The happiest moment of my life was when the curtains opened for the second half of my bharatanatyam recital. I was portraying the goddess Andal asleep on stage when the curtains opened and there was an eruption of cheers from the audience. Although my eyes were closed, I could feel the awestruck joy reverberating in the auditorium, and that was when I knew all my hardwork was worth it.
My recital journey began in 2016, when my classmate, Mashia, and I started preparing for back to back arangetrams. I remember Selvi aunty telling my mom that she could see Devi in me so I should do a Devi themed arangetram. Unfortunately, we were unable to do my arangatram that year and I just forgot about it. But Selvi Aunty never forgot about her vision; she would continue to teach me Devi themed pieces in my classes.
In December of 2017, the topic of Arangetram arose again and this time we finalized on having a recital. The date was set and place was booked, so my intensive training began. I never even imagined how strenuous recital training would be. Within the first few months I needed a knee brace. My stamina was in terrible shape, to the point where I would be out of breath after dancing a two minute dance. I needed to change a lot of my everyday habits, and essentially develop a healthier lifestyle so I began practicing yoga and went on a diet. But the physical exertion was nothing in compared to the emotional and mental training I endured.
I’ve always been a shy person. Even though I have been dancing for so long, I never got over my stage fear and I constantly struggled with self confidence. Leading up to my recital Selvi Aunty tried to maximize my stage presence and even got me to do several solo performances. She told me that no one has ever had as much stage exposure as me before their arangetram. Yet I was still afraid of the stage, and it sometimes visibly showed on my face. Of course through many practices, I finally managed to keep a smile on my face while dancing despite my fears.
Yet a smile isn't enough for a recital. I needed to demonstrate complex emotions, or abhinayas; especially for my expression heavy pieces like my Varnam. While teaching me the dance steps, Selvi aunty would also teach me the history of the gods I was portraying. Hearing the stories I was bringing to life in my dances, I became very interested in indian mythology. These stories spoke of neverending devotion, sacrifices, and incredible battles all focusing on Devi, an all powerful female entity. It inspired me, hearing all these incredible feats that I would get the opportunity to portray on stage. Thus, my expressions developed and I kept pushing myself to be better so I could do these incredible tales justice.
Leading up to the day of my recital, I was doing pretty good in class and my confidence had definitely improved. Two days before my recital, we had a stage rehearsal. The second I was on stage, with all the bright lights staring at me, stage fear hit me. I messed up several times in my practice and I was now very scared for the approaching performance. The next day was the day before my recital, and Selvi Aunty called me in for one last practice. The practice went perfectly and instilled some confidence back in me. The day of the recital, I was nervous but more than that I was excited.
My entire journey leading up to my recital was an incomparable experience. I learned to be healthier, have pride in who I am, and persevere no matter what. I met many people who I will forever cherish and learned so much. Thinking back to my recital, I feel like it went by too quickly. But that one moment on stage, when everyone was clapping and cheering as the curtains opened for the second half was priceless. I would go through all of this again just for more moments like that. Now I understand how an arangetram or recital is not the end of one’s dance journey, but it is the beginning. Because now, I know that I truly have a passion for dance, and I can’t imagine a life without it.