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Arangetram: Dr. Deepa Rajamani

Aparna Balaji

In the afternoon of June 9th 2012, a group of about 200 art enthusiasts, well-wishers and friends gathered to witness the debut Bharathanatyam performance of Dr. Deepa Rajamani, at Sharon Middle school, Sharon, MA.  Though June is a busy month with many such dance programs in MA, this one was a very unique and inspirational one to everyone in the audience. It was a 3 hour program packed with carefully selected choice of songs and interesting choreography that put up a nuanced display of the various aspects of this beautiful art form.

Deepa Rajamani is a researcher at Harvard Medical School.  A mom of two little girls, Deepa has been interested in dance since childhood. She received her early tutelage from Sri.Krishna Kumar from the age of 7 in India. She then pursued her dance classes under Smt. Poornima Risbud of Canton, MA. Her determination and sincere efforts were on display at this wonderful event.

The program started with a beautiful Ganesha vandanam by vocalist Smt.Neela Ramanuja and the musicians in the live orchestra.  It was a warm welcome to the audience. The musicians were mostly from India and had been assembled for the grand event.  Dressed in a beautiful golden costume with coffee brown highlights, Deepa began with a traditional Pushpanjali, an offering of flowers to the lord Nataraja, which was the pace setter. This was followed by slokam and Mallari. Mallari is an item which highlights the intricate rhythmic patterns. The mridangist Kala Sri. N. G.Ravi, played with vibrance and handled the onus of balancing the rhythm coordination with utmost ease.  This was then followed by "Ananda Narthana Ganapathim" in the bubbly ragam "Nattai". It was a piece where Deepa exhibited various beautiful poses to depict lord Ganesha. The vocalist and the mridangist were in perfect sync with the foot work of the dancer. It was a treat to the eyes and the ears.

Next on presentation was Jathiswaram, which is a pure nritta item that interweaves the musical notes or swarams, and the rhythmic syllables or Jathis. This piece was in Rupaka talam set to ragam Vachaspathi. The teacher, Smt. Poornima Risbud, who was also the Nattuvanar for the program, had choreographed this piece to the strengths of Deepa. The coordination between the dancer and the musicians, achieved at various levels in this item, was appreciated by the audience.

The main piece of a traditional Bharathanatyam performance is the "Varnam". Varnam, meaning color, is the most detailed and complex piece in a dance program. Deepa's subtlety in expression was notable in bringing out the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu in this "Dashavataram" varnam. This was set in various ragas to enhance the beauty of the piece, and it was skillfully accompanied by the flutist Shri. Shakthidhar and the violinist, Boston's own Kum. Rasika Murali. The audio was embellished with special effects by Shri. Karthik Vyadhatri on the rhythm pads, that provided attractive highlights to this piece.  It was indeed a great effort to work on this item as it is the longest and the most strenuous. The beautiful music by the perfectly coordinated musicians gave Deepa wonderful support for such a challenging item. This piece gave a lot of scope to the dancer to express various abhinayas and this unusually fast paced varnam also had a lot of scope for exhibiting intricate footwork.

A brief intermission for about 30 minutes allowed the audience a perfect time to snack the high quality food that had been catered by The Pongal restaurant. The second half of the program started with Deepa coming back on stage with an even more vibrant Red costume, with yellow highlights, a perfect one for the next two items on Lord Shiva and Parvati. While Deepa's talent on foot work and various poses were on display in "Mahadeva Shiva Shambo" in ragam Revathy, equally impressive were her facial expressions in the next item "Omkara Karini" in ragam Lavangi.  

Deepa brought out the Krishna leela through the item Pashyatha Pashyatha in the Ragam Bhairavi set to Mishra chapu talam, completing the experience for a discerning traditional dance audience! Though the choice of the ragam felt a little on the heavier side, Deepa's display of the effect of Lord Krishna on the Gopis was very captivating.

The next item, Thillana, completely captured the swift movements and coordination of entire body and expressed the dancer’s sense of timing. This rhythmic item expressed in a pure nritta form, was on Lord Hanuman which provided a perfect prelude to the finale, the Mangalam on Lord Muruga from Thirupugazh. Deepa, who seemed a bit exhausted by now, did complete justice to this fast-paced mangalam which was made more challenging by being set in ragamalika and Talamalika. The orchestra handled this difficult piece very well. This grand Mangalam fittingly concluded the program, which was a grand success.  The chief guest of the evening Shri. O.S. Thiagarajan, a celebrated musician visiting from India, gave an emotive speech after the program.

The program was beautifully MC'd by Smt. Bhuvana Kaushik. At the end everyone enjoyed a good dinner and left with the impression that Deepa, with the able support of the live orchestra and the efforts of her teacher, did great justice to the occasion and her own immense talent.

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