Dancing is a Long Journey without any Destination

Summer vacations of young school children open up a whole new arena of hobbies for them to indulge in. These kids enroll themselves in various classes like dancing, singing, arts and craft, and sports. Although dancing is one of the primary activities, not many children these days opt for classical dance styles. Most of them prefer Freestyle or Bollywood. While no dance form is less than another, a few of them are losing their place in society. Lost in today’s times is one such dance form, Kuchipudi.

Kuchipudi, one of the eight classical dance styles of India, is a dance-drama performance art that originated in Andhra Pradesh in the Kuchelapuram village of Krishna, about 65km from Vijayawada. It is the only classical dance form that gains its name from a geographic location where it grew largely as a product of the Bhakti Movement in the early seventeenth century A.D.

danceThe history of Kuchipudi can further be traced back to the 1st century B.C. but the more popular stories are from 1502 A.D. According to some local legends, an orphan boy adopted the name Sidhendra Yogi acquiring higher studies, and one day when he asked God to help him cross a river, he vowed to devote his life to religious affairs. He then began to teach Brahmin boys devotional dance which was called Natya Shastra (which translated to offerings to God). In those days Kuchipudi was performed once in a year but was cautiously kept out of the reach of Devadasis. Even today in some coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh Kuchipudi is not accessible by all; it is still performed by all-male troupes.

Kuchipudi today is known for its quick footwork, expressive eye movement, dramatic characterization, and spirited narrative. It is a representation of a fine combination of Nritta, Nritya, and Natya. The performer has to be skilled in speech, dance, and mime.

Earlier Kuchipudi was never a solo affair. Men and boys underwent rigorous training in abhinaya, music, and dancing. The sutradhar (director) played the key role and men played the roles of both the genders. Now it is fast becoming a solo affair enriched by the advent of female dancers.

dance 2With its lilting music and flowing music, Kuchipudi performances are a delight to watch. The beautiful costumes and light makeup of the artists contribute to their vibrant stage presence. While a male wears a dhoti, a female is adorned with a sari that is stitched with a pleated cloth that opens like a hand fan when the dancer stretches or bends her legs while portraying spectacular footwork. Traditional jewelry like a metallic waist belt is used along with ghungroos for producing rhythmic sounds. The eye expressions are given extra importance by outlining them with black kajal.

Indrani Bajpai and Yamini Krishnamurti kept Kuchipudi alive through public performances garnering not only new students but also making it known on the national and international stature. Names like Haleem Khan, Yamini Reddy, Atisha Pratap Singh, and Kalpalathika are trying to keep up with the tradition with their contributions.

Image COurtesy: GOOGLE