– A students account of her Arangetram Experience
It was a magical world that I stepped into. One that was filled with musicality, serenity and divinity. As I threaded down the path of my Arangetram, little did I realise that at the end of it, the world of dance would have become part of me.
Since I could remember, I had always imagined myself performing my Arangetram whenever I attended one. Finally, with God’s grace I had the privilege to do so with Apsara teacher. She is one who personifies love and dedication to dance. When I try to make a list of things that I learnt from her, that list becomes endless. All I can tell you is that today I not only look at dance, but music, art, and culture with new eyes. It was she who opened that door into this magical world.
I started practising about nine months before my Arangetram in September. I felt I was wired to a bomb for the first few classes. Every movement of my limbs and stamps of my feet were scrutinized by her hawk eyes and I would go home ‘chandnified’ after each session. Since it was a solo practise, there was never any diversion from other students and certainly no way of cheating and not maintaining my aramandi. That’s where the imaginary audience would come to my rescue! (I would picture myself dancing on stage in front of people and somehow that would make the pain a lot more bearable)
I love dancing to fast adavus (steps) which made learning the jathis and korvais (dance sequences) fun and exciting, especially the ones in my varnam – those were the electrifying firecraker bits! Then came the Kshetrayya patham, an unimaginably slow piece earning the title ‘The most difficult song I have ever learnt’. It was through learning this song that I only began to see the inner beauty of dance. It was the abhinaya (expression) that was the soul of dance itself – not the intricately fancy footwork. Initially, I found it very difficult to get into character; to feel and express a young girl’s love for her beloved. I had to capture ‘vekkam‘ (shyness) with my eyes, coy desire with my eyebrows and innocent love with a subtle smile…
Apsara teacher must have literally shown me how to do those expressions a thousand times! It was indeed a demonstration of patience and perseverance on her part. In attempt to capture those timeless emotions, I would watch palaeolithically ancient black and white tamil movies on Youtube. You would not believe how difficult it is to express love without actually showing that you are!
Come August, I knew the technicality of my songs fairly well but it was only during my rehearsals that I truly immersed myself in the dance. The musicians made music to the tunes of the heavens and it was so enthralling that I would lose myself in it and forget my steps sometimes. Writing this now, I cannot remember what or how I danced that night on stage. I only remember feeling the beat and melody in my heart and moving with it. I felt emotions that I had never felt before; a surge of zealous passion, love and in my own way a connection with the divine. It was simply exhilarating.
The Arangetram to me was indeed a stepping stone to explore the vast richness of dance and music. I will always dance and will treasure and preserve this art form which is so dear to me. It was indeed a journey of my soul….
Gheetha is from KL and is a 3rd year Student of MBBS