Kuchipudi is a major classical Indian dance form and derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram in Andhra Pradesh. As a classical form of dance, drama and music, it enjoys a special place among the Indian classical idioms and grew largely as a product of the Bhakti movement, which began in the 7th century. In the 14th century, Siddhendra Yogi gave Kuchipudi a new definition and direction. It was then characterized by fast rhythms and fluid movements; creating a unique blend for the dance form.
Kuchipudi is a combination of Tandava and Lasya elements. It is known for its impressive footwork, dramatic characterization, expressive eye movements and spirited narrative. A noteworthy feature of this dance form is its execution on a brass plate to the accompaniment of Carnatic music. Apart from being a dancer and an actor, a Kuchipudi performer is required to be proficient in Sanskrit and Telugu. It takes a minimum of seven to ten years to master this exquisite art form.
The repertoire of Kuchipudi follows three performance categories, namely; ‘Nritta’, ‘Nritya’ and ‘Natya’.Nritta is a technical performance where the dancer stresses on speed, pattern, and rhythmic aspects without any form of enactment.In Nritya, the performer communicates a story, particularly on Lord Krishna,using expressive gestures and slow body movements in harmony with musical notes. Lastly, Natyam is usually performed by a group that maintains certain body movements for specific characters of the play. The ensemble of the performance includes a Sutradhara who is the conductor and ensures everything goes as planned throughout the performance.
The dance form has a defined scheme of costumes, curated in an effort to enhance the performance. The male performer wears a dhoti while the female performer dons a colourful sari which is stitched with a pleated cloth. The saree opens like a hand fan when the dancer bends her legs while portraying her spectacular footwork. Her make-up is generally light, complementing the traditional jewellery around her hair, nose, ear, arms and neck.
Vempati Chinna Satyam is one of the leading exponents of Kuchipudi, along with Vedantam Lakshminarayan Sastri who worked hard to restore this art form and bring it back to prominence. Indrani Rahman also expanded its scope through public performances outside Andhra Pradesh that not only garnered new students in the art form but also made it widely popular both at national and international platforms.