by Subashini Pathmanathan
Silappathikaram of second century AD is the oldest text that provides guidelines to conduct a dance arangetram. From the time of Silappathikaram, arangetram takes place in the dance field. Silappathikaram describes the dance arangetram of Mathavi, the dance heroine of Silappathikaram.
It elaborately explains the stage decor, stage arrangements, how the accompaniments should sit, the quality and nature of the accompaniments in a dance arangetram. Besides it also provides instructions for a dancer, how a dancer herself has to enter the stage.
Elegance of Bharatha Natyam
Arangetram means, maiden performance of a young artiste to introduce herself or himself to the art world as a budding artiste. Arangam means stage, Aetram means entering the stage. Arangetram is also referred to as Arangaperavesam. It also denotes the same meaning. In an arangetram the dancers are supposed to perform the entire margam of the prescribed Bharatha Natya repertoire. This Bharatha Natya repertoire was laid down by the famed Tanjore quartette of 19th century.
Today in most of the Bharatha Natyam, arangetrams are generally considered as a prestige show. Majority of the parents and teachers pay more attention for the selection of the chief guest. Most of the parents and teachers try to fill the auditorium. All these hired auditoriums are built not specially for dance performances. These auditoriums are built for numerous multipurpose prgrammes. Anyhow most of the parents and teachers want to fill up the halls at any cost.
So they visit door to door and hand over the invitations. Further to attract much more crowd, alien chief guests are often brought down from outside the country to these shows. These alien chief guests are given wide publicity in the local print media by projecting themselves as outstanding dancers or outstanding silver screen stars. Actually these artistes are not at all known much in their own native lands. Sri Lanka is a land blessed with plenty of outstanding artistes of their own excellence in their own selective fields. It is really regrettable to see the ignorance of such organizers of these shows who take maximum efforts and pain to bring down these special guests to the shows.
The teachers are Sri Lankans. The students are Sri Lankans who studied their dancing career throughout in Sri Lanka. And the general audiences to whom they need to fill up the halls are also Sri Lankans. But the special or the main guest of these shows is often supposed to be brought down from a neighboring country.
In one way it is a total insult for the local artistes of this land. Normally they provide up and down air passage for these so called chief guests. Accommodations for these chief guests are always arranged at star class hotels. These special foreign guests are given due respect in the shows. Normally the organizers of the dance shows consider arranging foreigners as chief guests for their dance shows would add much more prestige to their shows.
In some arrangetrams, to maintain their colours, some teachers induce or force the parents to bring down the accompaniments also from neighboring country, by putting all sorts of false allegations against the outstanding and long standing local supportive instrumental artistes.
Ultimately the entire financial burden falls at the hands of the parents. It is also necessary to point out that Sri Lankan resources should be utilized and the Sri Lankan talents should be exploited properly to enrich the local standards of the instrumental artistes at least at the native soil.
Most teachers are longing for titles and awards. To satisfy them sometimes the parents or sometimes even the teachers themselves make elaborate arrangements to confer some titles upon them at the arangetram functions. Sometimes, some individuals without any standing confer titles upon the teachers. Even sometimes some of the registered or unregistered organizations without any legal standing involve in the process of conferring titles.
Even some of the organizations move further to award unrecognized doctorates. Many of these dance teachers are using these unrecognized titles publicly. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka so far, no proper legal measures are taken to control or regulate this type of menace seriously.