Fifth Generation Dancer Makes Waves

Arangetram is a grand day for dancers when they take a solo bow after being trained and chiselled by their Gurus. Usually, it is one dancer who makes a statement of her arrival on the BIG stage, if not solo, one watches sisters perform arangetram together, but on the stage at JSS Auditorium, Jaya Nagar, Bengaluru, on Sunday October 8, Guru Gayathri Keshavan of Academy of Bharatanatyam’s three students – Prachi Pandit, Ananya Barve and Hitha Chamanahally, lighted up the stage jointly. 

The Trio- Prachi Pandit, Hitha Chamanahally and Ananya Barve

Ananya Barve, daughter of Maithreyi Barve and grand daughter of Gayathri Keshavan, is the fifth-generation dancer in the family. Those who witnessed Ananya on stage were confident that she was an apt student to carry on the tradition. Rasikas who watched the trio perform felt that they witnessed a ‘divine art in action’. The dancers held the audience spellbound with the rich intricate, grace and sculpted moves. 

Gayatri Keshavan along with her daughter Maithreyi Barve and grand daughter Ananya Barve

Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, on why she presented three students jointly in an Arangetram, Bharatanatyam dancer and Guru, Director of Academy of Bharatanatyam, Gayathri Keshavan, says: “I have presented few students doing their Arangetram individually, sisters performing Arangetrams together, but I encourage two or max three students to present together. The expenses for a major dance program (arangetram or not) are very high. So many arrangements, requirements and etc. By presenting two or three students together, the expenditure can be shared, there is joy in dancing with a batch mate, there is visual beauty, it strengthens the bondage between the students, their parents and of course with the teacher… and many more.” 

Gayathri Keshavan

Born to TK Narayan and Jayalakshmi Narayan, direct disciples of Gurus Sri Muthukumara Pillai & Sri Meenakshisundaram Pillai, Gayathri Keshavan, discloses: “In 2022, I presented a new dance production ‘Samudra Manthan’, with 16 students, all expenditure was shared. This is the main reason on why I encourage more students to be part of big events.” 

Gayathri, who has over five decades of experience and heads the Academy of Bharata Natyam, set up by her father in 1948, confesses that all major presentations are tough. “A presentation needs eight to nine months of planning, teaching, organizing and others. I am very particular about perfection in everything, so I and my daughter Maithreyi personally work on every detail from start to end. It is extremely strenuous, but finally satisfying,” she says.  

Apart from performing with her mother Gayathri Keshavan and daughter Ananya Barve, Maithreyi Barve also takes regular classes at the Academy. Maithreyi Barve, representing the fourth generation of Guru-Shishya Parampara, is a Commerce graduate and has a Master’s Degree in Bharatanatyam. Maithreyi is trained in Carnatic Music by Smt. Saraswati Ananthakrishnan and mother Gayathri Keshavan, with 25 years of experience in the art field in various capacities. Gayathri’s daughter has also performed and taught in Mexico, England and Singapore.

Growing up amidst the sounds of rhythmic footsteps and vibrating cymbals daughter of Maithreyi and Yogesh Barve, Ananya Barve first started dancing at the age of five. Enveloped in an atmosphere of inspiration, Ananya strives to achieve perfection in the art form handed down to her by her great grandparents, the Narayans. According to Ananya, learning Bharatanatyam helps her to step into the crevices of its discipline and find a way to creatively express her individuality. Apart from dancing, she is receiving systematic training in Carnatic Music and Veena. She also enjoys sketching, writing poems and blogs.

Prachi Pandit, daughter of Seema and Vishram Pandit, is a talented young girl, who has been learning Bharatanatyam for more than 10 years and has performed on stage on multiple occasions. Her passion for Bharatanatyam first sparked from the idea of portraying a story through dance. “For me, dance is a medium through which I can express myself in a unique way. My other interests include theatre, singing, scientific research and baking,” says Prachi. 

Hitha Chamanahally, daughter of Geetha and Srinivas CK, currently pursuing second year pre-university, began learning Bharatanatyam at the age of eight, under Guru Gayathri Keshavan and Smt. Maithreyi Barve. Hitha understands the intricacies of the art and enjoys the rhythms and lyrical aspects of every dance. She has participated in the Academy programmes. Also, she learnt Carnatic Music for a few years and is now getting trained in Hindustani music. Her talent in music has given her the opportunity to perform in various cultural organisations. In her words, “Dance is an inner expression that keeps me physically and mentally healthy and happy.”

Prachi, Ananya and Hitha performed nine pieces at their Arangetram. They began with Alarippu in Khandam, followed by Jathiswaram in Vachaspati ragam and Adi thalam. Purandara dasar keertana in Devaranama, Varnam in Ananda Bhairavi ragam and Adi thalam. There were two padams – one Subbarama Iyer composition in Pantuvarali ragam and Misrachapu talam and another in Purvikalyani ragam. The Guru picked up Adi Shankaracharya composition, ‘Bhajagovindam’, Thillana in Shankarabaranam ragam and Adi thalam with curtains after Mangalam. 

The Music Ensemble included Gayathri Keshavan on Nattuvangam, Balasubramanya Sharma on Vocals, Narayana Swamy on Mridangam and Narasimha Murthy on Flute.

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