Karishma Reddy shows her love for culture

Senior Karishma Reddy dressed in authentic Indian fashion

Senior Karishma Reddy dressed in authentic Indian fashion

Danielle Levya

Senior Karishma Reddy dressed in authentic Indian fashion

Many people only see Karishma Reddy as a quiet, diligent Walpole High honors student who plays tennis in the spring, but these people are unaware of her true talent. Over the last 11 years, she has been practicing the art of Bharatnatyam and Arangetram–two traditional Indian dances. On July 17, 2011 Reddy performed in Nine Pathways to Devotion for a charity event.

There are several popular stories of how destination has been reached by using one of the Nine Paths. These Nine Paths to devotion, known as Navavidha Bhakti, make up this unique production that depicts nine selected stories ranging in time from the ancient world to the modern. The production consists of dance forms of Bharatnatyam–one of the most ancient dance styles in the world.  Bharatnatyam musical content is given by music of the Tanjore courts of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the technique relies on three pillars: Nritta, a pure dance; Nirthya, an interpretational dance; and Natya, an expressional dance.  A deeply spiritual dancing style, Bharatnatyam is also an extremely precise and dynamic dance style that involves intricate footwork, hand gestures, and facial expression with themes depicting stories from epics and mythology.

Anklets, known as Salangai, are the most important part of the costume and are tradionally worn by dancers while performing Bharatnatyam. Any form of Bharatnatyam is not possible without the Salangai, which makes the rhythmic footwork of Bharatnatyam more audible. Salangai are only worn for specific types of classical Indian dance. Costumes made of brightly colored silk, bordered with gold thread work are typically worn by a Bharatnatyam. Every limb of a dancer is covered with traditional jewelry made of semi-precious stones in a gold leaf. The dancer’s hair is made into a long single braid ornamented with flowers.

As a senior at Walpole High School  this year, Karishma Reddy is currently preparing for a separate four hour dance performance, on July 14, 2012 called Arangetram. Arangetram is the debut performance of a student and literally means, ascending the stage. The performance usually takes place on an auspicious day in the presence of critics, artists and others. Dedicated to the cosmic dancer Lord Nataraja, the Guru, and the audience, Arangetram is the only dance that acquires a sizeable repertoire of dance items.

Reddy has been taking dance lessons for 11 years now. Inspired by professional dancers at an extremely young age, she started dancing at the age of 6. “As a first grader, my dream was to be like them some day,” Reddy said. However, she did not realize until she tried the dance how hard it was to coordinate foot work and graceful hand gestures contiguously. Before she chose Bharatnatyam, Reddy tried other types of dance including ballet, tap and modern, but none of them contained the same meaning as the dance that connected her every day life to her culture and heritage of India. “Bharatnatyam felt the closest to my heart. I instantly fell in love with the art,” she said.

Though Walpole High School is known to have a very sports-oriented student body, lately more and more students, such as Karishma Reddy, are beginning to break out of that stereotype to embrace diversity and culture.