Bharatanatyam Arangetram

OF

​Akshara Raparla

DISCIPLE OF GURU SMT. RAMAA RAMESH

 

SUNDAY, JUNE 25th, 2023, 1:00 PM

EAST HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM

450 ELLIS LANE, WEST CHESTER, PA 19380

Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam is the most popular classical Indian dance-form prevalent in South India, originating from the temples of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the most beautiful, subtle, sophisticated and graceful dance-forms in the world, as well as one of the oldest classical dance traditions in India. Its splendor is demonstrated by the dancer using ‘Nritta’, a technique involving rhythmic movements and intricate footwork, ‘Abhinaya’, facial expressions to interpret the delicate nuances of a lyrical piece of music or poetry, and ‘Mudras’, expressive hand gestures. It is a composite art blending drama, music, poetry, color, and rhythm, allowing the dancer to convey inner sense of artistic and spiritual expressions, seeking union with God.

 

‘Arangetram’, meaning ‘ascending the stage’, is viewed as the first public solo dance performance by the dancer. This is the culmination of several years of sustained training and preparation by the Guru and the disciple following the Guru-Shishya Parampara, a traditional method of passing the skill to the next generation. ‘Arangetram’ is a significant milestone in a dancer’s career.

Program

Invocation

Anjali

Raga: Gambeeranatai
Tala: Adi

‘Anjali’ is an offering to the Lord Almighty through the idiom of dance. This piece is choreographed using varied footwork patterns strung together like a garland of flowers, symbolizing the feeling of offering from within the dancer’s heart. The offering of the flowers signifies the submission of the body, mind and soul in the divine presence.

Guru Ashtakam
Raga: Revathi
Tala: Kanda Nadai Adi

Shri Adi Shankaracharya who wrote this devotional hymn, was an eminent Indian Vedic scholar and teacher from the 8th century. Guru represents the incarnation of the supreme God, thus coming in the visible form, providing unlimited wisdom to those who wish to learn.

Maha Ganapathim
Raga: Natai
Tala: Adi

Composed by the saint poet Muthuswami Deekshitar, this dance is a meditative piece on the supreme Lord Ganapati, the elephant-headed God, who is the remover of obstacles, and worshipped by his ardent devotees and sages. He, the son of Lord Mahadeva, is adored by his brother Guruguha. He is the tranquil one and exults in literary works like poetry and drama. He is fond of Modaka, a sweet treat, and has a mouse for a mount.

Nama Ramayanam
Ragamalika
Tala: Adi

Nama Ramayanam is the condensed version of the great epic Ramayana written by sage Valmiki in Sanskrit. It consists of 108 Shlokas and has seven chapters which are divided into Balakandah, Ayodhyakandah, Aranyakandah, Kishkindhakandah, Sunderkandah, Yuddhakandah and Uttarakandah. Written by Sri. Lakshmanacharya, a 17th century poet, the verses illustrate the sterling qualities of Lord Rama by citing various incidents from the Ramayana. The journey of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, unfolds sequentially, correlating with the chronology of his pastimes. The dancer will interpret these nectar-filled verses with pensive illustrations outlining every stage of Lord Rama’s life.

Varnam

Raga: Reethigowlai
Tala: Adi

‘Varnam’ is the central and most elaborate piece of this Arangetram. The complexity of its choreography involves a judicious blend of Nritta (pure rhythmic dance) and Nritya (emotive, communicative dance), highlighting the importance of both aspects. A challenging piece for the composer, choreographer and the dancer alike, the lyrical content of this varnam is punctuated with ‘Jathis’ rendered mnemonically by the Guru in the first half, and is intertwined with ‘swara’ interludes in the second , offering a visual delight in Bharatanatyam vocabulary.

