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Kuchipudi - An Indian Classical Dance Form

      India stands high when it comes to its Culture and Heritage. Kuchipudi style holds a unique place in the world of dance and is born in KUCHIPUDI, a remote village in Andhra Pradesh(India) from where it derives its name. Before the evolution of Kuchipudi as a dance form, there were styles of dance known as Yakshagana(Nattuva Mela) and Bhagavata Mela(Natya Mela). The Yakshagana form involved solo performances by women and Nattuvangam was generally done by men. Also, this style consisted of both erotic and devotional themes(Sringara and Bhakti) and was performed by temple dancers and court dancers. The second style of dance, the Baghavata Mela was performed by both men and women and consisted of Dance dramas with mostly religious themes. This later form of dance is believed to be the forerunner of the present day Kuchipudi dance.

 

      In the early days, Kuchipudi dance was in the form of dance dramas. The main purpose of the themes depicted was to inculcate divine ecstacy that invokes immortal bliss and brings one close to the path of salvation. In due course, Kuchipudi dancers were being subject to feudalistic abuse and this situation sought a need for revolution. It is at this time that Siddhendra Yogi, an exceptionally gifted scholar and artist who lived in the 14'th century period, gave kuchipudi dance a new definition and direction. He did away with rustic footsteps and tunes, introducing refined and stylized footwork along with traditional classical music.He authored the famous dance drama, Bhama Kalapam, centering on Lord Krishna(The preserver of the universe according to Hindu mythology) and his consort Satyabhama. He wrote the lyrics for this dance drama in highly refined language and set them to Carnatic classical music tunes. Siddhendra Yogi confined Kuchipudi to only male brahmins since he believed that women might exaggerate sentiments which will dispel Kuchipudi from its spiritual tone. Hence, kuchipudi dance became an all male domain and female roles were also played by men.

 

      Around the 1930's a need for revival and renewal of this immortal tradition was felt. Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry, an unparelleled maestro in the field, paved the way for a sea of revolutionary changes. Amidst resent and ridicule, he created a flutter by introducing women to Kuchipudi. Formal training was imparted to women which gave the style the much-needed impetus. Solo items were choreographed, compositions of eminent poets were included, dancing with the feet settled on rims of a brass plate became popular... While other Kuchipudi maestro's like Chinta Krishna Murthy and Tadepalli Perayya contributed a lot to the further development of Kuchipudi, it was Dr.Vempati Chinna Satyam who brought world wide recognition to this unique art form. Dr.Vempati choreographed several solo items and added many more dance dramas, with the assistance of his able disciples like Smt.A.B.Bala Kondala Rao and others, thus leaving Kuchipudi on a very high pedestal in the world of Art. Kuchipudi as a dance form has gone through a complete transition from the times where men played female roles to the point where women even play male roles, sometimes.


Where Words Fail, Dance and Music Speak