Dancing to the tune of Bharatanatyam

My 8 yr old niece had her arangetram recently. I was amazed at the dexterity of the artiste and wondered at the meticulous details and planning that had gone into the child’s performance.

Arangetram or Rangapravesham is a dancer’s debut performance. It is here that the student blossoms into an artist and receives the first appreciation for all the painstaking efforts taken to become a full fledged dancer.

Arangetram can be performed only after the artist has completed the entire course of dance or Margam. Margam is a complete course of Bharatanatyam dances that are performed in a concert. The entire course is to be perfected by the artist to the satisfaction of the guru, before the actual performance on stage.

In between the performance, my niece’s guru explained the various Margam’s of the course which was very informative. Most of us enjoyed the recital but did not understand the concept behind it.

The performance began with a Pushpanjali, which means offering respect to the lord of dance with flowers and subsequently offering respect to the teacher and bowing to the audience.

How lovely it would be if she wore the costumes according to each song, I thought! A beautiful ‘Pitambara’ whenever she represented Krishna, a lovely ‘flower motif-filled’ saree for the Pushpanjali…

Coming back to reality, the actual performance begins with Alaripu where the artist displays his or her skill in footwork, head and eye movement that are a traditional part of the dance form. The Alaripu is followed by Jathiswaram with particular emphasis on intricate foot work.

Shabdam is the next stage of performance where the artist introduces Abhinaya or expression into the dance.
Shabdam is followed by Varnam. This particular recital involves performing to a theme which is elaborated with Abhinaya depending upon the Varnam chosen.

Padams are the next stage of performance after Varnam. They are performance based on songs by various composers. Yet again the artist uses a lot of facial expression and Abhinaya to express the meaning of the song. This is the time that the girl also changed her costume - to let us at the audience experience a variety of colour on stage. With the changing colour, the mood of the entire evening became much more vibrant.

The culminating piece among the events of performance is the Tillana which is a little complex. The concluding performance is the Mangalam which ends the performance, followed by Namaskaram which concludes the recital.

About the costumes

Bharatanatyam also places special importance on the jewellery and costumes of the dancers. Dancers wear costumes made of silk sarees with gold zari in colours that are bright and striking. The pleats in these costumes spread out like a Japanese fan when the dancer performs particular poses. The costume, the traditional jewellery and the hairstyle with the adornment of flowers all help in enhancing the performer’s apperance and expressions required for the dance.

No matter how many pieces of jewellery a dancer owns or how many costumes she has, the Arangetram ones are most remembered and treasured for the feeling they bring back to the dancer forever…

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