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!

Top 10 scraps of advice

​Hey everyone! Since now I’m all done with my dance debut, I thought I’d share some things I learned along the way! Here they are:

1. Practice is crucial. It is the one thing that cannot and should not be compromised in any way.
2. But so are breaks. While it’s not a great idea to take massive breaks between items while practicing your Margam, it is important to make sure you don’t practice too much and wear yourself out. Practice serves three functions. Initially it is to fine tune and learn steps. But after a certain point, it exists only to maintain stamina and to reinforce and internalize what your body already knows. So do justice to it, but don’t overdo it.
3. Towards the end, start to practice with bangles, maybe some jewelry and part of an old costume to help you get the feel of dancing with all the weight.
4. Practice your poses in advance, and be comfortable with them before your photo shoot.
5. Use a mirror or have someone record you so that you can see if your facial expressions are turning out the way you want.
6. Maintain a balanced diet and get enough sleep.
7. Watch other dancers to inspire yourself or to just learn. This helped me a lot, both before and during my arangetram.
8. Listen to your music and internalize it completely. It really helps. A lot.
9. While practicing, if you make a mistake, don’t stop. Just keep going.
10. This is the most important. Don’t let yourself get stressed out. Just have fun! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Trust me, once you’re done, you’re going to miss it. So enjoy it while you got it! 😉

I hope this helps those of you out there planning your own arangetrams! Even though I miss mine so much now, it means a lot to know that someone out there is benefiting from my experience.

Once again, thank you all so much for all the amazing love and support! We shall meet again next week 🙂