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February 10, 2012 > The Art of Bharatanatyam

The Art of Bharatanatyam

By Arathi Satish
Photos By Ramani Aravindan

Nrithyollasa Dance Academy, Fremont, presents the Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Nidhi Lakshmi Swamy on Sunday, February 12th at Jackson Theatre, Ohlone College. Indumathy Ganesh founded Nrithyollasa Dance Academy in Fremont in 1989 to provide rigorous and intense training in Bharatanatyam, one of the oldest dance forms in India. In the past two decades, hundreds of local children have been trained in this art form. The students of Nrithyollasa Dance academy have not only charmed the audience with their dancing skills, but have also performed to raise funds for worthy causes.

Bharatanatyam, a classical dance of India, is one of the most beautiful, graceful, colorful and sophisticated style among the dance art forms. It is a combination of expression, music, rhythm and dance. Ancient Indian mythology includes the four Vedas or Knowledge of God, which are very difficult to master. Lord Brahma, Hindu God of Creation, created a fifth Veda, Natya Veda, based on the four existing ones. He took the words from Rig Veda, gesture from Yajur Veda, music from Sama Veda and emotion from Atharva Veda. Bharatanatyam has three main elements: Nritta is the rhythm, Nrithya is the combination of rhythm and expression and Natya is the dramatic element.

In 200 BC, the principles of Bharatanatyam were compiled by Sage Bharata in his treatise "Natya Shastra". Bharatanatyam originated in Thanjavur, South India and flourished in the temples among a community of devotees who expressed their love for the infinite spirit through the medium of dance. It is supposed to be the manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body.

Nidhi Swamy, a senior at Mission San Jose High School this year, has been learning this art form for the past ten years from Guru Indumathy Ganesh in Fremont. Arangetram (Climbing the raised floor) or Rangapravesha (Entering the stagea) is the most significant event in the life of a dancer. As Indumathy always stresses, it is the beginning and not the end of a dancer's career. In order to reach this level of dancing, a student must love the art, be committed to it and disciplined in approach. The students must be able to understand, memorize and perfect their dancing skills. Indumathy always points out the importance of practice. Nidhi says, "I have been able learn about the significance of different of cultures, the importance of dedication and the joy of learning art through this medium of dancing".

Nidhi will be accompanied by an orchestra. The accompanying artists play a very important part in the function. Nidhi's arangetram consists of the following artists. Choreography and Nattuvangam or dance conducting by Artistic Director, Indumathy Ganesh, Vocal by Asha Ramesh, Mridangam by N. Narayanan, and Violin by Shanti Narayanan. They are renowned Bay area artists and often provide music for Nrithyollasa Dance Academy performances. The dancer will wear traditional costumes and jewelry along with heavy make up, especially around the eyes, such that, her expressions are highlighted. The dancer's finger tips and toes are also painted in red color so that the hand gestures and footwork are clearly depicted. The bells or jingles on her feet will make rhythmic sound as the dancer keeps pace with the music. The entire performance will be approximately three hours in duration.

The arangetram performance starts with a prayer and is divided into two main sections. The first consists of Pushpanjali, an invocation, where in the dancer offers prayers and flowers to the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses through the idiom of dance. Allaripu, the next dance stresses the importance to movements, the coordination of eyes, neck, arms and legs. Jathiswaram is an intricate item where the dancer demonstrates 'Nritta', abstract dance movements in rhythmic patterns, exemplifying the unique style of dancing. Shabda is a rhythmic dance with emphasis given to facial expression. Varnam is the most elaborate piece in a Bharatanatyam recital, where expressions alternate with jathis or rhythmic syllables.

The second half consists of Padam, where the dancer's facial expressions assumes importance. This is followed by a couple of Devaranama dances that are devotional in context. Tillana forms a grand finale of Bhanratanatyam concert. It is the epitome of pure dance exploring the intricacies of footwork patterns. Each segment is fast paced and is punctuated with captivating and graceful poses. Mangalam is the ending of the performance where the dancer makes her final bow to God, her teacher, the accompanying artists and audience, thanking them for a successful performance.

Those who would like to enjoy the divine Bharatanatyam experience may attend the Arangetram of local artist Nidhi Swamy, presented by Nrithyollasa Dance Academy, Fremont, on Sunday, February 12, 2012, at 4:00 p.m. at Jackson Theatre, Ohlone College, 43600 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539. Interested people are invited to this free performance.

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