This classical dance is originated from Andhra Pradesh in India. The name 'Kuchipudi' is acquired from the name of a small village of Kuchelapuram near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. In seventh century, Kuchipudi evolved with the outcropping of Bhakti movement. The credit of existing dance form of Kuchipudi goes to Sidhendra Yogi. It is known for its graceful movements and its strong narrative or dramatic character. The tradition of Kuchipudi dance was passed down through generations of Brahmin families in Kuchipudi village and interacted with the temple dance traditions as well as the other drama traditions of South India. Both geographically and stylistically, Kuchipudi dance can be best understood as located between the classical styles of Odissi dance, the classical style of Orissa, and Bharatanatyam, the dance of Tamil Nadu.
It was under Sidhendra Yogi at the village Kuchelapuram in Divi seema, at the confluence of the river Krishna and the Bay of Bengal that the actual training of the actors was developed to make them into performers of the Bhagavata Mela Natakams. It was here that Sidhendra Yogi first developed a unique and particular style based on the Natya Shastra and Nandikeshwars Bharatarnava. Here, he had selected some boys from the village to perform dance dramas based upon religious themes. These religious plays were presented as offerings to God in the tradition of the Natyashastra. These dramas were devotional enactments of the life of Krishna, performed only by men who took the roles of both male and female characters.
In those days Kuchipudi was performed once in a year and the dance form was cautiously kept out of the reach of Devadasis. From the fist performers the technique and skills of this form got handed over the generations to acquire the present form. Some of the legendary performers and gurus were Kuchipudi Brahmins like Lakshmi Narayan Shastri and Chinta Krishna Murti who excelled in roles like Satyabhama in Bhamakalapam; later gurus include Vedantam Chinna Satyam. The tradition has remains so unbroken that even today in some of the coastal areas of Andhra, Kuchipudi is still performed by all-male troupes.
In the past 30 years, the dance has undergone a revival as both a solo and dance drama tradition and is now performed on the modern stage around the world by both man and women. The present day Kuchipudi dance style has its source in the nattuva melamu and natyamelamu. The latter consists of a group of actors (males) performing Kuchipudi dance drama, whereas Nattuvamelam is a tradition of dance performed by woman artistes using Nattuvankam. This tradition had two sections, those that performed at the royal courts and those who performed in the temples.
TECHNIQUE OF KUCHIPUDI
The Kuchipudi is a dance-drama of Nritta, Nritya and Natya. The Nritta consists of theermanams and jatis, the Nritya of Sabdams, and the Natya of acting with mudras for the songs. Nritta encompasses steps and movements in the form of patterns of dance which, though decorated in them, have no meaning to convey. While fast becoming a solo presentation, Kuchipudi still has strong ties to the dance-drama tradition. It combines the elements of speech, mime and pure dance.
The musical instruments used to accompany Kuchipudi dance are Mridangam, Manjira (Thalam), Veena, Violin, Kanjira, Surpeti, Venu and Tanpura. The music used in Kuchipudi is classical Carnatic and the violin, mridangam and clarinet are the common instruments used as an accompaniment. The Kuchipudi performance is accompanied by a traditional, live orchestra comprising singing, flute, veena and percussions. A vocalist sings the lyrics, and the nattuvanar conducts the orchestra and recites the rhythmic patterns. The songs in Kuchipudi are mimed with alluring expressions, swift looks and fleeting emotions.
Costumes & Jewelry for the Kuchipudi Dancers
Kuchipudi dance has now gained immense popularity because of its lilting music and graceful and flowing movements and vibrant stage presentation. Beautiful dance costumes, enchanting music and vivacious dance technique make this style a delight to watch. The Kuchipudi costumes look similar to Bharathanatyam costumes. 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 jewelry such as Rakodi (head ornament), Chandra Vanki (arm ornament), Adda Bhasa and Kasina Sara (neck ornament) and a long plait decorated with flowers and dance jewelry. Ornaments worn by the artists are generally made of a lightweight wood called Boorugu.
PERFORMANCE OF KUCHIPUDI DANCERS
Men and boys who were given a vigorous training in abhinaya, music, dancing and singing presented it in the open air on an improvised stage. Earlier boys and young men of commonly appearance played the female roles. The Sootradhar or the director of the stage played the key role. He was the conductor, dancer, singer, musician, comedian, all rolled into one.