Dance of India
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
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
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.