Kuchipudi enjoys a unique place among the Indian classical dance idioms. It is ebullient, scintillating and yet has the capacity to be intensely lyrical.
The classical dance of Kuchipudi originated and developed in a village by the same name. The village Kuchipudi is situated in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. Kuchipudi style follows an interesting method of dance-drama. The sporadic items that are now performed as solo items, find their roots in the old items which have evolved to suit present-day needs.
The Kuchipudi Dance Forms
All classical dance forms of India are based on the Natya Sastra and consist of three elements, Nritta (pure dance) where the emphasis is on movements and rhythm; Nritya, when expressions and sentiments take centre stage and Natya refers to acting with mudras to songs, verses, etc. All these three elements find a good blend in Kuchipudi dance form. It also finds an equal blend of Tandava – the majestic style of dance performed by male characters and Lasya – feminine, lyrical and graceful aspect of dance portrayed by women characters.
Features of Kuchipudi
Vaachika Abhinaya – The use of speech and expressing emotional sentiments.
Pravesha Daruvu – Each dancer is introduced with a pravesa daruvu or entrance number. In a pravesa daruvu, the artiste reveals his or her identity. This varies depending on the mood of the characters.
Plate Dance – Here the dancer dances on the rim of a brass plate, weaving creative, rhythmic patterns. The significance of this dance is to break all earthly connections and spiritually connect with god. A similar idea is shared by the Classical Ballet dancers who stand on ‘Pointe’ (their toes).
India’s Legendary Dancing Couple
Dr(s) Raja and Radha Reddy have added a new dimension to the age-old art of Kuchipudi dance. They have given to Kuchipudi the vigour and range of ballet, while retaining its grace and subtlety. It is a measure of the Reddy couple’s true insight into the dance form that they have successfully managed to maintain its traditional poetry and dramatic sensibility, while giving it a modern, full length recital form.
Imperceptibly but surely they have introduced a contemporary feeling, change within the self-imposed limits of a classical form, an elegance of presentation techniques that bears the stamp of their individual genius.
The counterpoint of gazelle-eyed Radha with her sinuous ‘Shringara’ movements is Raja with his stark, chiseled, powerful movements. Together they seem\ to represent Lasya and Tandava, the twin pillars on which the edifice of classical Indian dance rests. Radha’s soft, lyrical charms combine with Raja’s vigour and masculine movements to portray a sense of identity with classical characters from Hindu mythology, like Shiva and Parvati, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha, a revelation, as it were, of the twin concepts of Prakriti and Purusha, the male female principle that forms the core of Indian philosophy.
Trained by eminent Kuchipudi teachers like Sri Vedantam Prahlada Sarma and Sri PVG Krishna Sarma, Raja and Radha continue propagating the art by teaching Kuchipudi in a more systematised manner to young and promising pupils at their institution ‘Natya Tarangini’ in New Delhi.
Article & Photographs’ courtesy: Padma bhushan Dr(s) Raja & Radha Reddy