As a sign that a pupil has reached a satisfactory performance level in Bharanatyam, or other classical dance styles, they must perform their debut solo act as an arangetram. The word in tamil means “raising or reaching to the stage.” It takes place in front of critics, fellow artists, family and friends. It is a traditional sign that a dancer can move on to perform alone or give training to others. Many years of practising must be put into reaching this stage as the dancer must have a thorough understanding of music and other dance aspects.
The performance lasts for three hours, requiring a lot of stamina, and is divided into 2 parts.
- pushpanjali or alaripu– salutation to God
- jatiswaram– complex dance sequence
- shabdham– devotional mix of dance and expression
- Varnam– dance and expression with the theme of love
- Padam– based on the states of mind of a woman in love (nayika)
- Ashtapadhi or Bhajan– dance based on a poem either devotional or romantic
- Thillana– mainly pure dance, with some devotional verses
- Mangala– salutation to God, the teacher, and thanks to the audience for making the performance a success.
Last year I was fortunate enough to be invited to two arangetrams. The first was the performance of Neelam Deshmukh and the 2nd was by Anaya Bolar on the 23rd September. These events were spectacular and showed knowledge and understanding of years of dance as well as the passion they ha for it. Though both of them had selected different items to show their different states within India they both danced with technical precision, remarkable stamina and involved the audience throughout, beautifully convincing them of the messages in the items.