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Arangetram: Anjana Shenoy And Aishwarrya Nambi

Devdas Mallya

July 6th, 2013 - A day in which two talented young dancers made their dance debut at the Algonquin Regional High School Auditorium. The dancers were Aishwarrya Nambi and Anjana Shenoy, disciples of Guru Smt. Sapna Krishnan, founder and head of Lasya School of Dance in Shrewsbury.

The program began with an introductory dance, the Mallari, in Ragam Gambheera Nattai and Khanda Triputa Talam. The performance of the debutantes was an indication of the delights in store for the audience that evening. The Mallari was followed by a solo performance Anjaneya Kavuthuvam, a song in praise of Sri Rama’s greatest devotee, Lord Hanuman, in Ragam Panthuvarali. Aishwarrya performed this dance with great energy, which reflected the leaps and movements of a monkey, Lord Hanuman’s form perfectly. Immediately after this was a joint performance, the Jathiswaram, in Ragam Saveri and Rupaka Talam. Both performances indicated that the young dancers still had a lot more to offer the audience that evening.

Next was a krithi, Chandrachooda, composed by the famous devotional poet Sri Purandara Dasa, sung in Ragamalika and Talamalika. Anjana performed the dance to this vividly in a way in which it was easy for the audience to visualize Lord Shiva’s graceful and glorious form with a crescent moon shining on his head and the river Ganga flowing through his tresses.
    While the dancers took a well-earned break, the orchestra gave a delightful interlude through a musical jugalbandi. K.S. Sudhaman, the mridangist, and Ramani Thiagarajan, the flutist, enthralled the audience with their skills. The vocalist,  Sudev Warrier, effectively mediated the challenges of the flute and the responses of the mridangam. Then, the orchestra invited the audience to join in the jugalbandi through clapping their hands. After the amazing recital, the audience gave a standing ovation to the brilliant and masterful orchestra.
    This powerful presentation preceded the most elaborate dance piece of the evening, the Varnam. The Varnam, in any Bharatanatyam arangetram, is the most important piece of the performance, which demonstrates the dancer’s ability to express emotions through movements and their stamina in performing nrittha, or pure rhythmic steps. The Varnam that evening was in praise of the Goddess Meenakshi of the Madurai Temple. In this, the stories of Goddess Mukambika of Kollur, who followed the saint Adi Shankara until he looked back out of doubt, and Goddess Abhirami, who saved the priest Abhirama from the wrath of a proud king, were depicted emphatically. One could lucidly see the pleadings of saint Adi Shankaracharya when he appealed to the goddess to accompany him to his birthplace Kaladi and his delight when she agreed. This touching story was followed by the depiction of the wrath of the proud king who did not receive his customary salutation from the priest Abhirama. Abhirama’s absentminded reply to the king’s next question as to what moon would show that night angered the king who threatened to execute the priest if the full moon did not show that night (in reality, the day was a new moon day). Aishwarrya afterwards illustrated the frightened and desperate praying of Abhirama wonderfully while Anjana, as the goddess, answered her prayer by gracefully throwing her earring in the sky and painting its glow to imitate the full moon. The intricate footwork and natural expressions brought the audience to their feet in a standing ovation for the outstanding performance.
    The dance after the intermission was by Aishwarrya. In the song which she performed, Mahadeva Shiva Shambo, in Ragam Revathi and Adi Talam, her act of Ravana’s display of prayer in slitting his arm and using his veins as a veena moved the audience nearly to tears. Following this heartbreaking enactment was the lively Brahmamokate, performed by Anjana, in Ragam Bowli and Trisha Eka Talam. Her quick movements had the audience tapping their foots along with the catchy beat.
    After these two amazing performances, Aishwarrya and Anjana set out to show their skill in abhinaya. Aishwarrya performed Cinna Cinna Padam, in which she demonstrated a mother’s love beautifully as if she could see Lord Krishna as a child in front of her. She demonstrated, in a masterful jathi, the story of Kaliya Mardhanam, in which Krishna danced on the head of a poisonous snake. Next, Anjana performed a dance to Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra’s Manasa Sancharare in Ragam Sama and Adi Talam. The dance, an allegory of the soul searching for the supreme spirit, depicted the story of Kuchela, a childhood friend of Krishna. Kuchela’s love and devotion for Krishna and his tiring journey in search of his friend  were depicted realistically enough for the audience to feel it at heart.
    Subesequent to these two competent performances was a light music piece, the Kavadi Chindu. When Anjana and Aishwarrya entered the stage with lifelike kavadis, the audience was amazed. Their coordination in this dance was astoundingly flawless and they looked like actual pilgrims traveling to Lord Muruga’s temple in Palani. A Thillana in Ragam Bahar and Adi Talam followed the Kavadi Chindu. The thillana demonstrated the mastery of the pure nrittha elements of Bharatanatyam. The veena maestro Chittibabu, who praises the muse of music and dance, Goddess Saraswathi, as well as the melody of the veena she plays, composed this thillana. Lastly, after thillana, was the mangalam, a commonly known song – Ramachandraya Janaka. The dancers paid their respects to God, their guru, the musicians who supported them well throughout the performance, and the audience who appreciated them. It was indeed an easy task to appreciate such excellence and performances of such aptitude that there was not a single moment, which tired the audience throughout the entire evening. The two girls demonstrated the balance of both Bharatanatyam with its music and excelled in bringing their bhakti to the audience, enthralling them with the essence of Bharatanatyam, which took the audience to a different dimension altogether. We wish the girls all the best in their future.

(Devdas Mallya is a retired professor of Business Management and currently he is Academic Counsellor at IGNOU Study Centre, MANGALORE, India. )

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