By Sushila Bhambhani
WELLESLEY, MA–The numerous hours of practice and years of dedicated learning were on display during the impressive full-length Bharatanatyam Arangetram (debutante solo performance) of Varsha Iyer last month at the Sorenson Auditorium of Babson College in Wellesley, MA.
The rigorous and focused training received by Varsha in the traditional Kalakshetra style under the able mentorship guidance of Sangeetha Vijey, a senior disciple of the Dhananjayans, was evident.
True to a Bharata Natyam margam presentation at an Arangetram, Varsha opened her performance with a Natesa Kauvuthuvam, composition of the Tanjore Quartet, Ragam Hamsadhvani, Chatusra Ekam Talam and set to dance by Sangeetha’s gurus. Varsha executed both the natya and nritta parts of the piece with great energy and poise. This was followed by Shanmugha Sabdam “Thandai Muzhanga”.
One could see Varsha taking control of the stage as she started this item and execute the piece magnificently. Varsha’s expressions were no longer just good and pretty. Instead, she communicated with the audience and carried her message clearly through. This was a crucial moment where Varsha’s performance stepped up a level and she went ahead to perform a stellar Nrityopaharam (traditionally called a Varnam) – “Athi Moham Konden”. The different rhythmic patterns and the Sringara Nayika portrayal, expressing her love for the lord were compelling and engaging. The jathis (sequence of adavus strung together) were clear and crisp while her expressions varied from displaying love to anguish to represent her pining for the lord.
The Varnam was followed by a well-executed Saraswathi Keerthanam in Ragam Saraswathi set to Rupaka Talam, a Keerthanam specifically choreographed by Sangeetha Vijey for Varsha. The beautiful poses in this Keerthanam left photographic images in the minds of the audience. The highlight of Varsha’s recital was her rendition of “Thottu thottu” – a Javali in Ragam Behag set to Adi Talam. Varsha portrayed the Nayika’s mixed emotions of confusion, excitement and love for Lord Krishna with much fluency and ease. She could convey clearly that although the Nayika seemingly complained about Lord Krishna’s advances, internally she was excited and was very much in love with her lord.
It was refreshing to see Varsha tackle a piece like Bhaavayaami – Ramayana Keerthanam, with very complex and intricate choreography. It is rare to see dancers perform such complex choreography during their first solo performances. Varsha requires special mention for taking it on and executing it with beautiful storytelling, making it another audience favorite.
The Arangetram ended with Nritta-Angaharam (otherwise known as Thillana) – another piece choreographed specifically for Varsha by Sangeetha Vijey, followed by the Mangalam. The Nritta-Angaharam was a refreshing new choreography where the adavus were woven in seamless flowing patterns and a mini jugalbandi, which Varsha rendered with poise.
The orchestral support at the arangetram contributed tremendously to the success of the show and enhanced the atmosphere of the recital. Sangeetha Vijey provided nattuvangam support. Her confidence with the shollu kattu (rhythmic syllables) and quiet confidence highlighted the enriched training Sangeetha has received from her gurus. The soulful singing by vocalist, Sudev Warrier, the melodious and soulful accompaniments of flautist Ramani Thiagarajan and well-known violinist Tara Anand and the powerful mridangam playing by Sudhaman Subramanian enthralled the audience. The spirited thani avarthanam by Sudhaman on the mridangam had the entire auditorium rocking on their feet and the melodious musical interlude by Tara, Sudev and Thiagarajan were truly appreciated by the audience.
I hope Varsha continues to cherish and nourish her passion for Bharata Natyam and enjoy all that Bharatanatyam has to offer, in the years to come.
(Sushila Bhambhani is an exponent, student and teacher of Bharatanatya.)