Beautiful Soul

Anika Kavalla, an Abington High School student, performs in her “Bharatanatyam Arangetram”.


Maddi Carini

AHS junior Anika Kavalla performs her Bharatanatyam Arangetram.

Maddi Carini, Contributor

An eleven year journey that took determination, hardwork, and immense passion lead AHS junior Anika Kavalla to one special moment in her life- Bharatanatyam Arangetram. Bharatanatyam is a 3000-year-old classical dance style native to southern India. This art form includes expression, musical melody, and rhythm. Bharatanatyam has two main aspects: Nirittha– pure dance, with intricate framework and body movements, and Abhinaya – the sequences where the dancer recites stories.

This ceremony includes eight different sections of dance, all under the same umbrella of Bharatanatyam.

You are elemental and necessary for where I am now.

— Anika Kavalla

Anika’s family gave opening remarks to pray upon her for a life of peace and prosperity. Ramanandji tossed rose pedals onto the stage, an offering to Lord Ganesha (the remover of obstacles). They wanted to give Anika a safe and caring place, free of negative energy, to express all of the shavata – patience, dedication, and understanding- she put into learning that one performance.

The vocalist Smt. Uma Sankar set the mood with musicians Sri Sivachelvan Ponnudurai, Sri Jithendra Kishore, and Sri Vivek Ramanan. They sounded incredibly connected through the music they played, people could see the great control and love they had for what they were creating.

The introduction to this program is Pushpanjali- Alarippu, a piece that welcomes the audience to join in the love for her dance. This rhythm is made to help Anika blossom as a performer.

This invitation song had a variety of pace and intensity, which grasped the attention of the audience immediately. When Anika concluded the introduction dance, everyone was eager for more.

This lead to the Jathiswaram– a combination of Jathis and Swaras– specific steps that define significant characteristics of Bharatanatyam. Anika worked her way around the stage with sharp movements, following the beat. This portion of the dance was intricate, and difficult to remember.

Before the performance, Anika’s family gave her the best advice, “set the stage on fire!”, and she did not disappoint. She was able to set fire on stage through her radiant smile and outstanding composure. Anika had to remember several different positions for this one piece, and the control shown in an outstanding manner.

The facial expressions Anika commenced in Thodaya Mangalam was breath- taking. This style is a set of songs welcoming the Divine with auspiciousness. It was as if Anika was transforming from a girl to a woman right before our eyes.

Varnam, the showcase piece, was the most elaborate part of the recital.

Halfway through the recital there were speeches made for Anika, congratulating and giving her advice for her wonderful day. Her father, Raju, thanked his mother for helping Anika become good person. Her family said  “Kavala girls rock.”

Her best friend, Olive, came from Connecticut to be with her on this special day and told the crowd how incredible Anika is. “I am so lucky to have met your beautiful soul.” During the showcase piece Anika was not just dancing, but expressing who she was as a person and who she will continue to be.

The second half of Anika’s performance began with Ambashtakam, a divine hymn written to goddess Raja. It describes the glory of different forms and glories of the same mother. This dance switched from gentle to fierce, Anika had a great balance of form and composition that was perfect when showing the eight different goddess forms.

Anika’s guru, Smt. Hemalatha Vaidyanathan, was able to compose a piece that incorporated many forms of expression with a solid structure, creating an overall exquisite landscape.

Thillana, a dance usually set to a joyous yoga, set an atmosphere of tranquility. This piece was one of the last performances, which left the crowd at a peaceful state when the dance concluded. For me, this piece in particular stood out because it made me feel happier, as if my soul was being cleansed.

Not only was Anika able to remember all of the steps to her dance, but she was also able to remember the stories that the dances embodied. The Kavadi Chindu is a folk melody in praise of Lord Murugan, who tried the marry the tribal princess Valli. This was shown through a sequence of stories with nuanced expressions.

Anika dedicated the entire last dance primarily to thanking her family and friends. Gratitude is so important when something is achieved, to acknowledge those who helped along the way. The Mangalam, when the dancer thanks the eternal mother, their guru, the musicians, and the audience. After this came the closing remarks.

Anika spoke for the first time after her dance, her emotions and words raw. She thanked everyone who was with her, who helped her achieve her Bharatanatyam, and saved her dad for last. “You are elemental and necessary for where I am now.”

Anika’s father pushed her to achieve greatness because he could see the success that was waiting for her future, and with that guidance, people were able to see her shine. Dancing not only grounded Anika, but gave her many life lessons that can help through difficult challenges. This dance recital was not just about showing her talent, it was a rite of passage Anika can travel upon forever.