A promise fulfilled

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Debutante rises to the challenge impressively

Most connoisseurs of classical dance will agree that an Arangetram is essentially a graduation that opens up a whole new world to the dancer in Bharatanatyam. The kudos received at an Arangetram is a stepping stone to climbing the ladder of success. Thanaya Naidu ticked all the boxes with a scintillating performance and seemed ready to launch into an illustrious career.

Photo by ntranced photography

It began with her brother Darshan and her guru Malavika Srinath introducing the programme for evening. Unusual though it may sound, Thanaya had two gurus (Malavika and her guru Padma Balakumar) working in tandem to teach her the nuances of the art form. Interestingly, both of them spoke glowingly of her commitment and dedication to learning the form. This is highly creditable for someone who spent her early life in South Africa and migrated to Australia with her parents.

Language barriers and remoteness with Indian culture did not appear to be an inhibitory factor to the dancer in synchronising ‘bhava’, ‘tala’, ‘laya’ or ‘abhinaya’, all of which need to come together for a pleasing performance.

A huge credit for Thanaya’s dance performance goes to the Nrityagriha School of Dance run by Padma Balakumar of which Malavika Srinath is an integral part. Malavika’s narration before each item was clear and crisp.

After the customary invocation and prayer to Lord Ganesha in Raga Saurashtram, the first item presented was Kali Kauthuvam where the compositions go with “sollukattus” or rhythmic syllables performed in temples prior to “dhwaja aarohanam” (flag hoisting) – in this case the deity is Goddess Kali.

This was sung in Khanda Chapu tala in Raga Hamsadhwani. Thanaya looked captivating in her blue and pink costume when performing before Kaalika Devi.

Photo by ntranced photography

This was followed by a Jathiswaram in Raga Saveri set to Rupaka tala and composed by the Tanjore Quartet. Jathis were woven into swaras asking the dancer to demonstrate rhythmic foot movements to the musical accompaniments. The melody was not lost on the appreciative audience as good music makes Bharatanatyam come alive.

Varnamin Bharatanatyam is equivalent to a main course in a meal. Thanaya’s varnam choice in Raga Khamas composed by the Tanjore Quartet and set to Aadhi Talam offered her plenty of scope for an expressive number.

Titled Swamiyai Azhaitthu Vaadi thereby beckoning Lord Shiva, there were  opportunities for Nritta, Abhinaya and story telling that describes the virtues of the ‘nayak’ (in this case Lord Sundareswara and his consort Madurai Meenakshi) in the ‘pallavi’ and ‘anupallavi’.

Blended with devotional aspects, the rhythmic foot movements added to the beauty of the rendering.  Varnam is most demanding of the artistic skills and Thanaya stood up to its challenge very well.

Photo by ntranced photography

The team of accompanying artists merits a special mention. Vocalist Prema Anandakrishnan and Balaji Jagannadhan on the violin are among the best in Sydney.

Supporting crew were Pallavarajan Nagendran on Mridangam and Venkatesh Sritharan on the flute and they definitely added lustre.  Shruti Balaji held her own whenever she had the opportunity and her “chaliye” in Raga Brindabani was a joy to behold.

The latter half of the programme had several short dance items.  Ulagam Pughzhum Natya Kala in Ragamalika and composed by KN Dhandayuthapani Pillai had universal appeal, whilst Kaliyuga Varadan in Raga Brindavana Saranga brought out the reverence of Lord Muruga at the ‘Pazhani Malai’ temple by millions of devotees as a saviour of the human race in Kaliyuga.

A ‘padam’ and a ‘thillana’ rounded off a completely satisfying evening.  Brahman Okate in Raga Bowli (composer Annamacharya) was folksy and had a nice beat. The ‘thillana’ was in Raga Mohana Kalyani and its composition by Lalgudi Jayaraman was fast paced and required intricate foot movement.

Thanaya showed pride and self-assurance when awarded the ‘commendation certificate’ flanked by her Gurus.

The evening concluded to a Mangalam, but mention must be made about the composure of Thanaya and the energy she appeared to have whilst expressing her gratitude to everyone. She came out in flying colours for her debut to an audience of over 250 at the Riverside Theatre.