 

This Varnam is a compilation of a few excerpts from the great epic ‘Mahabharata’ written by Vyasadeva as an expression of his devotion to Lord Krishna, Vishnu’s eighth incarnation, the transcendental son of Vasudeva and Devaki, who is the Lord of Goddess Lakshmi. Raised as the beloved son of Nanda Maharaja and Yashoda, Krishna was a God-child who killed the wicked Puthana, when she tried to nurse him with poisoned milk, and the demon Shakatasura before they could harm him. As the king of the Yadu dynasty, He is described as more splendid than millions of Suns. He was the master of the cowherd boys and charmed the young Gopika girls. He was dark complexioned and wore a yellow silk garment and a garland of flowers.

 

The dancer vividly depicts how Krishna as a young boy, stole the sarees and jewelry of the gopis, when they were bathing in the river, to tease them; lifted the Govardhana Mountain to give shelter from torrential rains; vanquished the evil serpent Kalinga to save the village; and served as the charioteer for the great warrior Arjuna, to win the battle of Kurukshetra.

Intermission
Bho Shambho
Raga: Revathi
Tala: Adi

Shambho is a rare and gentle form of Shiva, portrayed as an embodiment of mercy in this song written by Swami Dayananda Saraswathi. “Hail to thee, Lord Shambho, who self-appeared in the form of a Linga!” Also addressed as Isha, he is the source of the holy river Ganga and has the power to redeem one from the ocean of sorrow with his compassion. He is the eternal God, spotless and pure, clad in the attire of space, without disclosing His true form. He is extraordinary, beyond finite and infinite things, existing in all five elements of nature. As the Lord of Dance, He is forever dancing the Ananda Thandava with eternal bliss, granting prosperity to his devotees and capturing their hearts with endless wonder and joy.

Durga Lakshmi Saraswathi
Raga: Arabhi
Tala: Adi

The composer, Papanasam Sivan dedicates this song to the three Devis namely, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. The Tridevi concept in the Shakti Parampara, collectively contributes to the feminine power and divine energy with great significance, and is worshipped as a supreme force.
Durga- the goddess of courage and strength is epitomized as the Shakti (energy) who wards off all evils. Known for her valor, she rides the lion and represents multifaceted skill to surmount all obstacles.


Lakshmi- the goddess of wealth, prosperity and abundance, implies the complete spiritual and material well-being of a person. She is depicted as being seated on a lotus in water, symbolizing stability in dynamism and progressive culmination.


Saraswati – the goddess of knowledge and wisdom is magnificently dressed in white, denoting serenity. Her vahana or vehicle is the swan, signifying the power of discrimination (viveka), between positive and negative energies in life.

Felicitations
Sriman Narayana
Raga: Bowli
Tala: Adi

This song is a devotional Kriti, composed by Saint Poet Sri. Annamacharya, in praise of Lord Venkateshwara, the residing deity of Tirupathi Tirumala Temple. “O, auspicious Narayana, I seek shelter at your divine feet”. The lord of the seven hills of the Thiruvenkata mountains is wedded to Alamelumanga, who is seated on a beautiful lotus, with lotus-like eyes, reflecting the beauty of the flower. He rides the eagle Garuda with splendor and brings good fortune to the great yogis who are his ardent devotees seeking his benevolence. The dancer will highlight the Dashavatara in this piece, the ten incarnations of Mahavishnu to restore cosmic order, every manifestation representing victory over evil.

Thillana
Raga: Kadanakuthuhalam
Tala: Adi

A joyous finale composed by the eminent Carnatic vocalist, Sri. M. Balamuralikrishna, incorporating intricate footwork patterns set to an array of rhythmic variations, highlighted with multifaceted spatial design.

Mangalam

‘Mangalam’ is the concluding prayer for the well being of one and all. May there be peace in earth, water, fire, and air, the sun, moon, and our planet, in all living beings, in our body, mind, heart and spirit. May that tranquility be everywhere and within everyone.

