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is a word in the Tamil language, which means the etram or ascending of the arangam or performance stage by a dancer.It is the first complete concert of a dancer. It is not a graduation; rather, it is the first milestone in one’s journey as a dancer. This first formal performance heralds the dancer’s commitment to this art form, and brings to light her caliber. Preparing for and performing one’s arangetram is a major life experience. It teaches one what true learning is. Mastering the sequence of any dance is the first step, be it a purely rhythmic one or a dance that emphasizes on human emotions. Understanding the literal and contextual meaning of each song is very important. When these come together, the depth of the dance gradually reveals itself. Overcoming physical and mental challenges, the dancer’s innermost feelings are invoked. This experience brings a clear understanding of what it takes to be a dancer. The foundation for advanced study of the art form is laid.

Rajashree Ranganathan (April 2009, James Lee Community Center)

Arangetram is beginning of a journey, specifically, an inward journey through dance. Such a profound experience requires a guru of great caliber, one that can transform a person into an artist. I have been fortunate to have Guru Sheela as the guiding force of my foray into this journey.

As a guru, she understands and knows me as a dancer, even more than I do myself. She nurtures my strengths, and pushes me to transform my shortcomings into fortes. Learning from her is always great, but the arangetram training was an initiation of sorts. As this is the first step of the student into life as a dancer, there are many physical and mental challenges, both expected and unexpected. Student meltdown seems to be a standard feature in every arangetram training process. There is so much going on that one is bound to feel overwhelmed. The perceptive guru comes to the rescue every time. She helped me pick myself up at every fall and continue with renewed vigor. Many things that I was taught then continue to unravel with time. I often find myself telling her, "So this is what you meant when you said..."

Watching guru Sheela choreograph is a treat. Seeing a concept take form, come to life, and evolve is almost magical. When choreographing items for an arangetram, she is fully conscious of the student's abilities and environment. Her sheer involvement is inspiring. Whenever I grappled with a concept, she broke it down to the basics, or re-visited it at a later stage in the learning process. But, she never gave up. Her analytical prowess proves her depth of understanding of the art form & the student. Above all, her perseverance shows the level of trust she places in the student's abilities.

Having guru Sheela's undivided attention is rather addictive. The arangetram recital itself is too short-lived, almost anti-climactic. The journey is most exhilarating. I sorely miss my exclusive training with guru Sheela. However, it's hardly justice if the work that was poured in ended with one show. She has shown me what it takes. It is now up to me to take it forward.

I have seen many feel so beaten by the experience of an arangetram that they unfortunately fall out of love with dance. Training for my arangetram really made me take a long, hard look at my choice. Being a dancer is anything but glamorous. It is way too much work to be considered a hobby. As cliche'd as it may sound, it is a lifestyle. This has to be experienced to be understood. I am fortunate to have come out of this experience with deeper love for dance. I owe that to my guru; she has captained my artistic perspective. Presenting the inaugural arangetram of Kalavaridhi has been a privilege and blessing in itself. This is an experience of a lifetime, something I will always cherish.

Rhea Somaiya (August 2010, Kennedy Center)

Shruti Chennamaraja (August 2012, Richard J Ernst Theater)

Sruthi Ranjani Parthasarathy(June 2013, Richard J Ernst Theater)


"Dance is the hidden language of the Soul" - Martha Graham


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