Bhavya Kumaran sparkles in her debut performance
- Lalitha Venkat, Chennai
Photos: L Ravi

July 26, 2011

Sowmya Kumaran, Director of Chicago based Nrithya Sangeeth, decided to conduct the Bharatanatyam arangetram of her 13- year - old daughter/disciple Bhavya Kumaran in her hometown Chennai on July 9 to involve family, close friends and relatives in the arangetram and seek their blessings. The invitees filled up the Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium in full support for the budding dancer.

A vivacious child, Bhavya’s eyes sparkled and her joy of performing surely was infectious. She commenced her recital with Pushpanjali, a slokam and an energetic Alarippu followed by Jatiswaram in Arabhi. The Varnam by Dr. M Balamuralikrishna was “Amma ananda dayini” in Gambira Nattai, the padam ‘Enna naan seidhu vitten” choreographed by Bragha Bessell in Ragamalika followed by a ‘folksy’ Annamacharya kriti “Brahmam Okatae” in Bowli. “Bo Shambo” saw Bhavya freeze into beautiful sculpturesque poses. She maintained her energy and equilibrium well after two hours (she’s an ace swimmer too) when presenting the popular and brisk Kadana Kudhukala Thillana, concluding with “Eru mayil” of Arunagirinadhar in Mohanam.

The three distinguished chief guests were generous in well deserved praise for Bhavya’s debut performance and Sowmya Kumaran’s expertise as a guru to train a child to dance with such confidence. Chitra Visweswaran observed that Bhavya had handled the alternating lasya and tandava elements well, there was beauty and subtlety in her abhinaya and a “stunning mastery of rhythm in one so young.” She recalled watching Bhavya dance for her 4 years ago when on a visit to Chicago. “She had the grace and spark even then. She has more than lived up to my expectations.” For Dr. Saraswati of Vipanchee Natyalaya, talam is most important in dance and like her mother, Bhavya was adept at it and her command over her movements, footwork and abhinaya was a pleasure to watch. She commended the backstage assistance of make-up artiste Gayatri who not only enhanced Bhavya’s already enchanting looks but the beautiful costumes and accessories also remained firmly in place throughout! Bragha Bessell lauded Bhavya for her angasuddham, abhinaya and layam which are very important in a student’s presentation. “Her araimandi was stunning and natyarambham was excellent.  The command over bold and soft comes after a few years of performance but Bhavya is already blessed with that.”

Sowmya’s nattuvangam was hailed for its musicality. The distinguished orchestra that featured Meera Ramesh on vocal, PK Shekar on mridangam, V Srinivasan on violin and V Sankara Narayanan on flute, provided wonderful accompaniment without being overpowering and that helped enhance young Bhavya’s performance. A good musical ensemble is so important for a dance presentation and when between items, brief bios of the orchestra was read out, there was hearty applause.

The stage and backdrop were kept simple and fortunately did not create a visual disturbance, with the audience being able to concentrate on the dancer and her performance. Bhavya’s three costumes (in tasteful color combinations and different designs) and the dinner after the program seem to be the norm in an arangetram program nowadays! Musical interludes between costume changes would have been more appropriate rather than the slow paced announcements in an otherwise well coordinated program.

Sowmya Kumaran has already conducted 3 arangetrams in Chicago, but her daughter’s is the first to be conducted in Chennai. Does she find any difference in conducting arangetrams in the US and here? “Of course. Chennai audience is a very knowledgeable audience about the art. To conduct a recital in front of gurus like Chitra Visweswaran, Dr. Saraswati and Bragha Bessell made me a little nervous and I felt under a lot of pressure, but I enjoyed it. Here, I get good feedback from my well wishers - the dance teachers and dancers - as well as guidance on what can be improved in the nattuvangam, the choreography and the dancer’s movements. My friends in the dance field have not seen me as a teacher so when they were all present to see me conduct a recital, it was a happy experience for me.”

How does she compare the expenses for an arangetram in US and one conducted in India? “I have not spent as a parent for an arangetram in the US, so I cannot really compare. I did make a trip to Chennai for a week with my daughter during the spring break in March to fix the auditorium, orchestra, the photo shoot, costumes, printing invitations and so on!” Are parents in the US pushy about conducting arangetram for their children? “Not in my experience,” answers Sowmya.

For Bhavya, it was the challenge of performing before an educated audience and esteemed gurus and performers. When asked about how she felt after being the star of the evening, Bhavya was candid. “When I was younger I thought I would feel a great sense of accomplishment on completing my arangetram. But that was not so. I was not nervous or anything, but I know I must learn so much more, improve a lot more and the arangetram is only my first step.” She is definitely interested in continuing to dance, so with hard work and dedication, she is sure to do well.

Lalitha Venkat is the content editor of