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Kuchipudi

A village called Kuchipudi

The dance known as Kuchipudi derives its name from a village near Maulipatam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The roots of this dance form can be traced back to the Yakshagana plays of the Brahmins and the secular court of the Raja Nartakis. During the time of the Vijayanagar Empire, Brahmins were the preservers of this dance form. But after the decline of this empire, many of them shifted to Tanjore, which could be an explanation for some similarities in style to Bharatanatyam.

Initially, the Kuchipudi style of dance was in the form of dance dramas. Performances were usually given by a group of dancers having a nomadic lifestyle and had a religious theme. They slowly gained royal patronage and but in the course of time they saw a loss of status. 
 

Siddhendra Yogi

It was at the time of the Bhakti movement that this dance form saw a revolution. Siddhendra Yogi, a respected scholar and artist took it upon himself to give this art form a more definite form and to purify it. He introduced refined and stylised footwork and they use of traditional classical music. He refrained from training women as he felt that they might lower the spiritual tone by exaggerating the gestures and sentiments. Thus, Kuchipudi became a male bastion and even the female roles were played by men. Only young boys having a high outlook and living a religious austere life were inducted into this dance form. The art was passed on from generation to generation, from father to son. Siddhendra Yogi is also remembered as the author of the famous play "Bhamakalapam" about the Lord Krishna and his consorts Satyabhama and Rukmini. He developed the most famous part of the Kuchipudi repertoire - the Satyabhama cycle. 
 

The style

Kuchipudi utilizes a more relaxed flexed-knee position than any of the other southern styles.  As Kuchipudi is not mere a dance form but is combination of dance, gestures, speech and song, a Kuchipudi dancer has to be well versed in dancing, acting, music, various languages and texts. Kuchipudi sometimes also uses techniques such as dancing in metal plates, or on earthen pots or the use of coloured powder on the feet to mark out a design on the floor. 

Around the 1930s, the maestro Vedanta Lakshmi Narayana Sastry created ripples in the world of dance by introducing women dancers to Kuchipudi. Today, Kuchipudi has metamorphosized to include both group and solo performances by both men and women. 

Some of the legendary performers and gurus were Kuchipudi Brahmins like Lakshmi Narayan Shastri and Chinta Krishna Murti, who excelled in roles like Satyabhama in Bhamakalapam. Later gurus include Vedantam Chinna Satyam.
 


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