Students in HTR begin lessons when they are as young as four years old. Once the students have been studying both the dance and theory for five to seven years, and have participated in multiple performances, they can begin to prepare for their solo debut performance, known as “Arangetram.” Training for an arangetram is much more intense and can involve daily lessons that last for several hours. Students presented by Sudha Chandra Sekhar perform to a live orchestra in shows that last for several hours to showcase the depth of their understanding of not only the dance, but music, rhythmic combinations and a mastery of facial expressions and storytelling. And the family plays a big role in a student’s arangetram, being involved in planning the event, stage decorations, location, planning the post-arangetram dinner and encouraging the dancer on this journey.
Sudha Chandra Sekhar has presented 119 students in their Bharata Natyam Arangetram in India, Canada and the U.S. beginning in 1962. She presented her 100th student in July 2015, and her school’s first virtual Arangetram was presented in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sudha was presented in her own Arangetram at Mumbai’s famed Mahalaxmi temple in 1956, after training under the great gurus of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natya Kala Mandir.
Arangetram, which translates to “ascending the stage” takes place when after years of training, a Bharata Natyam teacher presents a student to the public in the presence of peers and art enthusiasts. Arangetram marks when a dancer crosses the threshold from student to professional artist. The Arangetram is typically a three- to four-hour performance with a live orchestra. Most Bharata Natyam items are performed as a prayer to God, showing devotion and dedication using hand gestures, facial expressions and body language.