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Arangetram Of Swetal Bhatt And Shefali Lohia

Revathy Ramakrishna

Swetal Bhatt and Shefali Lohia, students of the Triveni School of Dance, enchanted a packed auditorium with their riveting Indian classical dance performance on the morning of July 12th, 2009. The two hours of dance that morning, marked the culmination of almost a decade of intensive training and dedication to the art form, as the two shishyas “ascended the stage” to do their arangetram  and demonstrated their expertise in front of their guru, Neena Gulati, Lord Nataraja and the appreciative audience. Both Swetal and Shefali passed this first test with flying colors. They captivated the audience with their charming performance that would have made any dance teacher proud.

The performance commenced with Manglacharan, an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and the remover of all obstacles. This was followed by Battu, an Odissi classic dedicated to Lord Nataraja, where Swetal delighted the onlookers with her fluid hand and neck gestures as well as expressive eye movements, doing justice to the beautiful art form of Odissi that originates from the Indian state of Orissa. The rendition of Pallavi, consisting of beautiful and sculpturesque poses by Swetal & Shefali, set to the popular raga Mohanam, was another magnificent piece.

My favorite was the Dasa Avatar where the music (composed by the poet Jayadeva) was a Ragamalika set to Jhampa taal. According to the Hindu belief, Lord Vishnu periodically manifests himself in an animal or human form on earth to cleanse the world of evil. The girls portrayed the ten incarnations or avatars of Lord Vishnu, with great proficiency.

The centerpiece of the arangetram was the Husseini varnam where Swetal and Shefali showcased their mastery of Bharatnatyam movements. This was followed by the Shiva Navarasa where Swetal and Shefali adeptly performed the nine human emotions of Sringara (Love), Veera (Valor), Karuna (compassion), Adbhuta (Wonder), Hasya (Humor), Bhayanaka (Fear), Bibhatsa (Disgust), Raudra (Anger) and Shanti (peace).  This dance Shiva Navarasa is in the Kuchipudi style that traces its origins to the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Tarana, was beautiful dance because of the wonderful blend of Hindustani music by the renowned Pundit Ravi Shankar and Kuchipudi dance by Guru Raja Reddy. Shefali portrayed the statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and fascinated all with her intricate footwork. The grand finale was the Ras Shabdham, where the dancers portrayed Lord Krishna and Radha, and concluded by dancing on the rim of a brass plate. This impressive arangetram concluded with the traditional Mangalam, leaving the audience spellbound and enthralled.

Swetal Bhatt, an honors student at Lexington High School, has been learning from Neena Gulati for almost a decade. Apart from performing at various cultural and art festivals at the Museum of Fine Arts,  New England Folk Festival, and Indian Association of Greater Boston, she also enjoys playing field hockey and the violin. A Black Belt in Kenpo karate, this talented young lady is also fascinated by computer animation. She is very grateful to her guru, Neenaji, for teaching her this rich and traditional Indian art form.

Shefali Lohia has also been training with Neena Gulati for almost seven years. She attributed her achievements to the love and affection with which her guru trained her. Shefali performs at various dance shows and is also a budding choreographer. She will be starting her senior year at Phillips Academy in the fall and apart from dance, also participates in several activities like Mock Trial, Youth and Government, Indo-Pak and Slam – a student run step/dance program. She loves to volunteer her time to different causes.

Their guru, Neena Gulati, is widely acclaimed as a wonderful dancer and a teacher. She teaches the Panthanallur style of Bharatnatyam and founded the Triveni School of Dance in Brookline, where she teaches Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi styles of dance. The live orchestra was a rare treat with vocal by Maitreyi Sharma, ably accompanied by Surya Sundararajan on the violin, GauriShankar Chandrashekar on the Mridangam and Dr Suresh Mathur on the Flute.

Thanks to the efforts of Swetal’s dad, Prashant Bhatt, and the wonders of modern day technology, many other friends and family of the two young dancers were able to enjoy this wonderful performance, thousands of miles away live in India.

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