very energetic and interactive, and the dancers were full of life, keeping up with the soulful singing of Sudevji and his orchestra. Meera and Maanya’s solo pieces in the second half both showcased their unique abilities, and the choice of props to add to their beautiful costumes made it all the better. Meera perfectly embodied Goddess Mahishasura Mardhini with her round bindi and long hair, reflecting the power of the goddess through her graceful expressions and intrinsic footwork. Following that, Maanya elegantly performed Nadar Mudi Mel Irukum, and the piece was explicitly choreographed to exhibit Maanya’s gymnastic skills. Her poses, flips, body language, head movements, and facial expressions were perfect for this dance; she did total justice in replicating the movements of a snake. A huge shout out to makeup artist Anu Metra, as she gracefully adorned the dancers with beautiful makeup, jewelry, and grand costumes, especially for these two pieces. 

In the finale, Sudevji’s melodic voice inherited from his guru Late. M. Balamuralikrishna, imbibed all the divinity and soulfulness as he sang Harivarasanam, the popular song resonating in the hall. The intrinsic choreographic details that Sapna rendered to this song - from tying the Irumudi, counting the 18 steps, breaking the coconut, and the devotees standing on their toes to see Lord Ayyappa’s sannidhanam - was beautifully portrayed by Meera and Maanya. I felt happy tears roll down my cheeks when I witnessed this happy ending, and stood up for the well-deserved standing ovation.

Thank you to all the decoration volunteers that worked to adorn the corridors of the auditorium, and to all the grandparents who traveled all the way from India to bestow their blessings on stage and as fellow rasikas. 

A heartfelt thank you to Smt. Sapna Krishnan for giving me this wonderful opportunity to write about her talented students, and I wish them all the very best in their future endeavors.


Photography - Krish Velmurugan (Krisp Photos)

Videography - Manoj Panicker

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