Smt. Ramaa Ramesh is a renowned Bharatanatyam dancer and the Director of “Nardhana Academy of Dance”, a dance school founded by her in 1992 in Malvern PA. Ramaa trained under Padmashri Smt. Chitra Visweswaran, a world famous Bharatanatyam dancer/teacher, for over fifteen years in a dance style that blends the best of three schools – Thanjavur, Vazhuvur, and Pandanallur. She taught as a senior staff member in “Chidambaram Academy of Arts”, her Guru’s dance school. She has performed professionally in India for prestigious organizations in Chennai and other cities, including the National Center for Performing Arts in Bombay. Her performances and lecture-demonstrations in the USA, France, the Middle East, and Japan, all have won several awards and received raving press reviews to her credit. She has a Masters Degree in Dance from the Temple University, Philadelphia and continued to pursue a Doctoral Degree in Dance. She also teaches an introductory course to Bharatanatyam at the Bryn Mawr College, PA.

 

Ramaa has always dedicated her efforts towards technical perfection, flawless rendering and realistic expressions in her performance and in teaching. She enjoys choreographing thematic productions and lyrical interpretations in different Indian languages. To her, Bharatanatyam is a way of offering herself to the Lord Almighty.

Akshara Raparla is a rising sophomore at the Downingtown STEM Academy. Akshara is passionate about dance and has especially built a strong bond for her Indian heritage by being a student of the classical Indian dance of Bharatanatyam. She has been learning and practicing Bharatanatyam from the age of five under the guidance of her Guru – Srimati Ramaa Ramesh at the Nardhana Academy of Dance, and has performed at several charity and cultural events to represent the academy. Moreover, Akshara loves teaching young children and, from the age of nine, has choreographed for some stunning Bollywood dances, as well as classical dance performances.


Akshara’s passion for the fine arts extends beyond dance to music and drama as well. Akshara plays the violin and the piano. She has been part of her school’s Honors Orchestra program and participated at the prestigious PMEA String Fest, while in middle school. Akshara has also been a member of her school’s drama club. Akshara’s passion for literature and poetry made her develop a deep interest in studying sacred Indian texts such as the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, a poem written 2500 years ago in the ancient language of Sanskrit. By the grace and blessings of her Guru – Parama Pujya Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji and the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, Akshara successfully completed the Gita Mahayajgna program in 2021 for memorization and recitation of the 700 verses of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Akshara even received a “Guinness World Records” certificate for participating at the Sahasragala event, the largest simultaneous recital of the Sanskrit text, organized in Allen, Texas, USA on August 13th, 2022.


Akshara believes that her rigorous journey of studying Bharathnatyam and the Bhagavad Gita have helped her develop character, learn persistence, and be selfless. These values also helped her recognize the importance of giving back to the community. She is a co-founder of the Drishti Foundation (https://drishtiusa.org/), a nonprofit organization with a primary focus on helping the blind and visually impaired receive access to education and healthcare. Akshara has led multiple Drishti initiatives and generated campaign ideas leveraging her inherent talents in art. For example, Drishti’s ‘Painted Arts & Crafts’ fundraiser was a brainchild of Akshara’s creativity. Akshara has communicated to Drishti’s donors, and also taught braille to other volunteers and people who recently lost vision. Akshara’s innovative and multimedia talents have helped Drishti present itself to the world digitally.

Credits
Concept & Choreography: Smt. Ramaa Ramesh
Nattuvangam: Smt. Ramaa Ramesh & Rathi Ramesh
Vocal: Rathi Ramesh & Vignesh Ravichandran
Mridangam: Dr. Laxmisha M. Sridhar
Flute: Visveshwar.N
Violin: Shweta Narasimhan
Masters of Ceremony: Amrutha Bhavaraju, Srivibha Yellamraju & Sriaditi Yellamraju
Photography & Videography:: Finny George, Celebrations Photography
Sound: Giftson Kannamplave
Lighting: Aadarshini Vijesh & Lola Mallela
Makeup: Padmashri Ashish
Catering: Mirchi, NJ
Costumes:  N. Balaraman (Raj Sridhar Costumes), Chennai
Brochure Design & Printing:  Indian Event Hub
Special Thanks to

Family & Friends of Srikala & Phani Raparla

and Nardhana Academy of Dance

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