Kuchipudi Indian Classical Dance

Kuchipudi is an Indian classical dance that has its roots in a humble little village of the same name, situated in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India. For centuries, the village of Kuchipudi had a rich cultural halo around it. The whole neighbourhood of the village was filled with a flavour and spirit of art. Patron Kings, talented composers, prosperous ports - everything contributed to the growth of the dance form.

There are many interesting legends regarding the origin of the dance form. The most popular of them is the legend of Sidhendra Yogi. According to the legend, in the 13th century, there was a young man named Siddhappa whose marriage was arranged to a beautiful girl. Unfortunately while crossing the river to attend his wedding his boat was on the verge of being drowned.

promised to dedicate his life to the service of God. Amazingly, he was saved, and on that day, he was "re-born" as Siddhendra Yogi. He wrote a drama in praise of Krishna and gathered dancers to perform the same. These dancers were all male as he felt the inclusion of females might lead to the decadence of the art.

This style, which had its origins in the Bhagavata Mela Natakam or dance drama tradition, has come to be known as the Kuchipudi dance style today. How it came to nurtured by the village of Kuchipudi is again another story. It so happened that a group of Brahmins performed Kuchipudi at the court of the Nawab of Golkunda, Abul Hassan, in 1678. The Nawab, being highly impressed, gifted the village of Kuchipudi to the artists with the promise that they would continue the tradition of performing. From that day onwards all the male scions of the Kuchipudi village have pursued this art.

The hereditary art of Kuchipudi dancing was the special preserve of the Brahmin families, known as Bhagavathalu of Kuchipudi, with occasional interaction with the devotional dance forms of the temples and other Indian Schools of Dancing. As a dance form, Kuchipudi can best be understood as located between Odissi (traditional dance form of Orissa, India) and Bharatnatyam (Classical dance form of Tamil Nadu, India).

Kuchipudi blends the sensuousness and fluidity of Odissi with the geometric line of Bharatnatyam, and evolves in a manner of its own. As in all the classical dance styles of India, the dance is both interpretive and lyrical. Kuchipudi dance retains its devotional character with an emphasis on dramatic expression. The Kuchipudi dance drama tradition is regarded as the closest to the Sanskrit theatrical tradition followed in Bharata's Natya Shastra.

Originating out of the Bhakti Cult, Kuchipudi is unique among the Indian classical dance styles. It uses fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque body movements. Stylised mime, using hand gestures and subtle facial expression, is combined with more realistic acting, occasionally including dialogues spoken by the dancers. Traditionally, Kuchipudi was performed as a dance drama based on scriptures and mythology, and the portrayal of certain characters is a central motif of this dance form. Another unique feature of Kuchipudi is the Tarangam, in which the performer dances on the edges of a brass plate, deftly executing complicated rhythmic patterns, while sometimes also balancing a pot of water on the head. Kuchipudi is accompanied by Carnatic music. A typical orchestra for a Kuchipudi recital includes the mridangam, flute and violin. A vocalist sings the lyrics, and the nattuvanar conducts the orchestra and recites the rhythmic patterns.

Kuchipudi is a combination of Nritya, Netya and Natya i.e. it fuses dance, gestures, speech and song. Therefore, a Kuchipudi dancer has to to be well versed in dancing, acting, music, various languages and texts. The dancers adorn themselves with the traditional temple jewellery which includes head, ear, neck, hands, fingers, waist ornaments. They wear a stitched costume that has five pieces including the angrakha, blouse and pyjama.

Kuchipudi has gained International acclamation and has evolved in style and presentation. The present day Kuchipudi dance style has its source in the 'nattuva melamu' and 'natyamelamu'. 'Natyamelamu' consists of a group of actors (males) performing Kuchipudi dance drama. 'Nattuvamelam' is a tradition of dance performed by woman artists. This tradition had two sections, those who performed at the royal courts and those who performed in the temples. Beautiful costumes, enchanting music and vivacious dance technique make this style a delight to watch. The well-known artists who pioneered its popularity are Yamini Krishnamurthy, Swapnasundari and the couple, Radha and Raja Reddy. The great gurus in this style are Guru C.R. Acharyulu, Guru Vempeti Chinna Satyam and Guru Korada Narasimha Rao.

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