DANCE & DRAMA "EXPRESSIONS THROUGH ART"

Andhra Pradesh has a rich tradition of performing arts and is home to Kuchipudi, one of India's seven Classical dances.

If extensive paddy fields, massive river system, an uninterrupted coastline and gigantic boulders define Andhra Pradesh's geographical character, the performing arts that originated here speak of its rich cultural legacy. Kuchipudi, one of India's seven Classical dances, was born in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. The state also boasts of a unique tradition of ancient dance-dramas known as Yakshaganas. Its various tribal communities have also contributed to several forms of dance and other performing arts that have enriched the state's cultural tapestry.

Kuchipudi:
The dance form finds its mythological origins in the story of Usha Parinayam. Usha, the daughter of Asura king Baana, fell in love with prince Aniruddha, whom she saw in her dreams. She manifested her infatuation in the form of lasya' (the graceful form of dance), by dancing in the gardens of her palace. Upon finding Aniruddha, she married him and dedicated the rest of her life to propagating this ‘lasya' on the Bhooloka (earth). Later on, the dance is said to have had been performed by Bharata Muni (the author of the Natya sastra) and his 100 sons to depict the ksheera sagara mathanam (churning of the ocean of milk), thereby taking on the form of a dance drama. Bharata Muni had also trained several women in this dance form, who then started performing the same in temples. These women came to be known as devadasis (women who serve God).

The dance flourished during the Satavahana period when it moved to the courts of kings and other noble men. The courtesans who performed the dance in royal houses came to be known as rajanarthakis (royal dancers). There is also historical evidence that points to the existence of this dance form in the court of the Kakatiya king Ganapathi Deva in the 13th century CE. The dance form practised by rajanarthakis and devadasis was eventually instituted in muths (dance centre). Narayana Tirtha, a famous composer of Carnatic music, blended the stories of Lord Krishna into this dance form, giving birth to various dance ballets such as Krishna Leela Tarangini. A young boy named Siddappa grew up watching these dance ballets and learned the dance form for 20 years. As a result, he thought of himself as Lord Krishna's lover, and started the 'Bhama cult' (Bhama originates from the name Satyabhama, one of Lord Krishna's wives). He dedicated his life to the dance form and came to be known as Siddhendra Yogi. He churned out song after song based on Krishna's relationship with Satyabhama and compiled the famous vehicle of dance drama known as Bhamakalapam. Because he feared the adulteration of this ballet by the rajanarthakis and devadasis, he picked young and good-looking boys from the surrounding areas and trained them in the art. Thus began one of the earliest and most defining features of Kuchipudi-men dressing up as women and performing feminine and graceful dance moves.

However, Siddhendra Yogi and his troupe of dancers were accorded a socially inferior status. Hence, they moved from place to place and assumed the name of 'Kuchillu'. They finally settled in a village named Kuchipudi in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Owing to the name of the village, the dance form came to be known as Kuchipudi. The village still holds annual festivals to showcase the dance form and is home to the prestigious Siddendhra Yogi Kalakshetram, which is the pioneering institution that teaches the dance form.

With the advent of the Bhakti Movement, Kuchipudi finally gained a respected position in society and women from different socio-economic stratas also started learning the dance form. A few years after Independence, the Sangeet Natak Akademi accorded Kuchipudi the status of a Classical dance.

Yakshagana:
These are dance-dramas performed on the streets. Traditionally, Yakshaganas are held from dawn to dusk, in open theatres, much like folk dramas and combine dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up and stage techniques to present stories. Kuchipudi is said to have taken elements from this form of dance-drama.
Although not as famous and socially accepted as other dance forms, the style still thrives and is popular in parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as well,

Dimsa and Tappeta Gullu:
A Popular form of folk dance in the AraKu Valley in Visakhapatnam district, Dimsa is generally performed by a group of 15-20 tribal women belonging to the nearby hills. They dress up in traditional attire and perform this dance during local fairs and festivals. The dance involves women forming human chains and dancing to the beats of instruments such as mori, thudum and dappu. Tappeta Gullu is a vigorous and rhythmic dance form popular in the Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. It is performed by a group of dancers during important festivals to invoke the rain gods.

Veeranatyam:
Dubbed as the dance of the brave, Veeranatyam has its origins in a mythological story associated with Lord Shiva. Legend has it that Parvati, Shiva's consort, attended her father Daksha's yagna ceremony uninvited. Unable to handle the humiliation meted to her, she immolated herself. Outraged by the incident, Shiva picked out a strand of his jata-jhuta (hair) and created Veerabhadra, to avenge Daksha. Veeranatyam is performed by the people of the Veeramusti community, who claim to be the descendants of Veerabhadra. This vigorous dance is accompanied by instruments such as tambura, soolam, dolu and tasha, and usually performed at the Draksharamam temple in the East Godavari district, which is believed to be the birthplace of Veerabhadra.

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