(Last Updated on : 28/03/2012)
Kuchipudi, originally called Kuchelapuri or Kuchelapuram, a hamlet in Krishna district is the classical dance form from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh
, where it grew largely as a product of Bhakti (devotion) movement beginning in the seventh century A.D. It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, a small village about 65 kms from Vijayawada. It is known for its graceful movements and its strong narrative or dramatic character. The tradition of Kuchipudi dance was passed down through generations of Brahmin families in Kuchipudi village and interacted with the temple dance traditions as well as the other drama traditions of South India. Both geographically and stylistically, Kuchipudi dance can be best understood as located between the classical dance styles of Odissi
Origin of Kuchipudi
It was under Sidhendra Yogi at the village Kuchelapuram in Divi seema, at the confluence of the river Krishna and the Bay of Bengal
that the actual training of the actors was developed to make them into Bhagavatulu, performers of the Bhagavata Mela Natakams. It was here that Sidhendra Yogi first developed a unique and particular style based on the Natyashastra
and Nandikeshwars Bharatarnava. Here, he had selected some boys from the village to perform dance dramas based upon religious themes. These religious plays were presented as offerings to God in the tradition of the Natyashastra. These dramas were devotional enactments of the life of Krishna, performed only by men who took the roles of both male and female characters.
In those days Kuchipudi was performed once in a year and the dance form was cautiously kept out of the reach of Devadasis
. From the fist performers the technique and skills of this form got handed over the generations to acquire the present form. Some of the legendary performers and gurus were Kuchipudi Brahmins like Lakshmi Narayan Shastri and Chinta Krishna Murti who excelled in roles like Satyabhama in Bhamakalapam; later gurus include Vedantam Chinna Satyam. The tradition has remains so unbroken that even today in some of the coastal areas of Andhra, Kuchipudi is still performed by all-male troupes.
However, in modern times, women have dominated the art. Modern Kuchipudi acquired its present form in the 20th century. A number of people were responsible for moving it from the villages to the performance stage. Prior to this time, even as early as the 8th century, prototypes of the Kuchipudi dance drama centering on the life of Siva and other Hindu gods had been performed and was known as nattuva mela. Originally it was meant to be a ritualistic performance full of religious passion and devotion. Men and boys who undergo rigorous training presented the dance in the open air on an improvised stage. The play began by paying respect to Lord Ganesha
In the past 30 years, the dance has undergone a revival as both a solo and dance drama tradition and is now performed on the modern stage around the world by both man and women. The present day Kuchipudi dance style has its source in the nattuva melamu and natyamelamu. The latter consists of a group of actors (males) performing Kuchipudi dance drama, whereas Nattuvamelam is a tradition of dance performed by woman artistes. This tradition had two sections, those that performed at the royal courts and those who performed in the temples.
Style And Technique of Kuchipudi
The Kuchipudi is a dance-drama of Nritta, Nritya and Natya. The Nritta consists of teermanams and jatis, the Nritya of Sabdams, and the Natya of acting with mudras for the songs. Nritta encompasses steps and movements in the form of patterns of dance which, though decorated in them, have no meaning to convey. While fast becoming a solo presentation, Kuchipudi still has strong ties to the dance-drama tradition. It combines the elements of speech, mime and pure dance.
Music in Kuchipudi
The musical instruments used to accompany Kuchipudi dance are Mridangam
, Venu and Tanpura. The music used in Kuchipudi is classical Carnatic and the violin, mridangam and clarinet are the common instruments used as an accompaniment. The Kuchipudi performance is accompanied by a traditional, live orchestra comprising singing, bansuri
(flute), veena and percussions. A vocalist sings the lyrics, and the nattuvanar conducts the orchestra and recites the rhythmic patterns. The songs in Kuchipudi are mimed with alluring expressions, swift looks and fleeting emotions.
Costumes & Jewellery of the Kuchipudi Dancers
Kuchipudi has now gained immense popularity because of its lilting music and graceful and flowing movements and vibrant stage presentation. Beautiful costumes, enchanting music and vivacious dance technique make this style a delight to watch. The Kuchipudi costumes look similar to Bharatnatyam costumes. 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. Ornaments worn by the artists are generally made of a lightweight wood called Boorugu.
Performance of Kuchipudi
Kuchipudi, a representation of a fine combination of Natya, Nritta and Nritya was earlier never a solo affair and required a number of actors. Men and boys who were given a vigorous training in abhinaya
, music, dancing and singing presented it in the open air on an improvised stage. Earlier boys and young men of comely appearance played the female roles. The Sutradhar
or the director of the stage played the key role. He was the conductor, dancer, singer, musician, comedian, all rolled into one.
Sidhendra Yogi championed the cause of redefining this dance form aiming at eliminating exploitation of women. Kuchipudi was enriched by the advent of the female dancers. Renowned gurus like Vedantam Lakshminarayana, Chinta Krishnamurthy and Tadepalli Perayya broadened the horizons of the dance form. The reforms brought in have led to the women playing the male parts in this dance form. Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Kalpalathika , Yamini Krishnamurthy and Swapnasundari.