RITHIKA Preethi, age 16, disciple of Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta and daughter of Dr. Suraj Gopalakrishnan and Dr. Preethi Suraj, staged her Bharathanatyam Arangetram on 08th April 2017 at Iona Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane. Rithika started learning Bharathanatyam from the age of 6 and with dedication and vigor has mastered this art with grace and style.

Supporting the dancer was the esteemed orchestra consisting of Sri. Ahilan Sivanandan as Vocalist, Sri. Arthavan Selvanathan on Mrithangam, Sri. Mudikondan S N Ramesh on Veena, and Sri. Ghanavenothan Retnam on flute. Present amongst the audience was her Guru’s Guru Smt. Balasundari Prathalingam and Swami Athmeshandaji of Vedanta Society – Sydney, Brisbane Chapter.

Bharathanatyam is one of the popular classical dances of India, which combines bhaavam, raagam, thaalam, and naatyam in unique and dynamic movements. Rhythmic dance movements are achieved by the dancer by the stamping of the feet, pirouettes, and postures in sophistic patterns as well as harmonized movements of eyes, hands and body. An Arangetram traditionally consists of 9 dance pieces, illustrating the range of the Bharathanatyam repertoire and synchronizing ‘nritta’ (pure dance), ‘nritya’ (facial expression), and ‘nattya’ (a dramatic element combining both nritta & nritya). The dance is performed to Carnatic music involving intricate rhythmic beats and melodies that blend with the dance theme.

The Arangetram, which lasted for about 3 hours and 15 minutes, started with the Welcome Speech of Dr. Suraj Gopalakrishnan, father of Rithika. Rithika took up the challenge graciously and successfully impressed the audience with her mastery of this ancient art form.

Rithika started her Arangetram with the Pushpanjali, the traditional opening item meaning ‘offering of flowers’ orchestrated in Gambheera Nattai Raagam and Aadi Thaalam. This was followed by Vinayagar Anjali, set in Sriranjini Raagam and Aadi Thaalam. This dance was in praise of Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles. Both items were choreographed by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta.

In ‘Jathiswaram’, set in Kedara Gowla Raagam and Roopakam Thaalam and choreographed by the Guru’s Guru Smt. Balasundari Prathalingam, Rithika easily performed the intricate rhythmic movements demanded by the ‘nritta’ made up of Jathis and Swaras (rhythmic syllables and musical notes).

Rithika continued to amaze the audience with her performance of ‘Vaakdevi Vishwajanani Mookambike’, a ‘Keerthanam’ in her mother tongue, Malayalam, describing the beauty of Goddess Saraswathi. The dance was choreographed by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta and was orchestrated in Aarabhi Raagam and Aadi Thaalam.

The entertainment continued with the ‘Varnam’, the longest item in the Bharathanatyam repertoire. Varnam tests the performer’s mastery of all three aspects of Bharathanatyam (nritta, nritya, & natya). The song ‘Konjum Salangai’, set in Lathangi Raagam and Aadi Thaalam, praises the supreme dancer Lord Nataraja. Rithika performed the dance, choreographed by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta, with elegance. Her synchronization of facial expressions, hand gestures and intricate footwork lead the audience to be absorbed in ‘rasa’ (artistic flavor).

The dance piece ‘Keerthanam’choreographed by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta followed the intermission and used the song ‘Neelavaanam Thannil’ set in Punnakavarali Raagam and Aadi Thaalam. Rithika conveyed to the audience the delicate feelings of ‘yearning for the love of Lord Krishna’.

The next two dance pieces were ‘Padams’. Rithika surprised the audience with her performance of ’Yaarukkum Adangaatha Neeli‘, which required a perfect combination of dance movements and facial expressions to convey the virtues of Goddess Lakshmi. The song was set in Abhogi Raagam and Aadi Thaalam and choreographed by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta. It was followed with the patham ‘Maravein Maravein’ set in Senchuruti Raagam and Aadi Thaalam and choreographed by Smt. Balasundari Prathalingam. Rithika successfully portrayed a young maiden who tells a peacock of her intense love for Lord Murugan and compels the peacock to ask Lord Murugan why he has forgotten her.

This was followed with the awarding of the graduation certificate to Rithika by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhanta along with the felicitation of the Gurus and musicians. The vote of thanks by Rithika elicited audience applause.

The final performance by Rithika was ‘Thillana’, considered to be the most brilliant and appealing amongst all Bharathanatyam items. This item, choreographed by Guru Smt. Chitra Yogi Srikhantain praise of Goddess Meenakshi, included intricate footwork, fast rhythmic movements and posture.

The Arangetram concluded with ‘Mangalam’, where Rithika depicted the spirit and beauty of the art Bharathanatyam. The Nadananjali School of Dance students, community members, friends, relatives and well-wishers enthusiastically appreciated and saluted Rithika in achieving this milestone. All present were visibly moved and amazed at her skill, grace and stamina in this spectacular and ancient art form.

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