It was an eventful journey for Kalashree Dance Academy’s 2022 performers. Bharatanatyam dancers Monica, Karuna, Lakshmi, Shravani, Shriya, Sudhikshaa and sisters Janhavi and Siddhi were quite the team, displaying elegance and synchronisation together and yet each one standing out for their own unique quality. Together, they were their Dance Academy’s most recent graduands, at their arangetram (debut) performance held at UNSW’s Science Theatre.
Exhilaration and emotions flowed freely as the eight dancers took to the stage, displaying their talent with exuberance and energy. Completing the arangetram performance flawlessly was extremely rewarding for the girls and their Guru Dhanashree Karandikar. A joint arangetram is rare, but not unheard of in contemporary times.
The Kalashree girls looked every bit the confident and disciplined Bharatanatyam dancers, right from their entry on stage for the Ganesh Vandana. The atmosphere was electrified with powerful vocals of the accomplished Carnatic singer Mathuvanthi Paheerathan, who trained under her mother from the age of three.
The opening piece, Alarippu, symbolising the blossoming of a dancer’s body, displayed the girls’ impeccable grace and superb co-ordination. Alarippu was presented in Raagam Nattai, Tisra Jati and Roopaka Taalam. The dancers’ ease and their smiling faces left the audience with a taste of what was to follow.
Next up was Jatiswaram performed in Raagam Mukhari and taal Aditaalam. This was a pure dance item that focused on intricate movements and the complexity of Bharatanatyam. Each performer was able to showcase their individual strengths, be it the graceful jumps, fast movements and spins or seamless transitions. It was a delight to watch the confident dancers moving swiftly and adeptly into constantly changing formations.
The third act Varnam, presented in Raagam Ananda Bhairavi and taal Aditaalam, was the longest piece with captivating and challenging choreography. It demanded the perfect synchronisation of the ‘bhava’ (expression) and ‘tala’ (rhythm). It was certainly an endurance-testing piece for the girls, but they delivered a superb performance with ‘natya’ and expressions on point. They were grouped in pairs and portrayed the ‘nayika’ in love, whose lover is Lord Krishna himself. The dancers flawlessly expressed the ‘nayika’s’ longing for her lover and her descriptions of him to her ‘sakhis’ (friends). Guru Dhanashree Karandikar expertly arranged her students in many formations that depicted Lord Krishna’s signature peacock feather.
The musicians’ contribution to the whole repertoire was flawless and captivating. On the Mrudungam, Sivakumar Sethupathi’s spirited accompaniment was indeed remarkable, enhancing the beauty of the performances. Of special mention was the highly talented, eminent violinist V Suresh Babu who had flown all the way from India to lend his expert support to the Kalashree program.
The pace, perfection and energy of the dancers with spell binding combination of vocals and instrumental left the audience awe struck.
Featured in the second half of the program was the Padam. A ‘padam’ is a purely ‘abhinaya’ piece with accompanying music which highlights the nuanced grace of a dancer. There were four distinct padams that the dancers performed in pairs and got to display their individual strengths and different ‘rasas’ (flavours of artform). It was delightful to watch Bhartanatyam being performed to a wide range of music from bhajan to Marathi film music. The tribute to Lord Shri Ram by dancers Karuna and Shriya, performed to Lataji’s memorable bhajan “Shri Ramchandra krupalu bhaj mann” included some stunning poses of the graceful Lord Ram, pulled off with much elegance. This was followed by two beautifully choreographed Marathi songs themed around ‘Shrungaara rasa’ or the expression of love, performed gorgeously by Monica and Shravani with nuanced delicate expressions. The sisters Janhavi and Siddhi danced gracefully to upbeat choreography on a popular Marathi song, showcasing the romantic bond between two lovers. The final padam depicted devotion, a mantra that tunes into the powers of Lord Shiva. This was performed by Sudhikshaa and Lakshmi who displayed complex postures requiring concentration and balance. The live vocals and music arrangements (keyboard, harmonium and table) were equal contributors to the success of the Padams.
The final piece, the Thillana or crescendo of a Bharatanatyam performance depicting an expression of happiness, was delivered to perfection by the ensemble. Thillana was presented in Raagam Natabhairavi and Aditaalam.
In the finale, a gratitude-filled Mangalam, the dancers auspiciously called for blessings.
It was indeed a joyous conclusion to a sparkling, well synchronised and unique arangetram performance of eight dancers sharing the stage, without ever failing to captivate the audiences. Huge credit to Kalashree Dance Academy, the Guru, the families, the musicians and the entire team that worked backstage to pull off a remarkable event.