*Content originally posted on Urban Asian*
Introducing Kuchipudi, the second style of the Indian Dance Series!
With origins in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Kuchipudi derives its name from a small village called “Kuchelapuram” and dates back to the 5th century when it was practiced by temple dancers. With a strong dramatic element and deep religiosity, Kuchipudi used to be performed exclusively by male dancers, who portrayed both male and female roles in dance dramas. However, it has evolved to currently include female dancers and more emphasis on solo performance. Around the 13th century, Kuchipudi was given structure by Siddhendra Yogi.
Like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi incorporates nritta (pure dance) and abhinaya (emotional expression), with stories from Hindu myths. The main elements of Kuchipudi abhinaya are Natyadharmi, which refers to stylistic, theatre-oriented expression, and Lokadharmi, which draws on realistic experiences from the world. Kuchipudi also has a strong emphasis on grace (laasya) embodied in the pure dance movements as well as the storytelling.
A quintessential component of the Kuchipudi art form is the tarangam, or plate dance. It is a piece in which the dancer demonstrates his or her rhythmic prowess by dancing on the rim of a brass plate. In solo performances, the tarangam is typically the centerpiece and is preceded by a combination of jathis (pure dance sequences) and extensive storytelling.
Padmabhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam is the prominent figure known for establishing the framework for solo Kuchipudi performance. He founded the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai, India, and has composed over 100 pieces and 15 dance dramas. Other famous Kuchipudi dancers include: Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry (Vempati Chinna Satyam’s guru), Raja and Radha Reddy, Shobha Naidu, and Malayalam actress Manju Warrier.