- Blending of Dance with Drama
Kuchipudi is the classical dance-drama form from the South-East Indian state
of Andhra Pradesh. The origin of this dance form, which gets its name from
the village of Kuchelapuram, a hamlet in Krishna district, dates as far back
as the 2nd century B.C. In the 17th century this village was presented by a
local ruler Tana Shah to the Brahmins who performed the dance.
According to tradition, kuchipudi dance was performed only by men and they
all belonged to the Brahmin community. These Brahmin families were known
popularly as Bhagavathalu of Kuchipudi. For a long time, the art was
presented only at temples and the dramas were devotional enactments of the
life of Krishna.
Kuchipudi dance was nurtured by great scholars and artists who refined the
dance technique and gave it the present form in the 20th century. Some
notable names are Guru Lakshminarayan Shastry, Vempati Chinna Satyam, C.R.
Acharyalu, and Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna. 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 men and women.
Kuchipudi dance is a perfect balance between nritta (pure dance), nritya
(dance with a theme full of emotions) and natya (drama). It uses fast
rhythmic footwork and graceful body movements along with hand gestures and
subtle facial expression, which truly portrays the characters of the story.
The themes are mostly derived form the scriptures and mythology. One example
is Satyabhama, the proud and self-assured queen of Lord Krishna, from the
dance-drama Bhama Kalapam. The other famous dance dramas are
Bhagavatha Ramayya, Prahlada Charitam by Tirumala Narayanacharyalu,
Sashirekha Parinaya etc.
One of the unique features of kuchipudi is the tarangam, in which the
performer balances herself on the rim of a brass plate and executes
complicated rhythmic steps to the beat of a drum, also sometimes balancing a
pot of water on the head. Besides the traditional items like sabdams and
tarangams, there are few more compositions like Purandardasa
bhajans, and tillanas are added presently. The music in kuchipudi is
classical karnatic accompanied by mridangam, flute and violin. The make up
and costumes are not so elaborate like kuchipudi. The important characters
have different make up and the female characters wear ornaments and
jewellery such as Rakudi (on head), Chandra Vanki (on arm),
Adda Bhasa and Kasina Sara (in neck).
Typical kuchipudi plays begin with some stage rites. It is followed by a
Soothradhara (conductor) and the supporting musicians playing a rhythm on
the drums and cymbals. Then each principal character introduces himself or
herself on the stage with a small composition of dance and song specially
designed for each character, known as dharu. There are nearly 80 dharus or
dance sequences in the dance drama. After that the drama begins and each
performer enacts his or her part on the stage.
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