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Kuchipudi takes a new spin in life’s cycle

Ratna Venkat – Kuchipidi takes- Ratna Venkat Web

As the day of ‘Life in a Full Circle’ Dance Concert nears (Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School), and since the dance style of Kuchipudi is the main topic of the programme, I thought it would be appropriate to share background knowledge of this great art to Indian Newslink readers.

Kuchipudi is a style of classical dance from South India, originating in what are now known as the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It is named after a village where the art was born, although in the local language Telugu, the words ‘Kuchi’ and ‘Pudi’ denote ‘small’ and ‘settlement’ respectively.

Younger Art

2. Kuchipudi takes- the corner stone of creativity Web
The corner stone of innovation- Ratna Venkat takes a stance in Kuchipudi

Compared to Bharata Natyam, which is a much older Classical dance tradition from the state of Tamil Nadu, Kuchipudi is a ‘younger’ dance style in the sense that it became a classical art only in the 14th century AD.

Sage Siddhendra Yogi, whom we often revere as the father of Kuchipudi dance, was responsible in transforming the art from its early days as a pure dance drama into a refined style steeped in classical tradition.

He introduced a codified structure, stylised footwork, and insisted on formal training of only male artistes. Women were eventually introduced to Kuchipudi in the 1930s, when revolutionary changes were made to the Dance in pre-independent India.

Unique features

Kuchipudi has many unique features that make it stand out from other classical dance styles, out of which three are well known. Firstly, lip-syncing of words sung by the singer is permitted. Secondly, dialogue-delivery by dancers is present; and thirdly, dancing on the rim of a brass plate with a pot filled with water on the dancer’s head gives the art its overall star attraction.

When it comes to the segments of ‘Nritta’ (pure abstract dance), ‘Nrithya’ (dance with expressions) and ‘Natya’ (dance drama), Kuchipudi is also the only classical dance that evenly balances between all three, including Natya, for, it represents the dancers’ usage of speech.

The Kuchipudi epic play ‘Bhama Kalapam,’ which can be performed as a solo or group act, is the best example that displays all three segments being utilised.

Comparatively, the dance style of Kathakali (from the state of Kerala), solely thrives on its theatrical aspect of Natya, which means it can only be performed as a group.

Krishna, the Main Deity

Kuchipudi takes- Poster WebLike in all Indian classical dance forms, many Hindu Gods and Goddesses are portrayed, but the Main Deity in Kuchipudi, who is regarded as the Supreme One, is Lord Krishna.

Many Kuchipudi dance acts centre on various episodes of Krishna’s life, and some of these feature as full-length dance dramas on their own.

‘Bhama Kalapam’ for instance, focuses on the proud queen Sathyabhama and describes her ever-changing moods towards her husband, Krishna.

Like in Bharata Natyam, the classical music tradition used in Kuchipudi is Carnatic.

While some Nritta sequences may parallel Bharata Natyam, they are executed in ways that are typical only to the Kuchipudi style. Graceful and swaying movements are evident along with fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque poses. The leg position of a demi-plié or ‘Araimandi’ prominent in Bharata Natyam, is not so deep in Kuchipudi.

‘Life in a Full Circle’ Dance Concert will showcase the beautiful art form of Kuchipudi in all its glory, blending tradition with technology.

The programme is dedicated to Lord Krishna, but not in the sense of what a Krishna devotee or a regular concert-goer might expect. Rather, it would raise some questions that may challenge your understanding of the world, harbouring the thought, “Some things are not what they seem.”

I hope to see you all at this unique show, dear readers!

Editor’s Note: Tickets, priced at $20 are available at a number of places in Auckland and Hamilton. Please see our Classifieds Section on Page 30 of this Issue.

 

(Pictures by Narendra Bedekar, Creative Eye Photography Limited)

 

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