Kuchipudi dance is a classical dance form of Andhra Pradesh. The dance was performed by dancers from Kuchipudi village in Krishna district, hence the name Thirty Kuchipudi.
This dance form breaks with the tradition of the oldest Shivali Natyam, post-tenth century Brahma Mela religious dances and Bhagavat Mela of the medieval Vaishnava devotional period. In Andhra Pradesh, music-dancing devotees were called ‘Bhagavatulu’ and later their dance drama came to be known as Kuchipudi.
There are similarities between Kuchipudi and Bhagwat Mela. However, the Kuchipudi dance is revered as an elder. Machupalli Kaifiyat (1503) mentions the beginning of this dance drama.
History of Kuchipudi dance
‘Siddhendra Yogi’ is considered to be the father of Kuchipudi dance. He wrote a dance drama called Parijat Abduction or Bhamakalapam. But they didn’t find the right dancers to experiment with it. So he came to his father-in-law’s house in Kuchelapuram (Kuchipudi) and did this experiment with the help of the Brahmin children there.
He also said that the first child of every Brahmin family should be offered Kuchipudi dance. Since then, the practice of performing this dance at religious festivals every year has spread to the surrounding villages.
Before the rise of Kuchipudi, the dance of Devadasi was common in Andhra Pradesh. However, in time, these Devadasis went astray and their dancing also flourished. Therefore, in order to maintain the purity and sanctity of Kuchipudi dance, Siddhendra Yogi forbade women to take part in it. Therefore, in the past, only male dancers participated in this dance form.
Recently, however, women have started participating in this dance form. In 1675, Abdullah Qutb Shah, the Nawab of Govalkonda, was pleased to see the dance and rewarded the dancers with his hometown of Kuchipudi and five surrounding villages.
Krishna Leelatarangini (d. 1680-90), a dance song written by Narayan Tirtha Yeti, was taught to the Kuchipudi dancers by his disciple Siddhendra Yogi. This music tells the story from the birth of Krishna to marriage. At the end of some songs, they dance based on the ballads. Since this dance music is very large, some selected parts are performed separately.
Apart from this, Kshetraya’s verses, Ramayya Shastri’s ‘Gollakalapam’ composition, Thyagaraja’s works or dance songs, as well as epics and Puranas, especially Ashtapadyas in Bhagwatpuran and Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda etc. Kuchipudi dances based on literature are also performed.
Kuchipudi is a dance drama performed in the temple premises on a moonlit night. If there is a large crowd of spectators, a stage is set up at one end of the road and a dance is performed. The stage has no curtain. Before the dance begins, the ‘clown’ enters and makes people laugh by gesturing and gesturing towards the madman and draws their attention to the stage.
Singers and bands sit on the right side of the stage. Musical instruments include taal, mridang, violin, veena etc. At the beginning of the dance, an angry prayer of Natyavedavidhi is offered. Then the narrator enters and sings Nandi and explains the meaning of the dance drama.
The main characters in the dance perform an introductory dance known as ‘Daruvu’. In this mode, a screen with pictures of two female sevak chakras, Vaishnavanam and conch is held in front of the audience in such a way that only the head and legs of the dancer behind the screen can be seen by the audience. Occasionally the facilitator’s upanishad is also used as a screen.
The method of dancing Kuchipudi
Each protagonist dances behind the scenes at the beginning and after dramatically removing the screen, the character appears in front of the audience and reveals his dancing skills. From the gestures, the audience can recognize what role the dancer is playing. The narrator sings ‘Kanugolu’, which is spoken at the beginning of the entry, caste and character entry, and the dancers enter and dance on it.
There are many types of Daruvu. In the ‘Dhruva Praveshika Dhruva’ type, the character sings a song and dances to introduce himself. Every Kuchipudi dancer has to be a part of singing. Nowadays, the dancer often starts the song and assigns the rest to the narrator or the other singers accompanying him. Rarely sings or emerges a song in a single line.
The Kuchipudi dance uses Carnatic style melodic music. The prose dialogue in the dancer’s story speaks for itself. It is the only Indian dance form in which the characters perform prose-lyrical vocals. Nowadays, however, these dialogues can be heard by the audience, so a different person is planned to speak on the loudspeaker.
Kuchipudi dancers also need to be fluent in Telugu and Sanskrit. Similarly, knowledge of dance-music literature is also required. The acting-mirror is used as a textbook for the study of Kuchipudi.
Similarly, drama and music are also studied. There are many narrow dance forms in the story. Selected dance forms are performed solo as Kuchipudi dance. So even today, there is no specific sequence for this dance.