The Structure

Hi Everyone,

I apologize for how long it’s taken me to update you all with my next post! This last month has just been the craziest, with the schoolwork associated with the end of junior year and arangetram practice reaching a good notch higher. In this week’s post I’d like to discuss the structure of an arangetram, or at least the order in which pieces are taught, for those of you attending, interested or planning to do your own arangetram.

  1. Pushpanjali – This item is really meant to salute God, the teacher (guru) and the audience, as well as prep the dancer for the next couple hours.
  2. Alarippu – This item is usually pretty basic and is based more on movements than on facial expressions. Again, this preps the dancer for the more complex dances.
  3. Jathiswaram – This item is actually complicated. While the Alarippu is based only on syllables, this item is based on a raga (a pattern of notes having characteristic intervals, rhythms, and embellishments, used as a basis for improvisation) and has pretty interesting postures, rhythm and steps. Again, it doesn’t involve facial expressions.
  4. Shabdam – This is the first piece which has facial expressions. It is a combo of nritta (the rhythmic, dance component) and nritya (the abhinaya and facial expressions). It is usually slow, and has devotional lyrics, meaning it is usually about a specific deity.
  5. Varnam – This is the main event. This is the longest, and most difficult piece of the event which really showcases what the dancer can do. This generally tells a story, and has a lot of room both for nritta and nritya. There is a lot of flexibility on the theme and story, although it usually is about a deity.
  6. Padam – This piece is primarily based on facial expressions and storytelling, aka abhinaya. This piece is really about showing really deep and strong emotions, coupled with some nritta (but not a lot).
  7. Thillana – This is the last, and most energetic part of the dance, composed mostly of nritta. The steps in this are pretty complex and interesting. It can also have some nritya base to it. The part of it that really is supposed to stick out is the energy, and the dancer’s ability to do fast, complicated steps very gracefully. It is often even related as a burst of colors!

Of course, as per the guidance of a guru, there is a lot of room for flexibility here – although this is the basic structure, as done in our style.

I hope this has been a bit more insightful for you, into the world of Bharatanatyam. If you have any questions, or if there is something specific you would like me to cover, please let me know in the comments! I would be more than happy to share what I know!

Once again, thank you all so much for your support and love!

See you next week! 🙂



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