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Dance Arangetram: Mahima Balaraj

Karthi Chandra

On August 22nd, 2010, Mahima Balaraj completed her Bharatanatyam Arangetram at Nashua High School North under the tutelage of the talented Guru Neha Parikh of Chidambaram Nritya Kala Academy in Nashua, New Hampshire. Mahima started learning Bharatanatyam with Preeta Arun since she was seven. For the past five years she has been learning under Neha who has a Master’s degree in fine arts (Classical dance) from Nalanda Institute Bombay University.  An audience of about 400 watched as Mahima told the stories of Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Krishna, Karthikeya, and other Hindu deities through the ancient dance art form of Bharatanatyam. The nattuvangam was lead by Ms Neha Parikh accompanied by the wonderful team of artists;  Sudev Warrier was the  vocalist, K S Sudhaman was on the mridangam and K Pathanjali was on the flute.
 Mahima will be a senior at Nashua High School this fall. She has great compassion for the less privileged, having volunteered at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and entertained with her dance at elderly homes. She requested that the gift money from her arangetram be donated to Children's Hospital Boston towards funds for research and care for children with cancer. She plans to attend college and eventually to medical school. As a doctor she would have the chance to help more people.
As a talented writer, here are her reflections on her Arangetram:
In the weeks before my Arangetram, I was a nervous ball of energy. Doing an Arangetram was everything I had ever wanted, but I wasn’t sure I was ready.  My amazing teacher, Neha Didi, quickly dispelled those thoughts, though. She encouraged me, inspired me, molded me, but most importantly, she taught me to love dance with abandon. She taught me to love the intensity and the expressions and the footwork, the quick pace and joy of completing an item. Preparing for my arangetram took up a lot of my time. I wasn’t able to hang out with my friends as much as I wanted to, or have sleepovers and watch movies, but in the end, it was worth it. I remember the week before my arangetram, my house was strewn with decorations, lamps and flowers, and filled with relatives. I was overwhelmed and stressed, but when I was dancing, it was like the whole world ceased to exist, except for me and the bells that adorned my feet.
The day of my arangetram dawned early, and I woke up to the aroma of scrambled eggs, and the incessant fluttering of butterflies in my stomach. I ate my breakfast with shaking fingers. Soon, I was informed that there was already a large gathering of people helping out with stage decorations at Nashua High North. My teacher did my makeup, and Uma Aunty did my hair, and before I knew it, I was at Nashua North, doing the salangai pooja, bowing down to the Lord, and taking the blessings of my teacher and parents. The musicians, who were absolutely brilliant, and so sweet and understanding, sang the invocation song, and suddenly, it was time. Walking out onto the stage was nerve-wracking, but I realized that I was going to enjoy the songs, and enjoy every expression, every hand gesture. And I did.  The items went by so fast, that the next thing I knew, I was doing my Mangalam, and I could vaguely register the clapping and whistling. What I do remember, is the feeling of elation, mixed with the sorrow of leaving behind a year’s hard work, stress, confusion, foot massages and countless dance practices.  My teacher, my family and my friends have all helped me and given me their love and support. I love all of them from the bottom of my heart.
Performing an Arangetram is never easy. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication and sacrifice. But when you are up on that stage, feeling the bright lights on your face, and the weight of your jewelry pressing upon you, you realize that there is nothing in the world you’d rather be doing and that is the true feeling of victory.

I have learnt a lot from doing my Arangetram. I discovered the art of setting and prioritizing goals. I have learnt determination and perseverance. Most of all, however, I have learned that nothing is impossible with a little bit of hard work and will power.  To all the young dancers everywhere, my advice is simple: never give up.

Live. Laugh. Learn. And keep on dancing.

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