A picture of perfection

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It’s an enchanting debut performance at Bharathi Sriram’s arrangetram


Introducing her niece and shishya Bharathi Sriram, Guru Hamsa Venkat noted that, like the graceful waves in the ocean, when the angam (physical self) ascends the arangam (stage), every danseuse seeks to attain antarangam (inner self).

Demonstrating maturity, prowess and devotion, Bharathi’s arrangetram (debut) at Gillian Moore Auditorium marked a new pinnacle in her artistic journey, experiencing its many nuances in the process.

“The journey has been physically and mentally exhilarating and I encourage my peers to undertake it,” she said. “The hard work, commitment and passion cannot be encompassed in a better way than to perform in front of a sea of audience whose eyes are focussed on you. Leading up to the performance, I could not even differentiate my nervousness from excitement because I was looking forward to it with so much joy and pleasure”.

“Knowing that I was able to dance a three-hour repertoire again and again without getting exhausted in the preceding weeks, had just made me realise how far I had come from day one of my lesson with my Guru when I was panting just after the Allaripu!” she added.

Rather than merely showcasing technical mastery, the subtle production focussed as much on thematic content as delivery and presentation, while strictly adhering to the traditional format, clearly hallmarks of a mature artiste.

Bharathi looked a picture of perfection with her tasteful makeup and costume selection. The experience both for the artiste and her audience therefore was pure bliss.

Saptha: The Power of Seven was the unifying theme for the evening and Bharathi delved into all aspects of this auspicious Hindu concept, laden with complex symbolism – from the seven colours of the rainbow, seven notes of music, seven sacred matrimonial steps around the fire, to the metaphysical concepts of rebirth, self-realisation and yogic power.

Exploring kundalini and seven chakras, or energy hubs, Bharathi’s innovative rendering of the Alarippu (the auspicious opening of every arrangetram) set the tone for the evening. What followed was the visual splendour of the jathiswaram in raagam Ranjanimaala with music for the piece especially composed by Sydney musicologist Mohan Ayyar.

Bharathi chose to represent the vibrant colours of the rainbow through portrayal of Lord Indra’s dhanush, interspersing energetic movements with sculpturesque postures.

The story of Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, formed the centrepiece (varnam) of the evening’s performance as Bharathi lovingly portrayed the various moods of the powerful epic through the classic Bhaavayami Raghuramam. This demanding piece clearly showed off her technical mastery, effectively reproducing a range of emotions from arrogance of Ravana to Rama’s humility, the vile machinations of Kuni to the utter humiliation of Soorpanakha, and the despondency of Sita’s captivity to the boundless energy of Hanuman. Particularly captivating was the swayamvara scene, eventually reaching crescendo with pattabhishekam.

The accompanying music provided the perfect backdrop. Sydney audiences have come to expect nothing but the best from Samskriti School of Dance and the artistes delivered yet again on high expectations. Krishna Ramarathinam, debutante Devika Krishnamurthy and Hamsa Venkat transported the audience to the realm of surreal with their vocal renditions, as Balaji Jaganathan (violin), Mohan Ayyar (synthesiser) and Pallavarajan Nagendran (mrudangam) provided expert instrumental support. Equally flawless was Bharathi’s behind-the-scenes support team, with sound and lighting effects adding depth and dimension to the performance.

The saptha thandavam, a dedication to Nataraja, the undisputed God of dance, demonstrated energetic movements contrasted by statuesque poses.

If Ananda Koothandina was an explosion of creative energy, the Sapthapadi allowed Bharathi to display her emotive repertoire through an elaborate delineation of love – from longing of the maiden to promise of holy matrimony.

In a special dedication to her paternal grandfather RM Sundaram, Bharathi explored the seven notes of music through a colourful portrayal of the story of Vel Murugan and his conquest of Surapadman.

As always, robust footwork and vibrant energy marked the thillana, the concluding piece of an arangetram, with Bharathi effortlessly exploring the complex themes of saptha janma (Hindu cycle of birth and death), transcending physical and eventually becoming one with the Supreme Being.

Finding inner bliss or antarangam, the capable danseuse paid her obeisance (mangalam) to her Mata, Pitha, Guru, Deivam through the Marathi hymn Omkara Swarupa Tuza Namo. As the curtains came down one last time on a memorable performance, the audience clearly went home exhilarated and uplifted by this experience of antarangam.