Bharata Natyam Arangetram of Shefali Bakre
Review originally written by Revathi Pillai for Lokvani.com
A captivating display of perfect mix of Nritta, Nritya and Natya -- that is the best way to describe the Bharatanatyam arangetram of Shefali Bakre at Chinmaya Mission Auditorium, Andover, MA on July 16th 2022. Shefali is the disciple of mother-daughter duo Smt. Anandini Sekhar and Smt. Sudha Sekhar of Vidyanjali School of Dance of New England and HTR- Hindu Temple Rhythms. In Shefali’s early years of training in
Bharatanatyam she was taught by Smt.Ranjani Saigal. This was the debut arangetram for both Guru Smt. Anandini and Shishya Shefali. Smt Anandini’s mother and guru, “Natya Veda Bharati” Smt. Sudha Chandra Sekhar is a revered Bharatanatyam guru, as she has trained 118 disciples for their arangetrams. The audience was able to witness a beautiful flow of tradition in the art form from mother to daughter in addition to Shefali’s amazing performance.
Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest classical dance forms in India. The art is said to have directly evolved from Lord Shiva, also known as Lord Nataraja (King of Dance), the cosmic dancer. This beautiful form of dance is a combination of hand movements, facial expressions, and intrinsic footwork. The word “Bharatanatyam” is derived from Bhavam for expression, Ragam for music, Talam for rhythm, and Natyam for drama. An arangetram is a dancer's first formal full-length performance of a full repertoire of dances as a soloist. To be worthy of an arangetram, a student has to master several aspects of Bharatanatyam, which takes years of dedicated practice. This performance, however, is only the beginning of a long journey in study of dance.
The ambience of the evening was set by the beautiful recitation of a Ganesha Pancharatna Stotra by vocalist Sri Babu Parameswaran, composed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. It was followed by Shefali’s debut performance of Ganesha Kavuthwam through which she paid obeisance to Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. This performance gave audience a glimpse of the artistic feast awaiting them. It was followed by Jathiswaram, traditional “nritta” piece, composed by K.N Dandayudhapani Pillai in Raagam Hamsanandi set to Rupaka taala. Shefali impressed the audience with her grasp of complex rhythmic patterns and precise hand-foot movements. Sri Babu Parameswaran’s explanation of Raaga both amused and enlightened the audience. Jathiswaram was followed by Mahalakshmi Kavuthwam, a Sri. Madhurai Muralidaran composition in Raagam Sree. Shefali convincingly depicted the personification of Devi by describing attributes of the Goddess.
Varnam -- the Pièce de résistance -- the most demanding, immersive, colorful piece of the repertoire, of the arangetram was Sakhiye Inda Jalam, in Raaga Shankarabharanam set to Aadi taala by K.N Dandayudapani Pillai. Guru Smt. Sudha Chandra Sekhar’s excellence in choreography was very much evident in this item. Shefali executed it with grace and depth of feeling, moving the audience to experience rasa (aesthetics), bhava (emotion) and abhinaya. She was fully immersed in this piece. She captivated the audience through her exquisite dancing skills with the maturity and discipline of an accomplished dancer.
Shefali opened the second half of her arangetram with an ‘Abhang’, a bhajan in praise of Vithala, a special treat to the Marathi audience, in Ragamalika set to Aadi taala by Sant Tukaram. Shefali put the audience in a trance through her enthralling performance. This was followed by a beautiful padam, ‘Ragasiyam Sonannadi’,
composed and choreographed by Sri Madurai Muralidharan in raagam Behag, set to Khanda Jathi Aadi taala. In this padam, Shefali, portrayed Radha’s unconditional, unending love for Krishna and reveals the sweet romantic secret between her beloved lover Krishna. She amazed the audience by her precise movements, control, yet nuanced and subtle abhinaya. Shefali skillfully emoted all the required bhavas in her
performance, mesmerizing the audience. Next, to the audience’s delight, she performed a Hindi folk dance as a surprise item. This was a fun addition that exemplified her diverse capabilities as a dancer. Shefali continued the repertoire through her scintillating performance in portraying the greatness of Lord Shiva in “Bho Shambho” a krithi composed by Dayananda Saraswathi in Revathi Raaga set to Aaadi taala. Her rendition of the dazzling thillana, composed by Tanjore Quartet, in Raagam Kaapi, set to Aaadi taala. This has a verse composed by Gopal Venkatraman specially for Bakre family. This performance was a testament to her passion and joy in dancing. She gracefully executed all the complex foot works and sculpturesque poses with ease and
In place of a traditional Mangalam, Shefali concluded her blissful performance with a Sai Baba Aarthi. Her fully devotional performance moved the audience and brought the ambience to the next level of spirituality. The combination of music and performance was so mesmerizing that audience stayed glued to their seats in rapt attention, applauding enthusiastically and singing along the Aarti. However as soon as the item was done, the whole crowd rose for a well-deserved standing ovation.
The orchestra was also a key component of the ambience thanks to the melodious vocal music, by Sri Babu Parameswaran, who has experience in performing with legends Pandit Ravishankar and George Harrison, .and with KP Ramesh Babu exceptionally energetic mridangam, Suka Pavalan mellifluous violin accompaniment,
and Siva Kumar sir enchanting flute, Gurus Smt. Anandini Shekahr’s and Smt. Sudha Chandra Shekar’s Natuvaangam, beautiful costumes, tasteful stage decoration. The event was beautifully emceed by the proud and at times emotional sister, Shirin Bakre. The hard work, skill, and dedication put into this event was evident, and received well by an enthusiastic audience.
Shefali’s guru Smt Anandini Sekhar described her as the ‘ideal student’, her dedication to dance was attested by many friends spoken during the event and was in display throughout this program. Congratulations to Shishya and Gurus, their rigorous training and hard work was evident in this event. Besides being a trained dancer, Shefali is a well-rounded person with many other laudable qualities and accomplishments. She has danced in Vision-Aid annual productions since 2012 and is a Vision-Aid Ambassador and uses her talent to bring visibility to the need to have a more inclusive world for the visually impaired. She used her arangetram event also to fundraise to help Vision-Aid (www.VisionAid.org) in its mission to Enable, Educate and Empower the visually impaired children and youth. She also received the President’s Gold Volunteer Service award for going above and beyond to volunteer to make a difference in the world.
Other than Bharatnatyam she performs Hip hop and Bollywood dances. She is a rising junior at Burlington High School, where she is the president of Environmental Action Club, Engineering lead for Robotics team, member of National Honors Society and member of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. She volunteers at Shishu Bharati, she performs with professional ensemble SETU and a performer for Vision-Aid events for many years. Shefali is the reigning Miss India Teen Massachusetts.
The event was closed by an emotional thank you speech by Shefali’s proud mom Sonal Bakre and triumphant “Ganapathi Bappa Morriya” chant from the proud dad Shashank Bakre. Congratulations to Shefali and Smt. Anandini for a great start and wishing both the very best in their dance journey. Congratulations and thank you to Sonal and Shashank Bakre for arranging their daughter Shefali’s very successful Bharatanatyam debut!
Photos by Jeyakumar Sathyamoorthy - dazzle.smugmug.com