A joy to behold

Ruby Bhave presents an outstanding arrangetram

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She was a playful peacock, a lovelorn nayika, a Draupadi in torment, a mischievous Krishna, an Ardhanareeshwara in balance. Bharatanatyam dancer Ruby Bhave was all of these and much more at her recent arrangetram (debut performance).

The young debutante was able to convince the audience, at the end of her performance at Newcastle’s St. Phillip Christian College, that she was indeed blessed with wonderful talent, her charming stage presence spreading joy just like it should.

Ruby began her special night with a sprightly ‘Pushpanjali’ followed by a ‘Ganesha sthuthi’. The mayura alarippu that followed, a traditional opening dance item choreographed to imitate the graceful lines of a peacock was a perfect choice for Ruby as she regaled the onlookers, spreading her plumage in royal blue.

The keerthanam ‘Kanchadalayadakshi’ on Goddess Kamakshi was presented with poise; Prema Anadakrishnan’s resonating voice and the nadai variations by Guru Vrinda Ravi and Pallavarajan Nagendran on the mridangam added dignity to the piece. The varnam on Lord Krishna in Charukesi gave ample scope for Ruby to demonstrate her skills in abhinaya and natya, the storytelling element of dance.

The nayika or heroine questions her lord as to his indifference. The innocence with which the heroine wonders about her Lord’s neglect of her was beautifully expressed by Ruby. The clash of wills between the aggressive Duryodhana and diffident Yudhishtra as they played a rigged game of dice, Draupadi’s pleas as she was disrobed in public, the many leelas or pranks of Krishna as he weaves in and out of various situations were brought to life on stage with her endearing expressions. Krishna the enchanter who draws the entire universe into his folds with the melody of his flute was also well depicted as animals and humans gravitated to be near the Lord.

Venkhatesh Sritharan weaved his own magic on the flute breathing life into the performance. The second half had a well balanced mix of dances starting with the grand splendour of the half male and half female form of Lord Shiva. Ruby effectively emphasised the tandava (majestic male) and the lasya (graceful female) aspects of the form of Ardhanareeshwara reminding one and all about the importance of how the masculine and the feminine need to complement the other.

A lively kavadi chindu followed where the lovelorn heroine sings the praises of Lord Muruga. Ruby’s portrayal of the lamenting heroine who attempts to write a letter to her beloved ending up with a long essay of his noble virtues brimmed with the qualities of a mugdha nayika experiencing the first flush of love.

Variety adds flavour to life and what better than a lover’s tiff to add spice to a relationship. The dancer brought this idea to the forefront with the abhang ‘Rusli Radha, Rusla Madhav’, narrating how all of Brindavan came to a standstill when Radha and Krishna quarrelled. Ruby presented this tale with all the multifaceted emotions of jealousy, anger, pride and finally a selfless surrendering by both Radha and Krishna to the king of all rasas, Shringaram (the emotion of love).

Jeiram Jagathesan on rhythm pad and Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda on the violin brought the cooing cuckoos and the buzzing bees alive on stage. The performance concluded with a vivacious ‘Thillana’ and ‘Mangalam’ where Ruby paid her respects to the almighty, her teacher, the musicians and friends and family that supported her. “Seeing my parents and family beaming from the front row and being the biggest cheer squad, my Guru Vrinda Ravi’s encouraging speech and seeing how the community came together to ensure the whole evening went smoothly, was worth all the effort,” Ruby told Indian Link later.

Talking about her journey working towards this arrangetram, Ruby recalled the many challenges that ultimately helped her to grow. “There were many amazing new experiences throughout the process, but one that I will cherish forever is working with the highest calibre of talented musicians,” Ruby singles out with deep appreciation.

Prema Anadakrishnan on the vocals, Venkhatesh Sritharan on the flute, Kranthi Kiran Mudigonda on the violin, Pallavarajan Nagendran on the mridangam and Jeiram Jagathesan on rhythm pad and morsing and Vrinda Ravi on the nattuvangam supported Ruby seamlessly, inspiring her to awaken to the many shades of rhythm and emotions.

A mention must certainly be made of the compere for the evening, Nikita, who paved the way for each presentation with panache. “While there are surely things to improve as there always is in any aspect of life, I’m glad I can look back and say that I genuinely put in the effort,” Ruby said. “I truly have had the best time and want to rewind and do it all again!”

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Hamsa Venkat is a keen explorer of the art form of Bharathanatyam and is a dancer from the Kalakshetra School of dancing in Chennai