It was undoubtedly apparent, to everyone, a star was born that day when Abbeyrame Laveniya Sri Haran, only sixteen years old, looking stunning and graceful on stage, danced her way into the hearts and minds of her enraptured audience as they watched her enthralling performance, making her ‘Bharathanatya Arangetram’ (Dance Debut) to a packed Logan Hall, in one of the world’s, arts and cultural capitals, London, on 24th October, 2015.
Abbeyrame, an honour student of Old Palace of John Whitgift School, Croydon and disciple of Sri Prakash Yadagudde of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, brought this ancient and divine art form, Bharathanatyam, to life, like only she knows how. Everyone who came – accomplished Bharathanatya dancers, dance aficionados, friends and family were in awe; even first timers liked and appreciated what they saw – and some who planned to leave during the intermission, stayed the course, captivated by her dance.
Abbeyrame’s performance was truly spectacular in both expression and movement. Bringing out with style, energy and aplomb, all the splendour, beauty, grace, skill and precision required of this classical dance discipline, Abbeyrame kept her audience spell bound first of all – with her amazing facial expressions, consisting of a range of emotions and second of all – with her crisp and expressive body movements that involved a combination of animated hand gestures, vibrant footwork and sculpture like poses. There was never a dull moment in her dance; you could see she connected with her audience and they connected with her in a fascinating way through her story telling and dramatisation – Bharathanatyam a dance form, essentially combining Bhavam (expression), Ragam (music), Thalam (rhythm) and Natyam (dance); and actually blending together the three finer elements of Nritta, Nritya and Natya as enunciated in the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni. Abbeyramme became the personification of the characters she played.
Abbeyramme’s repertoire (Margam), strictly following the traditional structure an Arangetram must conform to, consisted of a set of very fine and carefully selected compositions, I thought, that helped to draw out her versatility and brilliance:
Beginning with Ananda Nadamidum Gajamukhane, an invocation to Lord Ganesha, composer – Madurai R Muralitharan, followed by Pushpanjali and Alarippu and then Durge Durge, another composition by – Madurai R Muralitharan, followed by Nattakurunji Varnam: Swami Naan Undan Adimai, composer – Papanasam Sivan, next a Padam: Kandanaal Muthalai, composer – Sri S Chidambaram, with Kurai Onrum Illai, composer – Sri C Rajakopalachari and Janaki Ramana, composer – Sri Vanamamalai Jeer Swamigal coming next, followed by ‘Kadanakuthoohalam’ Thillana, composer – Dr Balamuralikrishna and ending with Mangalam – the repertoire was truly spiritually uplifting and inspiring.
With years of training under her Dance Guru, Sri Prakash Yadagudde that began at the tender age of six, bearing fruit that evening, Abbeyrame was fortunate to have great accompanying artists such as Srimati Preethy Maheshwar on vocals (vocalist to many a renowned dancers like the Dhananjayans, Priyadharshini Govind, Shobana and Alaermel Valli), Balachandar on Mridangam; Sri K T Sivaganesan on Violin and Sri Atul Kumar on Flute, who together gave her the indispensable support she needed for a breathtaking performance.
The glorious tributes she received from speakers: Chief Guest, Srimati Rajini Rajagopal, an acclaimed dancer, teacher and director of Natyalaya, trained by Srimati Shanta Ponnudurai of Kalakshetra fame, Guests of Honour, Director, Dr M N Nandakumara and Karnatic, Vocal and Veena teacher, Srimati Sivasakthi Sivanesan of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the vice-principal of Old Palace of John Whitgift School, Mr. Stephane Talleux – reflected very much the mood of the evening, a testimony to Abbeyrame’s star quality and magnificence.
With a LED screen showing images of Hindu Gods, Goddesses and Temples, that kept changing providing a nice backdrop to the stage; with elegant costumes and jewellery adding grandeur to Abbeyrame’s performance; with excellent lighting and sound and also decor; with delicious snacks provided during the intermission and generous dinners guests were given to take away; the evening turned out to be most entertaining and welcoming. The fine brochure, released to mark the Arangetram, deserves a special mention, which Abbeyrame herself put together. Her short narratives explaining certain dance items added a nice touch and her speech at the end thanking all was well delivered, leaving out no one!
Abbeyrame will surely be blessed by the Lord of Dance, Lord Natarajah, to whom she dedicated this her first solo dance performance; the same Lord Natarajah, also known as the Dancing Shiva, believed to embody this dynamic universe in motion, now, not just an imaginary concept belonging to just Hindu thought or the ‘TRUTH’ as Hinduism sees it, but a true phenomenon that scientists accept – that the universe from the smallest sub atomic particle is in a constant state of motion.
Abbeyrame did her parents, family, Guru and well wishers proud by her awe-inspiring performance at her Arangetram. Judging from the plaudits she received, if she carries on, and everyone hopes she will, if her academic pursuits would let her, Abbeyrame is destined for stardom.
We wish her well!