Classical Dance of India

KUCHIPUDI
Kuchipudi, the indigenous style of dance of Andhra Pradesh took its birth and effloresced in the village of the same name, originally called Kuchelapuri or Kuchelapuram, a hamlet in Krishna district. From its origin, as far back in the dim recesses of time as the 3rd century BC, it has remained a continuous and living dance tradition of this region. The genesis of Kuchipudi art as of most Indian classical dances is associated with religions. For a long time, the art was presented only at temples and that too only for annual festivals of certain temples in Andhra.

According to tradition, Kuchipudi dance was originally performed only by men and they all belonged to the Brahmin community. These Brahmin families were known popularly as Bhagavathalu of Kuchipudi. The very first group of Brahmain Bhagavathulu of Kuchipudi was formed in 1502 AD. Their programmes were offerings to the deities and they never allowed women in their groups.

In an era of the degeneration of dance due to exploitation of female dancers, an ascetic, Siddhendra Yogi redefined the dance form. Fifteen Brahmin families belonging to Kuchipude have carried on the tradition for more than five centuries. Renowned gurus like Vedantam Lakshminarayana, Chinta Krishna Murthy and Tadepalli Perayya enriched the dance form by bringing women. Dr Vempati Chinna Satyam added several dance dramas and choreographed many solo performances, thus broadening the horizons of the dance form. The transition has been great from a time when men played female parts to the present when women play even the male parts.

Kuchipudi art, to be noted was intended as a dance drama requiring a set of character, never as a mere dance by a soloist which is common in present times. This dance drama are sometimes known as Ata Bhagavatham. The plays are in Telugu and traditionally all roles are taken by men alone.

Kuchipudi plays are enacted in the open air and on improvised stages. The presentation begins with some stage rites which are performed in full view of the audience. Then the Soothradhara or the conductor and the supporting musicians come on the stage and give a play of rhythm on the drums and cymbals. In a Kuchipudi performance, each principal character introduces himself or herself on the stage with a daru. A daru is a small composition of dance and song specially designed for each character to help him or her reveal his or her identity and also to show the performer's skill in the art. There are nearly 80 dharus or dance sequences in the dance drama. Behind a beautiful curtain held by two persons, Satyabhama enters the stage with her back to the audience. In Bhama Kalapam, Satyabhama is Vipralamba Nayaki, ie, the heroine who is deceived by her lover and dejected by his absence.

The most popular Kuchipudi dance is the pot dance in which a dancer keeps a pot filled with water on her head and feet kept on a brass plate. She moves on the stage manipulating the brass plate, with the feet kept on its rim and doing some hand movements without spilling a drop of water on the ground thus astounding the audience.

Apart from Bhama Kalapam, the other famous dance dramas are Gollakalapam by Bhagavatha Ramayya, Prahlada Charitam by Tirumala Narayanacharyalu, Sashirekha Parinaya etc.

The make up and costumes are characteristic of the art. There is nothing elaborate in the costumes and the makeup is not so heavy. The important characters have different make up and the female characters wear ornaments and jewellery such as Rakudi (head ornament), Chandra Vanki (arm ornament), Adda Bhasa and Kasina Sara (neck ornament) and a long plait decorated with flowers and jewellery.

The music in Kuchipudi is classical Karnatic. The mridanga, violin and a clarinet are the common instruments employed as accompaniment.

Today Kuchipudi like Bharatanatyam has undergone many changes. The present day dancers having advanced training in Kuchipudi style, present this art in their own various individual ways. There are presently only two melams, or professional troupes of male performers. The bulk of the dancers are woman. In its present day dispensation, Kuchipudi has come to be reduced from a dance drama to a dance, from an uplifting theatre experience to a routine stage affair.


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