Radha and Raja Reddy
Perhaps the best known dancing couple of Kuchipudi style, Raja & Radha Reddy’s career span extends nearly four decades and includes performance, choreography and teaching. Trained by eminent Gurus of this style, they have developed a unique interpretation of Kuchipudi based on its quick-silver qualities and pulsating tempo. With perfect synchronization, the duo present choreography both traditional and innovative, and have won wide acclaim across the world for the impact of their performance.
1. Usha Parinayam
04 min 00 sec
Usha Parinayam is a piece choreographed afresh, depicting the dream sequence of Princess Usha and her lover Aniruddha. This item is based on the ‘Usha Swapna Vritthaanta Ghattam’ from the traditional Kuchipudi dance drama ‘Usha Parinayam’. Princess Usha dreams that the handsome youth Aniruddha appeared in her chamber and aroused love in her. Experiencing love for the first time, she seeks the help of her friends in summoning Aniruddha, as she longs to be reunited with him.
2. Shiva Leela
08 min 10 sec
A song of invocation addressed to Lord Shiva and invoking His Grace through chants of his names, is visualized as a duet set against the icy backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains.
The story of Kamadahanam is about the union of Shiva and Parvati. Parvati employes kama, the God of love to arose love in the heart of ascetic Shiva. Enraged by the arrows of Kama, Shiva open his third eye and burns Kama to ashes. However, when he looks at Parvati he realizes that she is his eternal companion.
Star disciple of the Maestro Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, Shobha rose to fame as a solo Kuchipudi dancer in the 70s and also played the lead female roles in the dance drama productions of her Guru. With her luminous stage presence and graceful dancing Sobha captivated audiences all over India and in many countries abroad. She runs her own dance school and continuous to perform widely, choreography both solos and dance drama.
1. Marakatha Manimaya
09 min 39 sec
Marakatha manimaya is a descriptive dance elaborating on the various facets of the Blue God-Krishna to whom both the bamboo flute and butter are equally dear ! The lotus-eyed God is adept at ‘Raas’ dance. He is virtuous and has a merciful nature. The dance ends with a typical feature in Kuchipudi of dancing while standing on the edges of a brass tray, executing various steps on it, moving it around the stage.
Vedantam Satya Narayana Sarma
The most illustrious performer from the earlier generation of Kuchipudi Gurus, Vedantam Satya Narayana Sarma is responsible for keeping alive the tradition of female impersonation, a hallmark of the earlier dance-drama form Kuchipudi. As a young man, he had convincingly portrayed all the lead female characters in the performance of Kuchipudi ‘Bhagavathams’ and ‘Natakams’ rendering the dialogues and vocal interludes himself. In later years, he continued to perform and began teaching young boys of Kuchipudi tradition, the nuances of female portrayal, the piece-de-resistance of Kuchipudi.
1. Bhama Kalapam
08 min 47 sec
Particularly for male dancers playing the female title role, dealing with the various emotional states and transitional moods of Satya Bhama, Junior Queen of Lord Krishna, poses an artist challenge. Satya Bhama expresses anxiety about his whereabouts searching for him with mounting concern that he may have deserted her in favour of his senior queen. Engaging the Moon and the flower-darts of Love in an anguished dialogue, she wallows in grief at her separation from Krishna. She writes along letter appealing to him to returns to her.
Trained by notes Gurus, Vjyayanti Kashi brings an innovative dimension to Kuchipudi’s traditional compositions. She also choreography on contemporary subjects and adapts new Literature to Kuchipudi. Vjyayanti’s seniority as a Kuchipudi dancer and her wide performing experience imbues her dance with a degree of maturity and depth that heightens the appeal of her art.
1. Dasavatara Sabdam
11 min 00sec
Dasavatara Sabdam depicts the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu who is believed to have manifested himself on earth as a fish, turtle, wild-boar, half-man-half-lion; dwarf; axe-wielder; bow-wielder; agriculturist, philosopher and the apocalyptic horse-rider yet to appear. These manifestations deal with the victory of good over evil and also trace the evolution of man and his eventual destruction.
One of the earlist and seior most disciples of the Maestro Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, Ratna is an experienced performer as well as teacher, with many new compositions to her credit. She runs her own institution for Kuchipudi and trains several youngsters in this style.
This is an exquisite choreography of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. Poet here describes Alamelu Manga, consort of Venksteshwara, who is sleeping and perhaps she is dreaming of the night before, when she and her lord were united in love. ‘Alalelu Manga whose words drip honey, look how she is sleeping’.
Perhaps the best-known solo exponent of Kuchipudi dance, Swapnasundari occupies a specila niche as an artist equally accomplished in vocal music, an aspect which distinguishes her from her contemporaries. Trained by stalwart Gurus, she has evolved an individual interpretation of Kuchipudi reflecting her dynamic personality, her artists and intellectual strength. Her work has drawn critical acclaim across the world and her impressive accomplishment have been responsible for bringing her to the top of her field in a comparatively short span of time. She excels in group choreography and the adaptation of new subject matter to Kuchipudi.
