So Proud

Dear Constant Reader,

Betty Blaize just* had a major milestone in her performing career. I’ve mentioned from time to time that she studies bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance. I’m not sure I explained just how serious she is about it.

After 15 years of study, Betty had her arangetram. It’s often translated as “professional debut”, but literally means “getting onto the stage” in Tamil. Now, Betty has been performing Indian dance and martial arts for a number of years, so this was more like (in my incomplete understanding) public recognition of her skill and approval from her guru (teacher) that she is now a part of the lineage of this particular style of bharatanatyam. In any case, an arangetram is a solo recital that showcases the dancer’s versatility and skill.

Betty worked so hard on this. She was rehearsing for the performance at least a year, maybe longer, with her two gurus. This was complicated by the fact that they had relocated to Southern California and all this was being done via Skype and the occasional in-person visit. About a month before the arangetram, Betty went out to the West Coast for three weeks for intensive coaching.

And she wasn’t just the star of the show, she was also the producer — arranging for the venue, the lighting, the sound, the catering, photo & video, publicity, programs, and commissioning beautiful recordings of her songs from musicians in India.

On the big day, I was one of a handful of people invited to a puja, a ceremony in which (I think) Betty was blessed and formally joined the linage of the dance school. I was the only woman there not wearing a sari… I got a little emotional when Betty’s ankle bells were blessed. I remembered her telling me about the puja so many years ago when she received her first pair of ankle bells. Once she was wearing the blessed bells, she danced for those attending — her teachers, fellow students, guests, and the gods.

In the evening was the arangetram proper. The BeauTease were all there early to help with set up and be ushers. Betty loaned them saris and had given a sari draping lesson previously, but it’s a tricky garment! Fortunately, Betty’s friend M., in from Colorado for the event, is an expert sari draper and got them squared away in no time. They looked so adorable! Yes, I’m wearing a thoroughly Western LBD, but I was in charge of the refreshments and wanted to be unencumbered in case I had to hustle. I am, however, wearing jewelry that Betty brought me from India.

The performance itself was a two-hour solo recital for a packed house. The program consisted of eight dance pieces of different types — some are more “dancey” with elaborate footwork and rhythms (from the stomping of the dancer’s feet and the ankle bells) and some are more emotive and tell a story. Betty included one of my favorites, the story of Krishna’s mother looking for her missing son and bragging on him. I’ve seen her perform this for many years, becoming more and more adept each time. The showpiece of the recital was a twenty-four minute long pada varna, called Daa nike, which tells the story of a woman chatting up a handsome hero by extolling the virtues of her best friend, a heroine.

Bharatanatyam is an incredibly precise art, with no detail considered too small on which to lavish attention. It’s true of the choreography (which include movements of the eyes and eyebrows) as well as the appearance of the dancer. Betty’s fingers, toes, and the palms of her hand were stained red to highlight her gestures and steps. Her gurus (and guru’s mother) made sure her makeup and hair were just so. And she wore two different, gorgeous costumes she commissioned the last time she was in India.

Blurry performance photos are by someone in the audience illicitly taking snaps. I hope you can get an idea from them, since the professional photos aren’t up yet.

This event was a huge accomplishment — two hours of solid dancing (with only a fifteen minute break to change costumes) in an art form that is every bit as disciplined and codified as ballet, with an expectation of perfection (Betty was getting good wishes for a “flawless debut”) and a spiritual component. Plus all that producing stuff. She carried it off beautifully and with grace.

I’m so proud of her devotion and her skill. It was the perfect showcase of her talent.

M2 *And by “just” I mean early April. I’m way behind on my posting, thanks to my friend bronchitis who monopolized my April.

Published in: on 1 June 2016 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: