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Andhrapradesh s Light Footed Kuchipudi

Tracing its origin back to the village of Kuchelapuram aka Kuchipudi, the dance of Kuchipudi dates back to the 15th century. The dance derives its principles from the Bharata muni s natya shastra and shares many common features with its southern sister Bharatanatyam. Unlike other dance forms, Kuchipudi was exclusive for male dancers. Women dancers were initiated only in the 1930s by Vedanta Lakshmi Narayana Sastry. Journey from the heart of Kuchelapuram The bhagvatulu or the male dancers were primarily from the Brahmin community of the village of Kuchelapuram. The recital style and components of the dance were refined by Siddhendra Yogi, by eliminating and redefining the components to suit both men and women dancers. It is said that Kuchipudi gained importance only after women started dancing this dance form. The feminine form of rendering seemed to have attracted the royal families, including the Muslim rulers of Deccan who later offered their patronage for the dancers and the dance. The solo form of the dance came pretty late into picture. The dance was interpreted as a dance drama with the dancers taking up specific roles from mythology to reconstruct the story with dance. The group dance dramas were called as Natyamelamu and the solo dances (performed chiefly by women) were called as Nattuvamelamu. The Nattuvamelaum was further divided as women dancing for the royal courts (rajanarthaki) and those dancing for the temples (devadasi). The dance themes were either religious (bhakti) or something more light (shringar), to entertain the audience. The latter form is the present day trend in the modern Kuchipudi dance. Salient features of Kuchipudi There is an element of folk light heartedness in Kuchipudi and is not as rigid as Bharatanatyam, though for untrained eyes both dances may look the same. The same rules of natya shastra pertaining to footwork and hand gestures are followed in Kuchipudi as in Bharatanatyam. The footwork and hand gestures in combination are called as abhinaya and are classified as nritta (movements that convey no emotion), nritya (movements that are supposed to convey meaning and emotion) and natya (the drama component of the dance). A typical Kuchipudi recital begins with divine invocation of blessings of any God of choice. There is no fixed repertoire, but a good dance piece would include dance to display all important aspects of Kuchipudi dance. That is, a good repertoire would include proper number of pieces that are purely nritta that showcase agility and light footed movements in sync with the rhythm and equally balanced pieces of dance highlighting the emotional nritya to set the mood of the dance (bhakti or shringar). The brass plate and pot-balancing dance called tarangam is unique to Kuchipudi and requires the highest degree of mastery. While Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam share many features, there are slight differences in the dresses worn by the dancers. The main difference is that the Kuchipudi dress as a dividing pleat running from the waist to the legs, dividing the back of the body and forming a more pant styled dressed, while the Bharatanatyam dress is more like an elongated skirt with fan like pleats in the front. Learning Kuchipudi Kuchipudi requires complex movements and flexibility of the body. The right age would be from 4 years of age to 10 years. The body needs to be supple to learn this art form. It can take 7 to 8 years to master the dance. Traditionally, a guru-shishya parampara (student-teacher tradition) is followed for learning this classical dance. Ardent pupils who want to pursue a career in Kuchipudi can take up a 3 year B.A followed by a 2 year M.A course to understand the theory in depth, exploring the dance alongside. Kuchipudi as a career Like any other art course, Kuchipudi too is a subject of research. After the BA and MA, one can choose to do PhD, to develop the dance form. The dancer can start his/her own dance school, impart the best education, both theoretically and practically, for ardent learners. Related useful links: Kuchipudi dance classes in India Kuchipudi dance classes in Bangalore Kuchipudi dance classes in Mumbai Kuchipudi dance classes in Delhi Classical dance classes in India Further reading and references

Kuchipudi by Sunil Kothari and Avinash Pasricha Kuchipudi in a nutshell A Compilation of Notes on Kuchipudi


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