What I’ve learnt from Bharatanatyam

Eight young dancers, students of Dhanashree Karandikar’s Kalashree Dance Institute, presented a joint Arangetram (debut) recently. They tell us here what dance means to them

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How I felt just before getting on the stage

Angie: I’ve been dancing for many years now – with multiple stage performances – but the emotions I felt just before going on stage at my Arangetram were unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It was a mixture of nerves and excitement to perform all that we’d been working towards for the past year in front of nearly 1000 people.

Ashna: The feeling was definitely bittersweet. I was excited to perform on stage in front of all my friends and family, but a part of me felt that this leg of my dance journey would be coming to an end in the next few hours, that everything I had spent the last year working towards was going to finish… and that I may not ever dance as a group with the girls I was currently with, ever again.

Madura: It was an amazing experience. Yes it felt as if everything has come to an end, but the truth is that it was just the beginning.

How I felt after

Angie: Leaving the stage at the end of the Arangetram to greet the audience was overwhelming… everyone was showering us with praise. Honestly, it took a couple of days for it to sink in that I had completed my Arangetram. Initially I kept tracing back to how we’d performed, mistakes we’d made and so forth, but I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished. This has been one of the greatest achievements in my life and I’m so blessed to have experienced this with seven other amazing girls.

Ashna: Extremely proud of the group. There were hiccups during the Arangetram but I felt that all of our hard work had paid off. It was definitely unforgettable.

Megha Parmar

Dipna: I think the Arangetram was one of the most significant events of my life. It was a privilege to perform with my new found sisters. I am now truly able to say that I am a classical performer.

Kiran: The show was amazing, thanks to all the efforts of everyone working together. I am very thankful to our Guru and our families. My Arangetram is one of my proudest achievements.

What the practice sessions were like

Angie: Rehearsals began in early 2016 with two practice sessions a week – one with our Guru and one with just us girls. Rehearsals with our Guru were always intense, as we’d learn new routines. Our own practices, however, were like lazy rehearsals; the eight of us became close friends. Closer to the Arangetram, practices became a daily occurrence. Each three-hour practice tested our stamina and pushed us to our limits, but our support and encouragement for each other kept us going.

(L): Chaitali lanke, (R): Kiran Pawar

Ashna: At times it was rigorous, painful and stressful, but we would always push ourselves to dance our best – it was an extremely positive environment to be in. We came closer together as a group; this fostered an encouraging and friendly environment that not only increased our own motivation and the friendships we made, but also manifested in how we collaborated on stage.

Kiran: We would practise on recordings of our Guru’s singing from our phone in our garage that we specifically cleared out and arranged for dance (marking stage lines and formations too). We called ourselves the A-team and in this team, girls all helped each other out – driving the younger ones home when their parents couldn’t, picking up the busy uni students from the train station, with a snack to eat on the way. At times practice was really hard, with me doing full-time uni as a Medical Science Honours student with no university holidays. The co-operation and support of my Honours supervisor has a big role in this journey too! As Arangetram drew closer, there were injuries – especially knee and foot. Musician practices at school halls were quite fun as we got to dance to the full ensemble for the first time. Running as a group together to increase our stamina was also great fun!

Madura: Practice sessions used to be very intense and rigorous but we always supported and pushed each other to give our best. Due to this encouraging environment, we all got along very well. Snacking on carrots with spicy hummus at the end of practice – won’t forget that!

(L): Madhura Jagdale; (R): Ashna Hegde

Dipna: Practice twice a week meant seeing each other’s faces way too much! However, if it hadn’t been for this, then our experience and bondage would have been nothing like it is now.

What got me into dancing

Angie: I’ve had a passion for dance since I was very young. My earliest childhood memories are of me running around while dancing to Indian songs, the sound of my anklets and music echoing through the house. Mum took me to my first Bharatanatyam class ten years ago. Without constant encouragement from her and my dad, my Arangetram would not have happened so I have them to thank for introducing me to this classical art.

Ashna: I’m not a very sporty person, but I wanted a way to both get fit as well as learn the sort of grace and elegance that you can’t get from playing a sport, and dance seemed like the best option. Some may refer to dance as a sport or fitness, but it is so much more than this as it is an art: it’s a way to express yourself, and a way to connect with your own emotions and body on a much deeper level. 

