KUCHIPUDI (indigenous style from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala): For a long time, art was presented only in temples, in the annual festivals of certain temples in Andhra. According to tradition, Kuchipudi dance was originally performed by men of the Brahmin community. Their programs were offerings to deities and they never allowed women in their groups. In an age of degeneration of dance, due to exploitation of the dancers, an ascetic, Siddhendra Yoghi, redefined the dance form. Fifteen families of Kuchipudi Brahmins have maintained the tradition for over five centuries. Renowned gurus enriched the dance form by entering women, adding several dance dramas, and designed many choreographies for soloists, expanding the horizon of this dance form.
Kuchipudi art was prejected as a dance drama requiring a group of characters, never as a mere solo dance, which is common in the present. The Kuchipudi plays are represented outdoors and in makeshift stage. The presentation begins with some scenic rites performed in full presence of the audience. Then the driver of the play and the musicians take to the stage and offer a work of rhythm with drums and cymbals. Each main character enters the stage with a “daru”. A “daru” is a small composition of dance and song specially designed for each character, to help reveal their identity and also to show their skill.
The most popular Kuchipudi dance is the dance of the pot, in which a dancer keeps a pot full of water on his head and feet are kept in a bronze plate. She moves around the stage manipulating the brass plate with her feet kept on its rim and doing some hand movements without spilling a single drop of water, surprising the audience.
There is nothing elaborate in the costumes and makeup is simple. The important characters have different makeup and female characters wear ornaments and jewelery such as Rakudi (head ornament), Chandra Vanki (for arms), Adda Bhasa and Kasina Sara (for neck) and a long hair braid decorated with flowers and jewels.
Today, Kuchipudi has been reduced from a dance drama to a dance, from a high theatrical experience to a routine stage affair.