“I am absolutely overwhelmed. But I’m going to keep teaching."
Asha Gopal, a teacher of Bharatanatyam the Indian classical dance, made an entry into the Guinness Book of Records on Saturday 13th August 2016.
The 68 year old teacher has helped 200 students graduate in this ancient dance form.
At a special performance ceremony held at the Chandler Center for Arts in Arizona, USA, called an arangetram, the 200th student of Gopal made a stage debut.
Divya Mohanraj who is only 15 years old performed her dance and helped Asha Gopal achieve this very special and unique record.
Nine dances were performed by The young dancer to graduate.
One endurance testing dance called the Varnam takes thirty minutes to perform. Live classical Indian music with traditional indian instruments is played to accompany the dancer.
Asha Gopal has been teaching for 35 years and is the only teacher to have graduated about six dancers a year in Bharatanatyam.
A special framed declaration of her entry in the Guinness Book of World Records was presented to Asha Gopal who sat centre stage. Upon receipt she received a rapturous standing ovation.
Speaking at the event Gopal was clear that she is not going to stop helping dancers graduate and said:
“I am absolutely overwhelmed. But I’m going to keep teaching.
“We’re preparing for our 35th anniversary celebration for the school now.”
Bharatanatyam originated over 5000 years ago and joins up several art forms including music, drama, poetry, literature, sculpture, painting and theatre.
Footwork precision to intricate mathematical rhythms, statue-like poses, sophisticated eye movements and synchronised use head and hands all make up the performance of Bharatanatyam.
Training in Bharatanatyam is not a short feat. It can take nearly ten years to get fully trained. Most students will start with their first lesson at the very young age of 5 or 6.
Once a dancer graduates at an arangetram, it indicates that the dancer is qualified to teach a student and share her knowledge of the dance.
Shreya Varra, who is an Arathi School graduate says:
“Really, the graduation ceremony is considered the beginning of your career.”
“Once you’ve graduated, you can participate in lead roles in Asha’s productions.”
Asha Gopal who resides in the USA, is the director of the Arathi School of Dance. Classes are held by the school in Chandler, Tucson, Gilbert, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Gopal has won numerous awards in India, USA and other countries for her services as a Bharatanatyam teacher.
New dancers joining the school who are little girls, start their induction by placing wreaths around Asha Gopal’s neck as a symbolism of respect and inauguration of their training.
With no intentions to stop teaching, Gopal will be carrying on the heritage of Bharatanatyam by helping more dancers graduate in the future.