Student On Campus Shares Experiences in Cultural Dance

Selvarajan+Uma+poses+for+a+photo%2C+acting+as+if+she+were+fastening+an+earring%2C+that+was+included+in+her+arangetram+brochure.+

Photo courtesy of Varshitha Selvarajan Uma

Selvarajan Uma poses for a photo, acting as if she were fastening an earring, that was included in her arangetram brochure.

While the dance program on campus is extremely large in membership, there are also student dancers who refine their talent outside of school. One of these students is senior Varshitha Selvarajan Uma, who practices Bharathanatyam, a traditional Southern Indian classical style of dance with the Shrishti School for the Arts.   

“The style of dance mainly focuses on a lot of footwork, a lot of hand gestures, and facial expressions which help to tell the story of the song and the dance,” said Selvarajan Uma. 

The footwork and hand gestures compose the first layer of the Bharatanatyam (ba-ra-ta-na-tyum) style, nritha (nri-ta), and the facial expressions compose the other layer, called abhinaya. Abhinaya (a-bee-nay-yuh) is a form of acting included in the dance form, in which the dancer acts out stories from the Hindu religion and Indian culture.  

“The one thing I like most about dance is definitely the facial expressions. If you have good facial expressions, you can completely change the message your dance sends to the audience, and I just think that that’s one of the best parts about dance.”  

The one thing I like most about dance is definitely the facial expressions. If you have good facial expressions, you can completely change the message your dance sends to the audience, and I just think that that’s one of the best parts about dance”

Selvarajan Uma has been practicing dance since 2012, and completed her arangetram, her debut into the dance world, in 2019. “It’s kind of the debut into being a real Bharathanatyam dancer.” 

“Since then at my dance school, we have been practicing a lot and have done a couple of performances outside of school for temples and fundraisers. Mostly, once you do your arangetram, it’s more of just strengthening your experience in dance rather than learning new things,” said Selvarajan Uma. 

Selvarajan Uma has become very close to the girls she dances with at Shrishti School for the Arts. The group has been dancing together since they started dance classes, so Selvarajan Uma has been developing a bond with them for almost nine years. While they all did their arangetrams as solo performances, they helped one another through the process and cheered each other on at their arangetrams. 

Selvarajan Uma and her fellow dance partners have started going back to in person classes regularly following a six month hiatus during the pandemic. She is excited for future performances with her friends as they continue to broaden their dance horizons.