A very special memory

​​Hi guys!

I hope everyone’s a great deal more rested and relaxed after a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m sorry I haven’t been updating for some time – I was unwell for a bit. To make up, I want to share something very special to me with all of you: a memory.

The few backstage minutes before my debut were a weird mix of happy, scared, excited, and nervous. I had my whole family backstage with me and I kept having flashbacks to when I was a kid and dreamed of this moment. Boy did I get jittery after that.
At one point I was almost in tears, and my teacher actually gave me one of her rare hugs and with a very inspiring speech. That managed to calm me down and cheered me quite a bit.
While in the hydraulic pit I could hear everything going on onstage – the welcome message, the introductions the item description, etc. It was probably only about 5 minutes but it felt like hours. When the pit started moving, I could feel myself trembling. And then the lights hit me all at once and I could see and hear the crowd. I remember that the music followed me all the way from the pit to the stage and had this really amazing and energizing effect on me. I was like “OK, this is happening. This is actually happening! Here goes… ”
This memory is still really important to me because it was in these moments that I realized that the dream I’d had for 12 years was finally coming to life. It was truly a magical moment!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading about my special memory!

See you next week!🙂

Water Breaks

​Today I thought I’d share one of the biggest boosts to my stamina during my training – the frequency with which I had water breaks.

Here’s how it looked:
Item 1
Item 2
Item 3
1 min water break
Varnam
5 min water break
Item 6
Item 7
1 min water break
Thillana

On the final day, I actually felt pretty good between and during dances because I wasn’t too frequent in water breaks in practice. I think overall  this was something that really helped me, and that’s why I wanted to share it with all of you!

Happy Dancing!

Choosing a Venue

​This is a hard decision to make. Honestly. 

Here’s a list I considered:
– the size of the stage
– the size of the auditorium
– any special features
– how lighting looks
– how sound is
– the audience experience: is the audience below the stage, or is it at an arch, looking down on the stage?
– how far away is it?

When I decided on my venue, I was initially between Granville Arts, Irving Arts and Majestic Theater. Each had such amazing features! But I ended up choosing Irving primarily because it had a hydraulic pit – meaning a grand entrance. I also got the perfect stage and auditorium size, and the audience experience was also pretty awesome. In fact, when I visited, I actually sat down in the extreme side, side, and middle seat of every few rows, to make sure that the audience experience was what I wanted.
It was probably the farthest location, but for me, that wasn’t too high on my priority list. All that mattered was the show itself. Let’s just say I’ve never really been a stickler for convenience.

So that was how I chose Irving Arts! I hope you enjoyed, and see you next week!🙂

The top 6 friends of the Arangetram student

​1. Extra makeup, extra jewelry, extra bells, extra hairpins extra safety pins, extra hair pieces – you know, extra EVERYTHING. You never know when you might need it. 

2. A big bottle of your favorite Gatorade in a convenient bottle, with a highly necessary straw. Although I never drank Gatorade during my practice sessions to help with stamina, I did have it backstage during my dress rehearsal and my arangetram.
3. A balanced diet of fruits and veggies (and meats is you’re not vegetarian or vegan)
4. Enough rest. Or you’ll knock yourself out during practice.
5. Lots of family and friends to support you throughout your performance, backstage and during your tough practices. It just really helps.
6. An “I believe in myself attitude!”

I promise, #6 will always be your bestie!

Using the stage

​Hi Everyone!

Today I thought I’d discuss one of the biggest struggles of a solo dancer – using the stage.

In order for a performance to be visually appeasing, there must be variety in movement. And that doesn’t just mean the dance moves, but also positioning.

One of the best ways to be interesting is to move a lot. There are certain steps in Bharatanatyam which sort of force you to leave one spot. Take advantage of those steps and make them bigger, so you scale more of the stage.

One thing I really made myself do was before a performance, if I knew where I’d be performing, I’d mentally mark where I wanted to be for certain parts. For example, during one of the most tense scenes of my Varnam, I knew that I wanted to be towards the apron the stage, because that was a point that I otherwise never reached until that scene in the Varnam, and so it emphasized the importance of that scene. Additionally, it worked out really well because this was the scene where Queen Kaikeyi is convinced by Mantra to exile Ram. Thus within the next couple scenes, it was much easier to establish the characters from the kingdom on the right side of the stage, where I had set up Queen Kaikeyi, Mantra and later (although much further back) King Dashrath, and the characters in the forest on the left side.

And one last note: in order to be able to cover a lot of stage, although it may seem otherwise, you actually don’t need a lot of space to practice. It definitely does help to have a lot of space, but for me I used to practice in my living room, and once a week at my teacher’s studio, which was still not as big as the Irving Arts Center stage. But mental marking in the studio, at the temple during our performances there, and on the real stage, along with enlarging steps with some movement made a big difference.

I hope this helps ya’ll out a bit. See you next week!

My first private class 

​Hi Everyone!

So as I wondered what in the world could possibly be interesting enough to share this week, I took a slight detour into memory lane. From there I thought I might share the details of my first ever private class in preparation for my arangetram.

So there I was: nervous, a bit rusty and after the school day, kind of tired. 
I remember this class being extremely  intense and tiring. We reviewed all the adavus and basically spent an hour going through them over and over at differing speeds. My legs were trembling pretty badly at the end, and I literally felt like I was made of jelly! It was quite the experience.

But what can I say? Looking back on it, it’s definitely made me stronger, and it’s made my adavus neater too. Big takeaway: practice your adavus! Seriously works like magic.

