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Arangetram - Priyanka Jain

Vinanti Sarkar
09/06/2005

They flew from across the USA, friends, relatives and invited guest from California, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, etc., to attend  Wellesley High’s honor student Priyanka Jain’s auspicious ceremony of "Arangetram" (Solo Indian Classical Dance Recital) on Saturday, 13th August.  As girl friends, aunts and her mother carefully put on the silk dresses and exotic makeup, Jothi Raghavan, (her teacher/ dancer/ choreographer from Nrityanjali School of Dance at the Academy of Indian Performing Arts), completed the finishing touches: the nose-ring, the tiny pearl red bindi on her forehead and colorful bangles on her wrists and a pair of tiny bracelet bells around her anklets.

 

Once on stage at the school auditorium, over 500 invited guests witnessed the young graduate’s traditional dances of India to perfection.  At the interval, cold drinks and snacks were served.  Everyone noted that "classical dancing came naturally" to Priyanka as they watched the dance spell bound, displaying her mastery of the Bharat Natyam dance styles.  A few spectators whispered: "She has been blessed with very expressive eyes that lend to her charming performances." 

 

Performed for over two thousand years, the classical dance of Bharat Natyam is a form of prayer with utmost devotion to the Divine.  It originated as the art of temple dancers representing devotional worshippers, but in the last century, it is performed outside the temples paying tribute to themes of ancient epics from Hindu mythology throughout the subcontinent of India.

 

Priyanka danced within the three main aspects: Natya, where the dancer tells a story expressing multiple sentiments, using facial expressions and hand gestures to perfection. Nirta, the complete abstract dance of precision and rhythm with no symbolic meaning, where the dancer dramatizes the meaning of lyrics.  Natyam means dance styles that blend the three elements - Bha Bhava (expression); Ra-Raga (musical melody) and Ta-Tala(the rhythm).

 

Having attended dance graduations on the East coast, what I found exceptional about this performance was, after the Pushpanjali - the dancer's salutation to Lord Ganesha, remover of all obstacles, Priyanka who is a Jain (one of the ancient religions dating back with Buddhism), danced the Namokar Mantra.  This dance is considered the most auspicious mantra for Jain communities worldwide, where all events commence through this prayer of salutation to the Jain Tirthankaras and subordinate figures.  In translation, the dance dedication means:

"I bow to the enlightened ones, to the liberated ones, to the leaders of        

monastic communities, to the teachers of sacred texts and to all ascetics" -

Priyanka recalled, it was her mother, Preeti Jain who convinced her at the age of six to blend the classical dances of India, with the modern, as the young girl excelled in the mastering the intricate stylized movements of traditional dances with Bollywood movies styles from India. Preeti designed the magnificient backdrop with Lord Natraja’s dancing pose for Priyanka’s performance.

 

"I am most grateful to both Mom and Dad who drove me regularly to classes.  I can't believe it took 11 years of steadfast training, but it also taught me the importance of hard work, perseverance and pure dedication.  My grandparents were always there when I needed them.  Even my younger brother chipped in and did my share of the household chores, while I was busy practicing".

 

Saturday's dance performance marks the traditional levels for Priyanka from student to the graduate artist performer, fulfilling the required dedication, strict mental discipline and rigorous hours of training and practice with honors !  It concluded as the benediction the pupil received from the Divine through the dance guru, with a shower of thanks to her parents, grandparents, family members and friends.  She will continue to keep in practice and teach the younger students as a mentor.

 

Within the past three years, she choreographed and coordinated dances for non-profit fundraising projects for the community, socials and school events. She is President of the Spanish club, Vice President of the Asian Club and the local representative for Young Jains Association of North America.

 

 



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