Freshman Elakya Thirumoorthy and Sophomore Naga Canagaraj participate in Bharatanatyam, a form of South Asian cultural dance. They are both engaged in Indian cultural heritage activities to help spread awareness of their culture, Thiurmoorthy said.
Both Canagaraj and Thirunmoorthy started dancing at around five to six years old, Canagaraj said. They joined dance academies, Bharathakala Kutiram and Pushpanjali Dance Academy, to develop their skills, according to Canagaraj.
“I feel like people have to be more open towards cultural dancing because not all Indian dance is the same,” Thirumoorthy said. “A lot of people don’t see the dedication that people put in. It’s really important to us.”
Arangetram is an initiation dance in which the individual performing graduates from his or her class and can begin teaching, Canagaraj said. It is a two hour solo performance that involves different dance types and costume changes and brings around 400 people in the audience, according to Canagaraj.
“The main performance that one individual performs for is called an Arangetram. Arangetram is the first time you are supposed to dance on stage by yourself,” Thirumoorthy said.
An individual starts training heavily one to two years in advance, Thirunmoorthy said. Six months before the performance includes heavy practice most days of the week, she explained. The reason for this intense practice is the difficulty of the performance. The individual performing is required to wear authentic jewelry such as real emerald and gold, grow her hair to the waist unless fake hair is used, and to perform for two hours with only one intermission, Thirunmoorthy added.
“It’s a nice feeling when you see someone appreciate your dance,” Canagaraj said. “It’s great to have people watch you perform.”
Aside from the Arangetram performance, Canagaraj and Thirunmoorthy usually perform at festivals, temples, and multi-cultural shows, although they also perform at senior centers and libraries, according to Canagaraj. Because there are many Indians in the Bay Area, local performances are in high demand, Canagaraj continued. The duo has also competed, with their biggest competition being ‘One School at a Time,’ Canagaraj said.
“Being in America and growing up in America makes it difficult to be able to showcase your culture,” Thirunmoorthy said. “It’s that feeling to be able to convey the same message to people of different kinds.”
Canagaraj and Thirunmoorthy enjoy this form of dance because it allows them to represent their culture, exercise, and express themselves, Thirunmoorthy said. It’s also a great experience and teaches them more about their culture, she continued.