PRODUCTIONS AND CHOREOGRAPHIC WORKS
At her very first
Vijayadasami, since founding the Arpana School of Dance, a youthful
Ramya Harishankar, poses for a picture in her garage surrounded by a
handful of students, including dance prodigy, Ahila Gulasekaram, four
years old and on her lap. Thirty years ago, the school's beginnings were
humble, its intentions - modest, to impart Ramya's years of
Bharatanatyam training and performance experience to interested
youngsters. While all journeys must have a starting point, a good one
never loses sight of where it's story began, no matter how well or how
far the road travelled.
In more ways than one, Margam Revisited was a 'look back'
at Arpana's journey. It starts with the basics - the repertoire, a
format that originated over 200 years ago. Margam which means 'path'
refers to the order or sequence of dances performed to showcase all the
essential elements of the form. In Margam Revisited, from the
Pushpanjali to the Thillana, the original format is kept reverentially
intact, an act of acknowledgement to the intelligence in its function
and design as engineered by the artistic pioneers of yesteryears.
Homage was also paid to Ramya's dance lineage by inviting the legendary
Smt. Rhadha of Chennai as guest choreographer for the Varnam and
Thillana. And while all the items bore Ramya's penchant for visual
simplicity and her mastery of looping audiences of all backgrounds
through her signature vignettes and story-telling, Smt. Rhadha
masterfully wielded the 22 young Arpana company dancers to radiate the
physical mellifluousness, postural silences, sophisticated depth and
elegance of the Varzhavoor style.
Ultimately though, the most palpable nostalgia lay in witnessing the
unbreakable tryst between teacher and student - the core of where
Arpana's journey began. It is a bond that formed when these same dancers
began their training with Ramya in their early years. Their stage
presence and prowess easily tempts audiences to overlook the fact that
not only do these students' roots go back to several parts of the
country from Kashmir in the north to Tamilnadu in the south but that
they have all grown up as citizens of the United States. In total
cahoots with Srikanth on vocals and the remaining musical ensemble, so
wholly did the artists steal the story of Vishnu's glory in the Varnam,
that they claimed it as their own. As the drama seamlessly unfolded on
stage upon the movements of these lithe dancers, Vishnu's magnificence
emitted in their devotion to their art, raising the tempo to a level
that refused to return to earthly proportions.
Margam Revisited was a performance that while giddily bounced with the
promise of an optimistic future, in the hands of a new generation of
dancers, anchored stoically and securely in a tradition to which the
Arpana dance Company has always remained true.