06 min 09sec
An original choreography by the dancer, this Jathiswaram plays with the rhythmic possibilities offered by the 6 beat cycle and emphasizes the quicksilver quality of Kuchipudi dance and its brisk technique.
2. Kshetrayya Padam
06 min 00 sec
In keeping with traditional practice, the dancer sings each stanza of the love lyric by Kshetrayya, then takes it up for expressional interpretation. In the lyric, the heroine says: “Strange are the ways of Gopala! He embraces me in intense passion and makes love to me but not once does thejoin his lips mine!
She bashfully shares this experience with her friends, asking them if they ever heard of such strange behaviour.
Kuchipudi is one of the most popular Classical Dance forms of India. It derives many of its present day features from the earlier dance-drama traditions of Andhra Pradesh, a region extending from South-Central through South Eastern India. Telugu is the main language spoken here and is therefore, employed in the accompanying Lyrics for Kuchipudi, along with Sanskrit. The music follows the Carnatic (South Indian Classical) style although a number of regional trends (Prakriyas) are often employed in delineating the Ragas.
The cultural history of Andhra Pradesh can boast of witnessing the energetic artists expression of its people, through its varied performing traditions. Some of these were: the dance of the consecrated female temple dancers; the Bhagavatam group traditions of the Male Brahmin and other community dancer-actors, the Daylight Theater tradition, the balladeer traditions and so on. Out of these, the most enduring has been the Bhagavatam of the Male Brahmins which has evolved into present day Kuchipudi. During this process, it has interacted with and absorbed elements from parallel traditions and has, perhaps, contributed to some of these.
Through the last two centuries this Bhagavatam troupe has concentrated on the performance of ‘Bhama Kalapam’ (the quelling of the pride of Satyabhama, Krishna’s junior queen) and a host of other medieval literature. Traditionally, the propagation of Bhakti was the central purpose of this dance, which was mainly addressed to a rural audience. Eventually the same dance form came to be referred to as Kuchipudi. How a Bhagavatam came to be recognized as ‘Kuchipudi’ also is an interesting tale. It is generally believed that a certain ascetic named Siddhendra Yogi visited the area where talented Brahmin actors were active. He taught them the tenets of formal dance and gave them the libretto of ‘Bhama Kalapam’ so that they may effectively spread the message of ‘Bhakti’ across Andhra region, though its performance. Accordingly, the ‘Bhagavatam’ troupe went about its mission. Being itinerant, the group of Brahmin families had no home; a scion of the rulers of Golconda, Abul Hasantani Shah happened to witness a performance of the itinerant Brahmin Bhagavatam. Moved by their plight, he presented them with a village where they have lived ever since. The village, earlier called ‘Kuchela Puram’ came to be known as ‘Kuchipudi’ in later decades. In order that the Bhagavatm of the Brahmins be distinguished from other Bhagavatms, the prefix Kuchipudi for this Bhagavatam became necessary. Gradually, as the dance changed from a group to a solo tradition, the title too, changed from Kuchipudi Bhagavatam to just Kuchipudi dance.
In its journey from dance drama to solo format, Kuchipudi dance further altered course from being addressed to a largely rural audience to a mainly urban one; perhaps due to the changed context of its performance. Further, the past fifty years have seen its spread outside Andhra Pradesh and the emergency of its teaching centres in various Indian cities, and the setting up of formal Degree Courses in Academic Institutions and Universities.
From its earlier form of a Missionary Group Tradition, Kuchipudi has evolved into being a highly entertainment and technically complex, sophisticated and stylized solo dance form, which enjoys the added artists advantage of a large space for histrionic improvisations.
In present day full-length Kuchipudi concerts, one can witness five distinct segments:
• Invocatory dances addressed to a deity containing prayers for the successful accomplishment of performance, the welfare of society, etc.
• Display of Kuchipudi dance technique.
• A major segment drawn from the earlier dance dramas, reinterpreted a solos or duets.
• Elaboration of facial expressions (Abhinaya) through leisurely and detailed interpretation of a given lyric or poem.
• A display of technique while dancing on a brass plate.
The customs worn by the present day Kuchipudi Dancers, are based on earlier models, with added improvisations.
Hindi Translation : Irfan
Introduction : Swapnasundari
Cover Photo : Kuchipudi Dance Centre
Other Photo : Avinash Pasricha & D D Archives
Project Director : L.D. Mandloi
Devised & Designed By : Kamalini Dutt
Associate : Ved M Rao & Kali Prasad
Radha and Raja Reddy
Radha and Raja Reddy
Vedantam Satya Narayana Sarma