Bells On Their Feet
|It was something Sheena and Kristen Dauro started when they were just six and seven. Now nine years later, they were ready for their arangetram, literally “ascending the stage” – their first public performance of Bharat Natyam. Bedecked in fine silks and jewels, their eyes rimmed with kohl and with ghungroos tied around their ankles, they were all set to give the performance of a lifetime.|
Indeed, it’s that time of the year when the glossy invitation cards start arriving in the mail and a whole celebratory dance season begins for Indian immigrants, as young Bharat Natyam dancers get ready for the Arangetram, a major event in a young dancer’s life.
Bharat Natyam is 3,500 to 5,000 years old, a classical dance form from South India that originated as religious dance. Here, continents away, it is being embraced by young Indian Americans and dance schools have proliferated across the United States as immigrant parents try to pass on the cultural traditions of their homeland.
Bicultural couples are also embracing classical dance. “Since we are from two different faiths,” says Sunita Makhijani-Dauro, mother of Kristen and Sheena Dauro, “We thought if we immerse our children in something that speaks with a strong degree of heritage, it would really bring them to that feeling of discipline and commitment.”
They had their arangetram this summer, a culmination of a dance journey that started when they were six and seven with their dance guru Satya Pradeep. Their arangetram involved a live orchestra from Bangalore, beautiful cards and special outfits for the dance performance at the Jeanne Rimsky Theater.
Indeed, the hoopla around the arangetram has made it almost as ostentatious an event as a wedding! Relatives and friends travel from all over, even from as far as India, to witness the big event. For the dancer’s family it’s a major event with ornate invitation cards, rich costumes and jewelry and the hiring of musicians, photographers and videographers, besides renting a large hall and organizing dinner celebrations for the guests.
Some families get custom-tailored costumes from India, others take a drive to Little Indias, while still others, like Makhijani-Dauro, visit Cyberspace. She was amazed to find that made-to-measure costumes as well as beautiful cards and brochures for the ceremony could all be ordered over the Internet.
Says Satya Pradeep, who has done scores of arangetrams over the years, “Nowdays arangetrams have become more of a social gathering. We tend to focus more on the costumes and elaborate settings. But really it is a time to showcase the dancer’s hard work and years of training and talent to family and friends.