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Dance Arangetram: Sweta Athilat

Mitali Biswas

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form that originated over 2000 years ago in India. It involves rhythmic footwork, graceful hand and eye movements, and facial expressions often depicting mythological stories. In culmination of learning this art form from a specific teacher, a dancer delivers her Arangetram, which is a solo debut performance in front of God, her teacher, her family, and her friends. It is what many dancers strive and dream to achieve. After countless hours of practicing, hard work, and dedication, a dancer gives everything in this performance, which not only marks the graduation from her dance school, but also marks the beginning of her dance career. In the early evening on Saturday, June 22, 2008, Shweta Athilat gave a magnificent performance showing that she has truly learned this beautiful dance. Shweta is a resident of Westborough, and will be a Junior at Westborough High School this fall.

It was a magical night. From the very first step into the new Ashland High School, the feeling of welcoming was inevitable with a banner that flashed, “Welcome to Shweta’s Arangetram.” Colorful decorations filled the entrance hall - flower garlands and saris were hanging from the ceiling and up on the walls, religious idols were placed to bring good blessings and fortune to the occasion, and of course, beautiful dance pictures of Shweta were placed on stands. After getting a program and some sweets from the welcoming party consisting of Shweta’s friends, people went inside the auditorium to await the upcoming performance.

The musicians played the melodious songs as people got settled. After a small puja, the Master of Ceremonies welcomed everyone to be seated and commenced the program. The musicians played an introduction song where the talented vocalist, flutist, violinist, and percussionist filled the auditorium with an auspicious atmosphere. Shweta’s dance teacher, Sridevi Ajay Thirimulai, continued the program by telling the audience the background of each of Shweta’s dances. As the musicians began the first dance song, anticipation of Shweta’s performance reached its pinnacle in the audience.

And what a performance it was! Shweta entered the stage with a warm, bright smile, cheerful eyes, and rhythmic footwork. From that moment on, the performance was an immense success. Shweta’s energy leapt off the stage. Her eye movement was crisp and precise following every hand movement, and her footsteps carried her gracefully around the stage. Her rhythm was always on beat with Sridevi Thirimulai’s natavangams, or hand chimes. During the Varnam, which is the ultimate test during the entire performance, Shweta kept the dance lively; every jaathi, or pure dance, was on beat, and each step was elegantly executed. In addition, when Shweta would depict a story, her facial expressions would convey each emotion perfectly. Sitting in the audience, Shweta’s emotions were captivating. As always, Sridevi Thirimulai created amazing choreographies, and Shweta implemented it beautifully. Overall though, it was her eyes and her smile that made her performance unique from others.

There is a certain sweetness to Shweta’s smile that lights up in her eyes. It would be obvious to anyone who sees her dance that she truly loves the art form. It was this aspect of her dance that was most captivating, and it was this aspect that can allow her performance to be summed up in one word – Charming. I hope she knows how incredibly proud her family and friends are of her fabulous performance. It was truly memorable and a joy to watch. Congratulations, Shweta!!  

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