Kuchipudi Classical Dance of India



Kuchipudi, like Kathakali is also a dance-drama tradition and derives its name from the vilage of Kuchipudi in the Southern State of Andra Pradesh. In recent years, it has evolved as a solo dance for the concert platform and is performed by women, though like Kathakali it was formerly the preserve of men. The female roles were enacted by men and even today, the tradition boasts of gifted male dancers enacting female roles with such consummate artistry that hardly anyone would notice them as male dancers.

The movements in Kuchipudi are quicksilver and scintillating, rounded and fleet-footed. Performed to classical Carnatic music, it shares many common elements with Bharatanatyam. In its solo exxposition Kuchipudi nritta numbers include jatiswaram and tillana whereas in nritya it has several lyrical compositions reflecting the desire of a devotee to merge with God - symbolically the union of the soul with the super soul. 

The songs are mimed with alluring expressions, swift looks and fleeting emotions evoking the rasa. A special number in the Kuchipudi repertoire is called tarangam, in which a dancer balances herself on the rim of a brass plate and executes steps to the beat of a drum. At times she places a pot full of water on her head and dances on the brass plate. The song accompanying this number is from the well known Krishna Leela Tarangini, a text which recounts the life and events of Lord Krishna. 

Kuchipudi DanceIn expressional numbers a dancer sometimes chooses to enact the role of Satyabhama, the proud and self-assured queen of Lord Krishna, from the dance-drama Bhama Kalapam. She goes through various stages of love. When in separation from Lord Krishna, she recalls the happy days of union and pines for him. At last they are reunited when she sends him a letter. One more number from the Kuchipudi repertoire that deserves mention is Krishna Shabdam, in which a milkmaid invites Krishna for a rendezvous in myriads of ways giving full scope for the dancer to display the charms of a woman. 

Style 

Yamini Reddy performing at Sangeet Natak Academi DelhiThe movements in Kuchipudi are quicksilver and scintillating, rounded and fleet-footed. Performed to classical Carnatic music, it shares many common elements with Bharatanatyam. In its solo exposition Kuchipudi numbers include 'jatiswaram' and 'tillana' whereas in nritya it has several lyrical compositions reflecting the desire of a devotee to merge with God - symbolically the union of the soul with the super soul. 

Kuchipudi DanceBeyond the stylistic differences of Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam steps, there are certain types of dances that are unique to Kuchipudi. Specifically there is the Tarangam of Kuchipudi which is unique in that the dancer must dance upon a brass plate, placing the feet upon the raised edges. The dancer moves the plate with much balance as the indiviudal is traditionally dancing on the plate with two diyas (small oil-burning candles) in his or her hands while balancing a "kundi" (small vessel) containing water on their head. At the end of the dance, typically, the dancer extinguishes the candles and washes his or her hands with the water from the vessel. 

There are also subtle differences in the costumes of both types of dances. Generally, Bharatanatyam dresses have three fans of differing heights that form the illusion of the spreading pleats of a sari. However, in Kuchipudi there is typically only one fan which tends to be longer than the longest of the three fans present on Bharatanatyam dresses.


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