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Ahwatukee woman earns spot in Guinness records book for teaching dance

Ahwatukee is home to the newest person to get their name in the Guinness World Book of Records.

On Aug. 13, Asha Gopal, founder and director of Arathi School of Dance made the world-renown record book with her 200th student graduation in a special type of Indian classical dance.

This graduation, called arangetrem, follows years of training that’s similar to how a karate devotee earns a black belt. The word “arangetram” is Tamil for ascending the stage by a dancer on the completion of formal training.

It requires the understanding of classical music and many aspects of dancing so the graduate dancer can now pass on the art form to other aspiring learners of the art.

The 200th student, Divya Mohanraj, 15, started dancing when she was 5 and her training lasted a bit longer than the average seven to nine years it usually involves. She attends BASIS in Chandler.

Gopal, an Ahwatukee resident for 20 years, also was recognized for her milestone by a Guinness World Records representative when Divya performed at the Chandler Center for the Arts. The two-and-a-half-hour dance itself requires four costume changes.

Gopal, who began teaching in 1981 and now teaches at studios in north Phoenix, Gilbert, Chandler, Sedona, Las Vegas and Tucson, says students who reach Divya’s status spend most of their training in group sessions. “When a student is ready for graduation, I’ll give private lessons a year before,” she said.

To complete that training, Gopal said, a student needs “fitness, determination, and concentration” and must practice six to eight hours a week to get good enough to graduate.

She said students initially come to her because their parents “think the kids should learn the art and culture of India through dance, since dance teaches them the stories of our epics—the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

“Later on the students get interested in learning this art form,” she added.

Although girls comprise the bulk of her classes, some boys become students as well.

“My oldest student that I’m currently teaching is in her 20s,” Gopal said. “Some of my older, graduate students have started teaching in different parts of the U.S. Also, I have a few who teach in my school here.”

A dancer herself for 45 years, Gopal said she learned the art form because of “my passion for dance.”

“When I came to the U.S., I wanted to continue to dance and teach,” she said. “Also, I’m gratified seeing that many of the students bonding with our art and culture in a foreign land. And, very importantly, they have acquired the fortitude to pass it on to the next generation.”

Know Ahwatukee people doing noteworthy things? Send your information to pmaryniak@ahwatukee.com or call Paul Maryniak at 480-898-5647.

Wednesday 08/24/2016
Ahwatukee woman earns spot in Guinness records book for teaching dance
Posted: August 24, 2016

Ahwatukee is home to the newest person to get their name in the Guinness World Book of Records.

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Friday 08/19/2016
Ahwatukee residents urged to block Zika mosquitoes
Updated: August 19, 2016 - 4:33 pm

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Wednesday 08/17/2016
Village Planning Committee to air plans for freeway, Chandler Boulevard extension
Updated: August 18, 2016 - 9:37 am

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Updated: August 18, 2016 - 9:36 am


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Updated: August 22, 2016 - 12:52 pm

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Sunday 08/14/2016
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Posted: August 14, 2016

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Friday 08/12/2016
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Posted: August 12, 2016

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Wednesday 08/10/2016
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Friday 04/22/2016
Lend a helping hand during National Volunteer Month
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