Jvalanthi Prasad: Arangetram Review, A performance par excellence


Photos: Kalith Talison

By  Anu Mahesh

HOUSTON: On the hot, humid summer evening of  July 16, the audience at the Bayou Theater in Clearlake, got to witness the magnificent Arangetram (solo dance debut) of 14 year old Jvalanti Prasad, daughter of Surekha and Venkat Prasad, who, at the young age of five, began learning the ancient and revered form of Bharatanatyam in the Vazhuvoor style from Dr. Rathna Kumar, Founder-Director of Anjali Center of Performing Arts. The audience at Bayou Theater were treated to a spell-binding performance, a perfect confluence of grace, talent and a deep understanding of the traditional dance form. This was clearly a result of mentorship from a guru par excellence, whose creativity and artistic genius was visible throughout the program.

Jvalanti commenced her recital with a homage to Ganesha, Sri Mahaganapathe, whose unique choreography incorporated the Alarippu into the dance. This was followed by an unusual specially composed Jatiswaram in 5 beats instead of the traditional 6 or 8 beats. This purely rhythmic dance perfectly showcased Jvalanti’s command over her footwork and technique.


Jvalanti’s very expressive depiction of Gajendra the elephant falling victim to Makari the crocodile, coupled with the talented percussionist N. K. Kesavan’s magic with the percussion, kept the audience at the edge of their seats in the ‘Mandooka Sabdam’. The central piece of the program, the Varnam (Rama Neeve) comprised several stories from the Ramayana. Jvalanti executed this piece with grace and depth of feeling, moving the audience to experience rasa (aesthetic flavor).

From  the highly energetic ‘Ananda Pongum’, illustrating the joyous dance of Nataraja, Jvalanti smoothly transitioned to the graceful Alamelu Manga in Alarulu Kuriyaga. As Jvalanti brought her recital to a rousing close with a Tillana and Mangalam, I watched with growing wonder her skill, maturity, stamina and sheer immersion into the spirit of the dance. I knew then why we associate youth with hope and promise for the future.

The striking aspects of Jvalanti’s recital were her perfect posture, tremendous stamina, dynamic jumps, strong footwork, evocative facial expressions and a great stage presence, plus the presence  of a highly accomplished and fabulous orchestra. J. Ramesh and Shraddha Mohan’s beautiful voices brought every character to life. Maestro N.K.Kesavan’s bold and imaginative beats made each piece unique and powerful. Muthukumar’s mellifluous flute and Abhishek Balakrishnan’s soulful violin wove magical strains. Madhavi Joysula added depth to select pieces on the ela talam.


Jvalanti’s Arangetram was graced by her Band Director Christopher Bennett and Silambam Houston’s Artistic Director Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan. Both of them gave us a glimpse into Jvalanti’s accomplishments, both as a dancer and as an accomplished student and musician. Her guru Dr. Rathna Kumar was obviously proud of how far student had come and could not contain her happiness while presenting her with a diploma.

While the Prasads expressed their heartfelt thanks to family and friends that helped with making this event a success, Meera and Sinthuja Devarajan shared their experience about their guru Dr. Rathna Kumar. Jvalanti’s sister, Pragati Prasad, herself an excellent dancer, served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Venugopal Joysula, Assistant Director of the Anjali Center, did a wonderful job with stage lighting.

As Christopher Bennett rightly said – “Jvalanti’s dedication and hard work are an inspiration to all and her commitment to the arts is a foundation for her future success”. The future definitely looks bright for this shining star.