Kuchipudi is a Dance of the Divine
BY: CHOY SU-LING
The Ramanaidu sisters presented the Kuchipudi showcase,
Bhamane Satyabhamane, at the DBKL Auditorium, recently.
Nov 25, MALAYSIA (STAR) The accomplished kuchipudi showcase from the Ramanaidu sisters last week, should stir interest in this classical Indian dance form.
Kuchipudi is a classical dance form which originates from Andhra Pradesh, a state in South India. Kuchipudi is also the name of a small village that borders the Bay of Bengal. Resident Brahmins practised this traditional dance some 500 years ago at temples during annual festivals; and that was how the dance form acquired its name. It was believed that the saint Siddhendra Yogi received a divine blessing, and in thanks, created a dance drama in praise of Lord Krishna.
Today, the dance form is performed with great virtuosity and elegance by female dancers in many parts of the world due to the untiring efforts of the great masters to promote the beauty of this classical dance style.
According to the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA), there are only a handful of kuchipudi dancers in Malaysia but they have not been able to bring this art form to a higher level. TFA made an attempt to reintroduce and promote this classical dance form in Malaysia through the Malaysia Kuchipudi Sisters, Kasthoori and Thachayani Ramanaidu, in a production called Bhamane Satyabhamane, held at Auditorium DBKL recently.
After receiving honours as The Temple of Fine Arts Bharatanattyam Nrityanjali graduates, the Ramanaidu sisters went to India to train under the great Kuchipudi master, Vempati Chinna Satyam, for four years. They returned to Malaysia in 2004 and began to perform and teach the dance style.
It was exciting to watch a full Kuchipudi performance for the first time. The movements in kuchipudi are quick and scintillating, rounded and fleet-footed. The dance shares many common elements with Bharatanatyam.
Essentially, the vocabulary is the same but there are stylistic differences. One key difference is the lip synchronisation to the lyrics of the songs that they dance to. According to TFA, other classical dances used to practise lip synchronisation, but the practice was eventually dropped because it was too distracting. However, in Kuchipudi, the dancers maintain this practice to this day.
The first offering was Natesha Kauthvam, a mesmerising duet by the sisters, in praise of the Lord of Dance. Rhythmic dancing bells strapped on their ankles echoed through the hall as they danced the Tandavam, the Dance of Joy, as performed in Chidambaram, one of the most ancient and celebrated shrines in India.
TFA’s young students performed Ganesha Stuthi, which was an offering to Vinayagar, the Remover of Obstacles and Tribal Dance, a tribal dance depicting forest dwellers of Andhra Pradesh. The latter is an excerpt from the Kuchipudi dance drama, Sri Pada Parijaatham. I marvelled at how these young dancers accomplished such complicated footwork and formations in both pieces.
At the core of the Kuchipudi repertoire is the Bhama Kalapam created by the saint Siddhendra Yogi himself. This is the story of Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s second consort, and the daughter of King Satrajit, who is depicted in mythology as beautiful, haughty, proud, and supremely confident of her own beauty and virtues. Being separated from him, she feels unbearable pain but her Lord is unaware of it. Kasthoori performed an excerpt from this repertoire, charming us with her intricate footwork, sinuous grace, while using her eyes to express moods and feelings. Thachayani also performed a famous piece, Dasavatharam, which, in Indian mythology, deals with the evolution of humanity, and holds a special place in all the classical dance styles of India. Thachayani tackled the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, displaying lucid description of each transformation.
The final piece was Neelamegha Sharira. The dance depicted Rukmini, who is Satyabhama’s rival for Krishna’s affections, as she eulogises the beauty and divine powers of Lord Krishna. The song, written by Narayana Teertha, is preceded by a sloka from Sri Krishna Karnaamrutam. Performed by both Thachayani and Kasthoori, this piece featured the unique kuchipudi feat of dancing on a brass plate called tarangam.
The Malaysian public has had more exposure to other Indian classical dances, especially Bharatanatyam and Odissi. I hope, in time, Kuchipudi would share the same exposure and recognition.