‘Salangai Poojai’ is basically a ceremony where the guru or dance teacher ties the ‘Salangai’ (anklet with bells) around her student’s ankles and blesses the student. ‘Salangai Pooja’ (worshipping the anklets) is part of Bharatanatyam tradition and is the first time the student performs on stage. It motivates the student to intensify her commitment to the art form.
Uma Baratha Nrithyam Dance Academy organised Salangai Poojai for 13 of its students at the Town Hall. Guru Uma Thevi Sivabalan said that the students must have undergone about two to three years training and must be competent before being allowed to perform Salangai Poojai.
Uma had six years training under renowned bharatanatyam artiste Padma Bushan Dr Padma Subramaniyam in Chennai, India. For Indian classical dance and music, the credibility of the teachers are judged by their gurus and is known as ‘guru parambarai’ or lineage of teachers. As a student of Dr Padma, Uma commands respect. The academy has conducted 60 Salangai Poojais and currently 80 students are being trained.
In Bharatanatyam ‘Bha’ is Bhavam (expression), ‘Ra’ is Ragam (music), ‘Tha is Thalam (beat or rhythm) and Natyam (dance) in Tamil.
There was a live orchestra comprising of a vocalist accompanied by instrumentalists playing the violin, flute, mirudangam (drum) and the nattuvanar who is considered as the conductor of the entire programme.
When asked why he wanted his daughter to learn Bharatanatyam, F. Vije, father of S.F. Jeannifer said his daughter was given a choice to choose between Indian classical dance and ballet dancing. She herself chose Indian classical dance and has been an exemplary student ever since. Jeannifer who is now ten years old, started dancing at the age of seven.
Most of the Tamil movies of the forties and fifties have Bharatanatyam dances performed by professional dancers. Popular actresses like Padmini and Vaiyjayanthi Mala started their careers as Bharatanatyam dancers. By seeing these dances the students can pick up some useful techniques.