By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury High School senior Shakti Kumaresan made her classical Indian Bharatanatyam Arangetram (solo debut) June 29 at Grafton High School. She was accompanied by a vibrant Indian classical vocalist with a live orchestra from India.
Shakti, 17, has been studying Bharatanatyam since she was 5 years of age under the tutelage of Guru Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai, artistic director of the Natyamani School of Dance in Westborough.
“Bharatanatyam is an ancient dance style with an unbroken tradition of over 2,000 years,” explained Shakti’s father Kumaresan Manohar. “It originated in South India and has a deep spiritual base. In the 18th and 19th centuries, musicians from the Tanjore court gave this art form its current thematic form and musical content.”
“It’s like storytelling. Expression is a very big component of the dance… In Hindu mythology there are a lot of gods, so it’s a very devotional art form,” Shakti added.
“Dance is a really big part of my life and always has been. Other than that I also learn classical Indian vocal music,” she said. “Up until now I’ve always been performing with a group and I’ve always been taking classes with a group so this is the first time that I performed by myself to a big audience…so I’ve spent all this time learning and perfecting the technique but after this there is always more to learn.”
Manohar said that his daughter had developed a close guru/disciple relationship with her instructor who she has been with from the start.
“She really understands her student’s strengths and tries to highlight those strengths and teach the techniques as well,” Manohar said.
With this solo performance, she has now distinguished herself as an artist. The next step in her journey could include becoming a teacher and a guru – if she so chooses.
“What is good about this art form is that it teaches you more and more about Hindu and our heritage and she can get involved in so many facets of Indian culture,” Manohar remarked.
Presently, Shakti is now thinking beyond high school and is making her list of colleges and universities to consider. She definitely wants to continue through college so she plans to stay close by to stay in touch with her guru.
“She has been so dedicated to this performance and to me even though she has a whole dance school to run. I am so grateful for her. My teacher is honestly one of the best that I’m ever going to have,” Shakti exclaimed.
When not dancing, Shakti is devoted to her studies which include honors and AP coursework, with an emphasis on math and science, which are her favorite subjects. She is an assistant at the Kumon Math and Reading Center of Shrewsbury.