Kuchipudi is one of eight Indian classical dance forms. It is named after a village in
the state of Andhra Pradesh, called “Kuchipudi”, where it originated.
Evidence of a dance tradition in this region can be traced back to the 2nd
century B.C. Archeological evidence, discovery of scholarly work, and the
existence of temple dancers further confirmed the practice of a flourishing
dance tradition, which is said to have reached an aesthetic maturity around
13th century AD.
The art form originally began as an all male dance tradition, and was well known
for its female impersonation by male dancers and full-length dance dramas until
the mid 20th century. Today, more women than men perform Kuchipudi. The
introduction of the form to women, and the development of the solo repertoire,
can be attributed to two major figures – Guru Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry
and Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam.A living legend, Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam, with
his passion for and life long commitment to Kuchipudi, has undoubtedly ensured
the recognition of Kuchipudi as a prominent Indian classical
Kuchipudi is based on the Natya Shastra, a detailed codified
text on dance, music and theater. The hand, face and body gestures and
movements identified in this dramaturgical text are used by the dancer to
bring alive any poem, song or text. The content of most Kuchipudi dances
are based on Hindu mythology, religion and spirituality.
Kuchipudi is typified by fluidity and grace with vigorous, brisk and rhythmic
movements, thus its style exhibits control with abandon, and strength with
delicacy. The dance is formed by a combination of narrative and the abstract.
The narrative is conveyed through hand gestures and facial expressions
while abstract dance is based on rhythmical footwork.
Today, a Kuchipudi performance is primarily performed on a proscenium stage,
and is traditionally accompanied by a live orchestra, consisting of a singer,
a percussionist on mridangam, a violinist and a flautist. The Nattuvanar or the
person wielding the cymbals controls the orchestra and sets the pace of the
entire performance. Together, they play swarams (notes) and ragams (melodies)
from Carnatic music to which the dancer will perform.