What is a Rangapraveshā?
Rangapraveshā or Arrangataram traditionally is the first solo performance of the Bharatnatyam student. Ranga means stage and Pravesha means to enter in the South-Indian language, Kannada. Rangaraveshā can be done for many other Indian classical dance forms like Kathak, Odissi, Mohiniattam, and many more. After a certain level of training, the Gurū decides when the student is ready for his/her debut performance. In the Rangapraveshā, the student must perform the entire mārgam. Mārgam means path. By performing a series of traditional dance items like Alārippu, Varnam, Jāvali, Thillānā, and many more, the student would have completed her Rangapraveshā. This performance showcases classical dance skills acquired through years of learning and practicing various routines. The two and a half-hour solo performance involves a live orchestra which includes a Flutist, Vainika (person who plays the Veena – Indian string instrument), a singer, a Nattuvanar (person who plays the nattuvangam – Indian cymbals), and a Mridangam Maestro (person who plays the mridangam – Indian percussion instrument of ancient origin).
Rangāpraveshā Video Descriptions:
It is the first dance in the Bharatanātyam Margam. It means ‘offering of flowers’. Originally, Indian dance was first only performed in temples. Throughout the decades, it was performed as the first dance in performance as it tradition to offer flowers to Natarajā (God of Dance) before performing. The pushpānjali is where the dancer pays his/her respects to the eight directions, the Gurū, musicians, and takes the blessings of Mother Earth before dancing on her. The pushpānjali I performed was Jhem Jhem Thananā composed by Bālā Murali Krishnā in Ārabhi rāga.
This piece is an offering to the Lord Ganēshā. It is Hindu tradition to pay our respects to him and request that no obstacles come in the way of the performance. With complex jathis (sequence of adavus) weaved between each verse of the song, the dancer conveys her devotion to Ganēshā through her expressions and limb movements. The Ganēshā stuti I performed was Mahā Ganapatim composed by Dayānand Saraswati in Thilang rāga.
The Pushpānjali and Ganēshā stuti are followed by the Alārippu. The Alārippu has been created in five different thālās. Beginners are taught the Alārippu in thisra thālā (three counts). By the time the Dancer is ready for the Rangāpraveshā, he/she would perform the khandā or mishrā Alārippu (five or seven counts). This dance indicates the blooming of the mind and body while dancing. It comprises only dance movements and no expressions. The Alārippu consists of three tempos: 1st speed, 2nd speed, and 3rd speed. The Dancer starts the performance with Aramandi (half sit) and pūrna mandi (full sit). As the performance progresses, it is incorporated with intricate adavūs and ends with muktāyas. I performed the mishrā Alārippu.
The kirtanā that my Gurū taught me was Shankarā Sri Giri composed by Swāti Tirunal in HamsaNandi Tālā. Keertanā’s are mainly to dance to the glories of god. The main emotion that is expressed is Bhakti rasā or devotion. They are set in medium tempos with lighter rāgās. It comprises Pallavi, anupallavi, and charanās. A Sāhityam is added in the keertanā to narrate a story from the purānās. The sanchāri I performed was on Lord Shiva. As Lord Shiva meditates and is deep in a trance, Parvati is completely in awe of him. Seeing this, the god of love (Manmathā) shoots an arrow at him so that he too falls in love with Parvati. As Shiva is disturbed from his meditation, he opens his third eye and burns Manmathā to ashes.
This is also an abhinaya piece ( I need to use a lot of my expressions to emote). The varnam is usually the most demanding dance piece in the Margam for me. I have always found the switching from complex adavus to the sanchāri quite difficult. My varnam was about half an hour long. It was based on Sri Valli, the consort of Lord Subramanyam. Throughout the performance, I play the role of Sri Valli. I am disheartened by the news of my husband’s second marriage and narrate my experiences to my pet parrot. This piece starts with me remembering my wedding and as the song progresses, jealousy has taken over me and I am convinced that Devasenā (second wife) has used some magic to woo him. Varnams are comprised of the pattern where jathis and sanchāris are used alternatively to convey the story. The varnam I performed was Annamē Araginilvai composed by Sri Subudu in valachi rāgā.
Devaranāmas are devotional songs that are composed by haridhāsās. The main aim of this piece is to convey philosophical teachings, morals, or prayers. They are composed in Kannada (South-Indian language) and are abhinaya pieces. The Devaranama I performed is based on Krishna. I begin the performance by playing the role of Yashodā, his mother. I dress him up and treat him like a normal baby not knowing that I’m dressing up god. In one of the sanchāris Yashodā catches Krishnā eating mud and chastises him. She asks him to open his mouth and when he does, she sees that entire universe. The composer Purandhara dāsā expresses how meritorious Yashodā’s fate must be in order to take care of a child that is the almighty Vishnu himself, the preserver of the Universe. The Devaranāma is called Jagadodhāranā and composed in rāgāmalikā.
This Dance piece is a light classical love song that is performed in a bharatanātyam mārgham. It comprises a Pallavi, anupallavi, and charana as well and is an abhinaya piece. In this performance, the dancer is smitten by her lover and the performance is about her feelings. In many jāvalis, the protagonist is seen telling her friend or a bird. In some cases, she is directly telling her lover. In the Jāvali I performed, I play the role of a girl who has been waiting for her lover to return. When he does, she is overjoyed however he doesn’t seem to be interested in spending time with her at the moment. As the song progresses, she reminds him of what he told her before: he thought that her eyes were shaped like fish and she walked so beautifully like a swan. She tells him that she considers him to be the best and most attractive and that no one can match up to him. After many attempts to get his attention, she finally wins. The Jāvali that I performed is Era ra ra composed by Subharāmā in kamāch rāgā.
The Nāgarapadam is also known as the snake dance. Throughout the history of bharatanāatyam, people have performed the snake dance in their Rangapraveshā. However, due to lack of time or even by choice people started leaving this dance piece out of Rangapraveshās. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to perform it for mine. In this piece, I play a snake. The song expresses how divine the snake is as it acts as bangles for Goddess Pārvati and rests around the neck of Lord Shivā. In another verse, I show that Lord Vishnu (preserver of the Universe) sleeps on the snake named Sheesha. The snake dance I performed is Ādu Pāmbe composed by Pambatti Siddar in punnagavarali rāgā.
Thillānā is the last dance piece performed at any bharatanātyam dance program. This comprises both nritta and abhinaya. Thillānās have a Pallavi, anupallavi, and a charana. In this dance performance, the dancer uses her expressions to show bhakti rāsā and it usually has the word ‘Thillānā’ in the lyrics. In the charana, some lyrics describe the deity or king. The Thillānā that I performed is based on Lord Krishnā. It is composed by Bālā Murali Krishnā in Brindāvani rāgā.