Classical Indian Dance: Kuchipudi

August 11, 2010

Today it’s time to put the spotlight on another classical Indian dance: Kuchipudi. Kuchipudi originated in Andrha Pradesh, India, and is stylistically similar to Bharatnatyam, although there are subtle differences between the art forms, such as in costume (Kuchipudi costumes have one large pleated fan, whereas Bharatatnayam costumes have a tier of three fans) and steps.

Of all the classical Indian dances that I’d like to view live, Kuchipudi ranks up in the top three, most notably because of one unique feature–the Tarangam where the dancer dances upon a brass plate.

Image from Google Images

The sheer concentration it takes to pull this off in a performance amazes me. The Kuchipudi dancer stands atop a brass plate, balancing a vessel of water on her head and two diyas, or small oil lamps, in each of her hands. During the performance, the dancer moves the brass plate with only her feet, while maintaining her balance with the lamps and vessel to a continuous rhythm. By the end of the dance, she usually extinguishes the lamps or washes her hands with water from the vessel balanced atop her head.

Recently, Kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa ended her week-long stint at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. Her performance garnered a rave review from the New York Times. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like she’ll be in the tri-state area anytime soon, but for those interested in catching her at some point can head over to her website and find tour dates here.

Image taken from Google Images

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