Dance debuts big as weddings

Parents spend up to Rs 10 lakh on an evening to launch their children on the Bharatanatyam stage

Vrisha Giridhar’s rangapravesha at MLR Convention Centre.

What used to be a simple, auspicious occasion to mark a young dancer’s solo debut on stage has transformed into a competitive display of wealth and influence now. Rangapraveshas, also known as arangetrams, are expensive affairs now, with costs for one running up to Rs 10 lakh and more. 

There is no compulsion and parents can do it for less, but they like making it a big day.

As one of them said, “It is almost like a wedding. You can choose between an austere temple wedding or an extravagant destination one.”

Leena Giridhar, whose daughter Vrisha Giridhar made her rangapravesha last month at MLR Convention Centre, spent close to Rs 10 lakh on the big day.

“The average cost ranges between Rs 6 and 10 lakh,” she says, adding that most people nowadays have an attitude of ‘if we are doing it, let’s do it well’.

Parents want guests to remember how it went; they want people to talk about it for some time, she says.

Invites

As an interior designer, Leena was particular about being creative, and wanted invites that were unlike anything people had seen before. The end result was a multiple-page pull-out. 

“An invite can cost between Rs 18 and Rs 80; it depends on the material of the card, pages, quality of printing and so on. Cards with colourful backgrounds cost less but since black brings out the beauty of the dancer’s picture, I went for it, even though it is more expensive,” explains Leena.

 The higher the number of cards, the lower the cost per piece. “So if 500 cards cost only slightly more than 350 cards, you might as well opt for 500,” she says. 

Halls

Halls come in all price ranges and vary from private to government to colleges auditoriums.

Leena approached NMKRV College for Women (their hall was being renovated), Dayanand Sagar (the 1,000-seater hall was too big) and JSS Auditorium (the green room was being renovated). Finally she settled on MLR Convention Centre.

“For the background, we struck a balance between cost, beauty and convenience. We wanted something that could be dismantled in a few hours,” she says. 

Several mothers Metrolife spoke to said that preparations for a rangapravesha start a year ahead. The halls are the first to be finalised so many are booked a full year before the rangapravesha. 

Practice of gifting

A slightly delicate topic, but most mothers are emphatic it is a personal choice, and agree teachers must be honoured at a rangapravesha.

One said it depends on the relationship with your teacher. However, another person was more open, and said expectations are set by conventions in the dance community.

“There is a practice of gifting silk to the guru; it is not actually a ritual, you do it from your heart. However, I have heard there are teachers who are particular about what they want — they demand silk saris, gold coins and gold jewellery plus the fees,” the mother, who did not want to be named, says.

Teachers have specific fees to prepare their wards for a rangapravesha. “It starts from Rs 1 lakh and goes on to Rs 3.5 lakh,” she says. Many people also give gifts to the audience that comes to the show, taking up the expense even higher.

Big affair

A dancer traditionally performs seven or eight pieces at a solo debut, and the length of the show depends on capability and endurance. Close friends, family, neighbours, people from the dance school as well as from the regular school are among those invited.

There is also a practice of inviting chief guests — eminent dancers but also actors and IPS officers.  A mother we spoke to said the teacher typically informs them when the child is ready for a rangapravesha.

“Though the pieces to be performed don’t change, teachers ask parents whether they have any special preferences when it comes to choreography within these parameters,” says a mother who wished to remain anonymous. About 350-400 is the standard guest list size.

What all do they spend on?

 A mother helped us with a specific breakdown of costs:

There can be two or three costume changes. Costumes can cost as much as Rs 30,000 with stitching charges being extra, typically in the range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. An extra sari can cost anywhere between Rs 6,000 and 18,000.

The package for accompanying musicians ranges between Rs 80,000 and Rs 1 lakh. Catering for about 350 costs Rs 60,000-70,000 on an average.

People also spend on comperes, a photoshoot, make up (for the big day and for the photoshoot), lighting and sound, photography and video, and live streaming (so friends and family from across the globe can watch the programme).

Simpler in an earlier era

Dancer teacher N Ganesh, a disciple of Radha Sridhar, says most parents host lavish rangapraveshas as a matter of prestige.

“It is not a question of how much money you have, it is the prestige,” he says. He recalls the Karnataka government used to sponsor rangapraveshas for if five dancers were debuting together.

“The current trend of having grand stage decorations, big venues, and lavish dinners. makes it all seem like a wedding,” he says. He remembers the day things used to be less large scale. “It was the student and the guru, family and a few close friends. They used to honour the guru,” he says.

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