Anyway, I hope this brief anecdote was interesting and perhaps even amusing! It’s been a pleasure to share my dance stories!

We shall meet again next week!

9 things the arangetram process has taught me

​Hi Everyone! I thought I’d keep it simple this week. Instead of writing paragraphs upon paragraphs on my advice and experiences, I thought I’d just share the 9 things that the arangetram process has taught me:

1. Time management
2. Perseverance
3. Passion is more important than technique
4. Patience
5. Importance of organization
6. Improvisation and making the best of what I have
7. There is such a thing as trying too hard
8. What matters the most in the end is the dance. Not the decor, not the stage design, not the props and backdrops, not the lobby – nothing but your dance.
9. Life requires you to leave your bubble, and it’s a good thing. I had to really step out of my shell and work with the people in my community in order to figure out how to manage much of the planning and to understand what many things meant.

Well these are the biggest lessons I learned on my journey! I hope it helps those of you out there! Love you guys and see you next week!

Your repertoire

​Hi everybody! So I don’t know how much leeway you may exactly have in choosing your items, but if you need help in picking and choosing what to consider, here’s just a few tips in the general area of your dance repertoire:
– pick the items you’ve had the most fun learning – if you don’t enjoy the music and the dance, it’s not the best situation to be in, because you’ll have to practice it everyday. Have an emotional connection with everything you do.
– pick some items which are challenging for you – this will constantly make you feel like you have something more to work towards and will inspire and fuel your practice. It really worked for me. But at the same time don’t overwhelm yourself.
– Try to incorporate a few good poses. This sounds hard but is actually a lot of fun. It’s a bit risky, but with a lot of practice, it’s doable, and you’ll feel happy in the end.

I hope this helps all of you out there! We shall meet again next week!

At long last – a Kauthavam 

​Hi guys!

Okay, so this post is really personal, but this is something I really wanted to share. Now that my arangetram is over, I’m basically back to my old practice schedule, aside from the extra practices I have for productions with the troupe, which is really pretty neat in itself.

So something kind of interesting is that in my training I’ve learned several padams and thillanas, but somehow a kauthavam got skipped for me, and I just never got around to doing one. However, now I’m learning my very first Kauthavam, at long last!!!! This is super exciting for me!

The song is really gorgeous, and starts out with this long jathi with a great many peacock gestures. It’s a lot of fun!

I guess this has been a little bit of what I’m up to these days – aside from homework and college apps. And I just really wanted to be able to share this new thing that’s so cool to me!
Thank you all so much for all your love and support – we shall meet again next time! 

Tackling the Climax

To tell the truth, my Varnam was the hardest song of my repertoire. It was also the hardest topic to write about. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I briefly discuss the Varnam in my earlier post titled The Structure, which you can visit for more info.

The Varnam is difficult for most students for several reasons:
– the steps are a lot more complex, especially the footwork
– the dance goes on for at least 30 mins ( mine went on for more than 40 straight)
– there is a lot to remember
– there are a great many more expressions to master
– there are a great many more characters whom you have to represent convincingly    through mannerisms and posture
– this is also the one dance your arangetram will be judged by

For me personally, since I depicted the Epic of the Ramayana, there were a multitude of characters and expressions I had to do. My two main struggles were in remembering everything at first, and in being satisfied by my expressions. I personally didn’t have issues with physical stamina or learning steps, but at the beginning I did find that while doing all my pieces at once, if the first half really wore me out, I would forget the simple parts of my Varnam and remember all the fast paced, complex steps. I thought it was pretty weird, but ultimately practice was the only thing that helped me overcome that hurdle.

The Varnam is pretty stressful but if you let yourself relax, it’s a lot of fun. On the day of my arangetram, all I thought about was the story I was trying to tell, and everything fell into place really naturally and perfectly. I still remember how exciting that was for me, and you will too🙂

I do have a few tips for those of you trying to conquer your varnam and make it the very best you can:

1. For each character, spend some time just thinking about who this person is, how they will act, react, what their thoughts are, and how they are feeling. Feelings are the biggest part. Really try to put yourself in their shoes and feel from your heart what their pain, their joy, their sadness, their jealousy is like to them, and how they might behave as a result. It may be tempting to simply scratch the surface ( this character is just angry and arrogant and hated by all) but the character only comes out in dance when you go deeper (this person feels hurt and betrayed and is responding angrily to cover up his internal pain)
2. Say the story in your mind as you go. This helps because by just thinking about what you’re trying to say, your face speaks way more convincingly than you could ever teach it to.
3. I know I’ve said this before, but it really helps to practice your expressions in front of a mirror, or record them, so you can see how you feel about them.
4. Practice a lot. Everyday, just take out 30 mins and dedicate them solely to your Varnam. Just go over the problem areas repeatedly and enjoy being 20 people at once. It not only boosts your confidence and ability but also helps with stamina.
5. When you’re practicing, concentrate only on the dance. Don’t think about anything else, not school, not work, not even the fact that in a matter of time it won’t be just you in the living room, but you on a stage in front of an audience. That kind of pressure would just psych anyone out and isn’t healthy. So don’t take it! Be you, be happy, relax and have fun with the dance!

Well, now you have my two cents on doing the Varnam! I hope this was enjoyable, helpful and maybe even got you to relax a bit! If you have any questions, comments or concerns, be sure to let me know.

Thanks so much for all the positive love and support – we shall meet again next week!