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.




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