Kuchipudi is Andhra's outstanding
contribution towards the enrichment of the culture of India. Divine in
form, it is famous for its grace, elegance and charm and this dance form
derives its name from the village of its origin, Kuchipudi in Krishna
District, where great artistes built up, nurtured, protected and refined
this dance form into the great technique that it has grown into today.
Stories About The Origin Of Kuchipudi
According to one story - 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 capsized and he was on the verge of being drowned. He pleaded with God to save him and promised to dedicate his life to the service of God. Miraculously he was saved, and on that day, he was reborn as Siddhendra Yogi, a great Telugu poet of the 17th century who composed the dance-drama "Bhama Kalapam" in praise of Lord 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. Siddhendra Yogi also authored the "Parijathapaharanam", possibly the first Kuchipudi dance drama. 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.
Some people believe that this dance drama tradition came to be nurtured in the Kuchipudi village is a story of the religious tolerance that existed in India even in the 13th century. It so happened that a group of dancers performed in the court of a Nawab in Andhra Pradesh. Their rendition of the dance drama was so impressive that he 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. Different themes taken from Indian mythology form the content of these dance dramas.
There are several interesting incidents in the history of Kuchipudi. Once a group of Kuchipudi artistes depicted the atrocities inflicted by a cruel ruler in the neighbouring king's court. So effective was their rendition that the king put an immediate end to the tyrannical ruler.
Kuchipudi is a perfect balance between "Nritta", "Nritya" and "Natya". The Nritta is a rhythmic sequence that concludes a song; the Nritya or "Sabdams" in which the rhythmic passages are followed by interpretations and Natya is a complete dance drama with storyline and characters.
The technique of Kuchipudi makes use of 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. In this blend of performance techniques, Kuchipudi is unique among the Indian classical dance styles.
Another unique feature of Kuchipudi is the "Tarangam", in which the performer dances on the edge of a brass plate, executing complicated rhythmic patterns with dexterity, while sometimes also balancing a pot of water on the head. The dancer moves on the stage manipulating the brass plate, with the feet kept on its rim, simultaneously performing hand movements without spilling a drop of water on the ground.
The genesis of Kuchipudi art, as of most Indian classical dances, is associated with religion. For a long time, the art was presented only at temples and that too only for annual festivals of certain temples in Andhra. It is a dance that is also a drama for the performers to act and speak as well. Originally, these dance dramas were performed only by men who belonged to the Brahmin community. These Brahmin families were known popularly as "Bhagavathulu" of Kuchipudi.
Conceived of as a dance drama, Kuchipudi was not meant to be a solo dance. It was presented in the open air on a stage by men and boys who received vigorous training in 'Abhinaya' or acting, music, dancing and singing.
The presentation begins with some stage rites, which are performed in full view of the audience. Then the "Sootradhar" or the narrator and the supporting musicians appear on-stage and give a percussion performance 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 brief 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 'Darus' or dance sequences in the dance drama.
Music In Kuchipudi
The music in Kuchipudi is classical Carnatic. 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.
A New Solo Dance Style
Kuchipudi has recently evolved into a solo dance style. In this form, the prohibition against women dancers has disappeared. At its core, however, Kuchipudi retains its dramatic origins. Solo dances are characterized by rich expressions, fast rhythms, swinging knee movements and circular movement of the arms, all creating a mood of abandon and excitement.