sisters Divya and Soumya Kodali completed two rites of passage this
year: Graduation from Hartland Arrowhead High School and, in a
dazzling ceremony, taking the stage at the New Berlin West Performing
Arts Center to perform the Bharatnatyam, a dance with roots in India
that date back more than 2,000 years.
hours, the dance was the culmination of 11 years of intensive study
with Guru Kripa Baskaran, founder and director of the Natyarpana Dance
Co. The recital, known as an Arangetram (ascending to the stage)
signifies the first qualified dance of an aspiring artist.
the culmination of the teacher-student relationship," says
Lakshmi Bharadwaj, director of interfaith relations and community
outreach at the Hindu Temple in Pewaukee. "After years of
training, the guru decides to present her student before an elite
About 600 guests
— some of whom had traveled from India to attend the event —
applauded Soumya and Divya as they danced to the live music of a
five-piece orchestra from India.
There are two
aspects to the performance. The concert demonstrates the dancers’
physical stamina and their ability to tell a story through movement.
The 10 pieces in the program, some performed as solos and some
together, each convey a story about various Hindu gods and goddesses.
Baskarn says the
Bharatnatyam "is an epitome of Indian cultural expression. The
richness of Indian architecture, sculpture, paintings, poetry,
aesthetics and religious mythology constantly inspires the dance
artist to create an exceptionally beautiful artwork in order to bring
out the true cultural flavor of India."
Divya and Souma’s
brilliantly colored costumes were custom-made in India, with the help
of an aunt who lives there. Their makeup was done by artists who
specialize in traditional dance makeup.
Baskaran says 32
students have graduated from her Natyarpana school at the Hindu Temple
of Wisconsin in the past 10 years, and several have been awarded
scholarships from universities in recognition of their work. She also
teaches a course in Bharatnatyam at UW-Milwaukee.
Divya is now a
pre-med student at St. Louis University and Soumya is on the pre-med
track at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Soumya says she
plans to continue to dance and may follow in the footsteps of other
Natyarpana school graduates and become a teacher of this classical
Indian art form.