Monday, April 28, 2008

Madhuri Arangetram

Orchestra -Left to Right (Sri Sanjay Chandran - violinist, Smt. Preeti Sunderasan - Flautist/Veena player, Sri Murali Balachandar - Mridangist, Sri Madhu Chandrasekaran - Vocalist, Kumari Madhuri Nagaraj, Guru Smt. Harija Sivakumar and Sri Saheelan Sinnarajah - special percussion instrumentalist)
Arangetram by Madhuri Nagaraj

On April 19, 2008 at the Sunrise Civic Center, Madhuri Nagaraj successfully completed her Bharatha Natya Arangetram under the Kalakshetra style.

I was in a bit of a dilemma, if this program should be considered as a performance of a mature dancer or as an Arangetram. Madhuri has enthralled the entire audience with her grace, confidence, speed, footwork and show of emotions. She has a firm grasp of Bharatha Natyam precepts and presented herself very well. Right after the musicians ended the invocatory song Ganesh stuti, Madhuri came to the center of the stage to start her performance with Pushpanjali. We all instinctively knew this program is going to be superb. Let us look at the program as an Arangetram first and then I will give some feedback reviewing as a performance.

As an Arangetram - Let me make it short and sweet – as an Arangetram the program scores very high, no question about it. Overall, Madhuri is a graceful dancer, her entrances to and exits from the stage are very clean, her stance is firm and her sense of symmetry is noteworthy. Madhuri instinctively knows her position on stage and centers herself. Madhuri must have practiced hard for the program and it clearly shows in her confidence and the way she made it seem effortless. Madhuri had a very mature show of emotions or bhava, has good strokes with striking poses. Mr. Pampa Narsipur said after the program “those who missed the program really missed it and those who witnessed the program will talk about it for a long time”. Could not have said it better myself.

Here is the list of songs for the program:

Pushpanjali in ragam Meghavahini – created a divine atmosphere on stage and in the minds of the audience. A nice preview of what is to come.

Alarippu – This dance demonstrated that Madhuri has truly mastered the fundamentals of this great art form. It has hand-eye-foot coordination, delicate movements of the face and rhythmic dance movements.
Gajavadana Beduve in Hamsadhwani

Jathiswaram in Amrithavarshini – Madhuri clearly demonstrated that she can put together basic patterns into attractive dance sequences. Guru Harija showed her skills in vocalizing the Jathis.

Natana Sabhapathi Kauthvam – in the powerful Ragam Revathi.

Varnam in Kapi – Orchestra deserve mention here for their superb rendition of Kapi. This the longest piece in any dance program combining all the talents learned over the years and years of training – footwork, speed, show of emotions, grace combined with ability to tell stories. Madhuri chose to four episodes from Krishna’s life from His unusual child birth to the Bhagavad Geetha episode. Very nicely done as the stories offered scope for a wide variety of emotions . Varnam lasted 25 minutes and I am sure the dancer would have gone for another 20 minutes.

Jagadodharana – in Kapi (again?). A beautiful Purandaradasa krithi on the motherly love of Yashoda over Krishna (again?).

Sumanasa Vanditha – An ashtaragamalika, a garland of 8 ragas in one song, with each raga representing one form of Lakshmi. At the end of the song Madhuri covered the entire stage posing as the eight different forms of Goddess Lakshmi. Well done. I was looking at the back of the brochure depicting the poses of each of the Lakshmi, very nice touch.

Antahpura Geetegalu – An imagination by a Kannada poet D.V. Gundappa of Belur temple carvings coming to life. After the program, I heard Madhuri talking fluently in Kannada. May be some day she will explain the beauty of the words as well.

Oorthava Thandava – in ragam Rishabapriya. Very powerful depiction of Shiva’s cosmic dance

Thillana – in Kunthalavarali. Dancer was like this energizer bunny that keeps on going and going and going and going. I think Madhuri must have pumped adrenalin by the bucket that day. She could have gone on for another four hours and so could the audience.

It was a really thrilling experience to sit through an arangetram of this caliber. I am sure many dancers and parents of dancers in the audience thinking “oh my God, she has raised the bar so high”. In one sense it is good to raise the bar. Another view is to look at this as a performance than an arangetram.

As a Dance Performance: If I were to write this up as a dance performance, I would be a bit more critical. With your permission, let me use this section to provide some feedback.

The dance pieces could have been more complex and more challenging. Most of the songs were set in Adi thalam, a bit more variety in thalams could have been more refreshing. While I realize that this Varnam can only go so long, Madhuri had the capability to go well beyond the 25-minutes mark. Themes were a bit repetitive revolving around Krishna and Shiva. Also repeat of ragams could have been avoided. Thillana could have been packaged better, especially among the musicians.

Arangetram is nothing more than a milestone in the path to perfection. In the case of Madhuri, Guru Harija has moved the milestone further up the path. But it is going to take a lot more to reach higher levels. Madhuri needs to pay closer attention to the timing of her strokes so they land precisely.

Regarding the program flow – limit the costume changes and avoid dead space.

Music: It is becoming an all too familiar scene with Sri Madhu Chandrasekaran singing, Sri Murali Balachandran playing mridangam and Sri Sanjay Chandran on the violin. It was good to see Smt. Preeti Sundaresan on the flute and Veena. Sri Murali was brilliant as usual. This time he brought a device that produced the sounds of thunder, drums etc. Switching between Kanjira, Morsing, Mridangam and this special device kept us thrilled. Sri Madhu performed at his peak with an excellent rendition of Kapi. Sri Sanjay and Smt Preeti provided excellent support. The musicians were really listening to each other and coordinating well making the whole musical experience awesome.

Dear Madhuri, first of all, Jayanthi aunty and I want to relay our heartfelt congratulations on your achievement. Gurus are meant to be impartial. They give their knowledge to all equally. But some of their students grasp more than the others. You have been one of the fortunate ones to learn a lot more from Guru Harija, great job. At some point in your dance career you should go to the source of Bharatha Natyam – India to learn a lot more and experience performing in India. Your potential is enormous in this field. Wish you the very best in everything you plan to do in your life. I certainly hope you will keep Bharatha Natyam as one of your focus. Someday, we will pay to watch you perform.

Congratulations are in order to Guru Harija and the parents Geetha and Ben Nagaraj.

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