Kuchipudi is the classical dance form from the South-East Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, a small village about 65 kms from Vijaywada. For a long time, the art was presented only at temples and that too only for annual festivals of certain temples in Andhra Pradesh. According to tradition, Kuchipudi dance was originally performed only by men and they all belonged to the Brahmin community. These Brahmin families were known popularly as Bhagavathaluof Kuchipudi. The very first group of Brahmain Bhagavathulu of Kuchipudi was formed in 1502 AD. Their programs were offerings to the deities and they never allowed women in their groups.
In the 15th century, a saint called Siddhendra Yogi, codified the movements and enriched the repertoire of the Kuchipudi dance form. Siddhendra Yogi championed the cause of redefining this dance form aiming at eliminating exploitation of women. Kuchipudi was enriched by the advent of the female dancers. Renowned gurus like Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry, Chinta Krishnamurthy and Tadepalli Perayya, broadened the horizons of the dance form. The reforms brought in has led to the women playing the male parts in this dance form.
Each principal character introduces himself or herself on the stage with a daru. A daru is a small composition of dance and song specially designed for each character to help him or her reveal his or her identity and also to show the performer’s skill in the art. There are nearly 80 darus or dance sequences in the dance drama and are nowadays also extracted for solo performances .One of the most famous one being the Satyabhama daru. Behind a beautiful curtain held by two persons, Satyabhama enters the stage with her back to the audience and her braid hanging from the curtain.
Kuchipudi flourished as a dramatic form of dance for hundreds of years. It was held in high esteem by the rules of the Deccan. For instance Tana Shah in 1678 granted the lands around Kuchipudi to the Brahmins who performed the dance.At times the dancers could even wield political and social power. One example was a play-cum-social commentary performed in 1502. The History says that a group of artists performed before Narasimharayulu.. In this play, they indicated that the people were being unfairly treated by a local raja. The dancers succeeded in freeing the people form the abusive practices of the raja, but the artists at one point even required the protection of the army.
Kuchipudi has its own style which is very pleasant to watch and many of the songs are tuned to a special rhythm which is unique , enjoyable and provides the performer maximum scope for showcasing their talent. The Kuchipudi dancers are experts in Sattwika Abhinaya, BhavaAbhinaya. The charm of Kuchipudi lies in its fast and intricate footwork, sinuous grace, and the use of the eyes to express moods and feelings. The technique of Kuchipudi closely follows the tenets laid down in the ‘Natya Shastra ‘. Padmabhushan Dr Vempati Chinna satyam, being an architect of contemporary classical Kuchipudi dance form made unique contribution of refining the dance form without losing its classiocal effulgence.With his creative genius he brought a sea of changes in the execution of Nritta, Nritya and Natya.
Like many other art forms which had developed through ages, the art of Kuchipudi Dancing underwent many innovative changes. These innovations enriched and glorified the traditional art form which had `Natya` as its primary component.Thus enveloping within its form new techniques, it has greatly enriched itself. Yet all the while it has taken care to retain the essential features of traditional form.