Bharata Natyam is an artistic discipline of high order, which embodies devotion to God and the opening of the heart to beauty and joy, expressed through the high esthetic and graceful gestures of the body. It carries all the important elements necessary to live life to its full glory: awakened mind, theme, discipline. The achievement of Arangetram signifies more than an acquirement of certain skills in a performing art – it is a long immersion in the art and science of living.
Arangetram is a word in the Tamil language, which means the etram or ascending of the arangu or performance stage by the dancer, on the completion of her training. Arangetram is the first solo performance through which the student demonstrates her skills with great devotion to Lord Nataraja (God of Dance), her Guru (teacher), family and friends. This is a structured performance, with a traditional repertoire of dances that gives the dancer an opportunity to display her abilities in all components of Bharata Natyam. The learning process does not end at the Arangetram. The Arangetram is just the beginning……a beginning of the dancer having blossomed from a bud to a beautiful flower in full bloom!
The legendary Balasaraswati stated about Bharata Natyam, “The Bharata Natyam recital is structured like a great temple. We enter the gopuram (outer tower) of Alaripu, cross the ardha mandapam (halfway hall) of Jatiswaram, then the mandapam (great halls) of Shabdam, and enter the holy precinct of the deity in Varnam. We dance to the Padams, experiencing the containment, cool and quiet as entering the sanctum….then the Tillana breaks in to movements like the final burning of incense accompanied by a measure of din and bustle. In conclusion the devotee takes to his heart the god he has so far glorified. The dancer completes the traditional order by dancing to a simple devotional verse.”