Alisha and Isha Shah have been preparing for this moment for over half of their lives.
After years of rigorous training, beginning at age 7, the 15-year-old twins’ hard work will reach a crescendo Saturday, July 30, when they perform India’s 2,000-year-old classical dance Bharatanatyam in a ceremony called Arangetram.
The Eden Prairie High School sophomores are ready for their public performance debut.
To make the occasion even more memorable, they will perform in the presence of their guru, Smt. Padmaja Dharnipragada, who owns Nrityalaya Dance Academy in the Twin Cities. She has been teaching the art for 25 years.
A Bharatanatyam Arangetram performance lasts up to three hours. Each dance lasts 5 to 25 minutes and includes multiple costume changes. The performance will be accompanied by live music, which includes a vocalist and traditional Indian instruments such as the violin, flute and mridangam — an ancient percussion instrument.
The rhythmic footsteps, facial expressions and hand gestures of Bharatanatyam represent spiritual awakening and longing for enlightenment. This dance form encompasses hundreds of different steps and movements – some of them as slight and subtle as the shifting of the eyes.
Their parents were pleasantly surprised when they asked to sign up for formal training in the ancient art form.
“We were very interested in this art after we watched a live performance,” Alisha said.
“Our dad has always taught us that cultural preservation will give the next generation an understanding of how others view and build relationships,” Isha said.
The eight-year journey was not easy. “We sacrificed much of our prime childhood, vacations, parties and more for this day,” Alisha said.
“We took Alisha and Isha for their weekly practice classes, waited for a couple hours and then took them to other activities such as soccer, piano, robotics, and flute,” said Divya Shah, an IT leader and mother of the twins.
The parents intentionally kept their schedule busy so they could learn time management. Shah believes that it kept them away from social media and smartphones.
The energy-packed twins” musical interests go beyond dance. They have developed talents for multiple instruments, such as violin, piano, percussion, and flute. They played piano at the Minnesota Music Teachers Association state level for nine years.
Alisha and Isha Shah will be performing the Bharatanatyam Arangetram at 4 p.m.Saturday, July 30, at Gideon S. Ives Auditorium, Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center.
Editor’s note: Writer Vijay Dixit is a member of the Eden Prairie Local News board of directors.