Kiran: I began learning Bharatanatyam at the start of high school as a hobby and to stay active. I soon grew to love it and today it has become a passion.

Madura: My dear friend Chaitali, who also just graduated with me at this Arangetram, influenced me to join this classical art form at Kalashree. Not to forget, the love and passion my Guru has for Bharatanatyam is just on another level and she has always been an inspiration for me to keep dancing!

Dipna Parmar

Dipna: My journey started out at six years of age, motivated by my parents. However, I later discovered that I have a great passion for dancing.

Why I am drawn to Bharatanatyam

Angie: The grace and expressions as well as spectacular footwork attracted me to this classical art at a young age. Bharatanatyam has taught me how to express spiritual ideas, virtues and the essence of scripture through dance. It has enabled me to develop a deeper connection with my Indian heritage.

Ashna: Bharatanatyam is so much deeper than other forms of dancing such as Bollywood and hip hop. Inherent in it is deep meaning and complexity. Through Bharatanatyam you tell stories of scripture, and you connect with the audience and yourself on an emotional level.

Madura: There is strength, grace and perfection in Bharatanatyam. It not just about dance, it allows you to connect with your roots and express yourself truly.

Mamatharani Kaadiya

What I learn from Bharatanatyam that enhances my personality

Angie: Bharatanatyam has shaped me into the person I am today and has instilled in me many lifelong values. My Guru is specifically the one who has taught me values such as discipline, teamwork, sacrifice, dedication and perseverance. These everlasting values extend to other aspects of life, and I intend on utilising these principles in my day-to-day life. This elegant dance form has also allowed me to become more graceful and confident. It’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. I still have so much more to learn from Bharatanatyam and my Guru.

Ashna: I have learned values such as hard work, dedication, sincerity, maturity and respect, which have carried over into how I approach things such like schoolwork, and my relationships. Bharatanatyam has also instilled a greater appreciation of the richness of Indian culture – it has helped me learn so much about my heritage both through the religious stories we have portrayed, but also the cultural values it and my guru have instilled in me. 

Angie Raheja

Kiran: This journey has taught me about hard work, dedication, and friendship. It has taught me more than just dance but also how to live a healthy balanced lifestyle and to appreciate this ancient dance form. Dancing to beats of tatakali on lyrics of some of the most beautifully written Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu songs, I also fell in love with classical music.

Madura: Bharatanatyam has been a massive impact on my life. I have become so much more confident and positive. It has taught me to work hard to achieve success. With the help of my Guru and my friends, I have learnt to value a lot of things in life, such as time, friendship and passion for anything you choose to do.

Dipna: Bharatanatyam has taught me life skills like resilience, dedication and hard work. 

Bharatanatyam dancers that have inspired me

Angie: My Guru Dhanashree Karandikar has been my greatest inspiration. She is a spectacular dancer and I experience utter awe every time she demonstrates a move or an expression. Under her tutelage, I haven’t just learned Bharatanatyam, but also multiple life lessons and values that have helped shaped my personality. My Guru is a disciple of admirable Bharatanatyam dancers, and I’ve been blessed to meet them and see them perform. Finally, in the year leading up to my Arangetram, inspiration to practice more and be a better dancer has come from my seven sisters who I graduated with recently.

Ashna: My own Guru. Not only is she an excellent dancer herself, she has also taught me so much about dance and about life and the values we should aspire to live our life through. She has been fortunate enough to have been taught by widely renowned pioneers of Bharatanatyam such as Guru Leela Samsan and C.V. Chandrashekhar. This means not only do we get to see these greats in the same way that much of the Indian and classical dance community does, when we have watched their videos or they have come to Australia and held lecture demonstrations at Kalashree, but also in the more personal and intimate ways that our guru is able to talk about her experience with them. She is able to relay to us the values they held in their own mentoring and dance practices, and these are values that she emulates in her own teaching, and values that are often unknown to those who simply watch them dance on stage. 

Madura: Most definitely my own Guru Dhanashree Karandikar who has not only taught me dance over the last 8 years but has also taught me to overcome hurdles in life.