Kuchipudi is one of the classical styles of Indian dance. Around the third and fourth decade of this century it emerged out of a long rich tradition of dance-drama of the same name. In fact, Kuchipudi is the name of a village in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. It is about 35 km. from Vijayawada. Andhra has a very long tradition of dance-drama which was known under the generic name of Yakshagaana. In 17th century Kuchipudi style of Yakshagaana was conceived by Siddhendra Yogi a talented Vaishnava poet and visionary who had the capacity to give concrete shape to some of his visions. He was steeped in the literary Yakshagaana tradition being guided by his guru Teerthanaaraayana Yogi who composed the Krishna-Leelatarangini. a kaavya in Sanskrit. To show the dexterity of the dancers in footwork and their control and balance over their bodies, techniques like dancing on the rim of a brass plate and with a pitcher full of water on the head was introduced. Acrobatic dancing became part of the repertoire. By the middle of this century, Kuchipudi fully crystallized as a separate classical solo dance style. Thus there are now two forms of Kuchipudi; the traditional musical dance-drama and the solo dance.
This level introduces the student to the basics of Kuchipudi as a dance form. This stage of learning imbibes discipline among students. Teachers lays the foundation of proper body balance and flexibility among the dancer through various postures and dance exercises
- Natya-aarambha slokas/Namaskara: Slokas are recited prior to beginning of the dance while doing namaskara to seek the blessings of Almighty and the Guru. They are primarily used to set the concentration of the dancer.
- Posture: Understanding the Soushtavam, posture for executing dance.
- Bending Exercises Basic bending exercises that help build stamina and teach perfecting the mandala sthanam position.
- Pada Bhedas: Various feet positins used in the dance. Describe the Pada Bhedas used in Kuchipudi.
- Asamyutha Hastas: This depicts the single hand gestures used for conveying the meaning of song or instance. There are 24 Asamyutha Hastas in Kuchipudi.
- Adugulu – Rigor level : Basic / Set 1 Adugulu are the first set of rhythmic movements the dancer is exposed to, more so like the basic building blocks of the dance. The steps in Kuchipudi,are divided into 9 series with a total of 106 Steps based on the rigor level. The first level consists of 32 steps.
This level educates the student about the details involved in executing the basics correctly. Exercising the various aspects relating to different portions of the body is outlined here. It prepares the dancer gain firm hold of the basics prior to moving to the Jatis.
- Understanding Siro (head), Griva(Neck) and Nayana(Eye) Bheda: These are exercises that are specific to the movement of head, neck and eye.
- Understanding Hand and Eye co-ordination: The steps in the Level 1 are explained with hand and eye co-ordination.
- Samyutha Hastas: Hand gestures using both hands. In Kuchipudi, there are 13 Samyutha hastas that are used.
- Stretching and Strengthening exercises Various stretching exercises help build strength in the knees, thighs and calf muscles which are extensively used to perform this dance. They also help in building body agility.
- The second half of adugulu involves a series of jumping steps. The techniques of jump are taught as a part of these exercises as well.
- Adugulu – Rigor Level: Final / Set 2 : The next set of adugulu comprises of 31 steps. This series exposes the dancer to various sitting, jumping and round feet movements specific to the Kuchipudi style.
This level exposes the dancer to relate the basics into Nritta or pure dance. Also with theory there is an introduction to Jatis in Chathurasra and Triputa gati. The dancer is introduced to the basics of music, which will help in building a strong foundation.
- Picture Memory: Identification of famous gurus and personalities in the field of Kuchipudi.
- Nritta Hastas: These are hand movements used in pure dance. Kuchipudi uses 30 Nritta hastas mentioned in the NatyaShastra.
- Nadaka (walking in the dance style): There are various walking styles in Kuchipudi. The basic 4 are outlined in this module.
- Jati – Level 1: Sequence of steps form a Jati. The dancer is exposed to interconnecting the steps they have learnt in the earlier stages into a sequence set to Thalam.
Level 2 introduces the dancer to Charis, a very important portion of the dance theory. The advanced Jatis are imparted along with complimentary music training.
- Charis: The mutual concordance of the hands, feet, calves, thighs and hip resulting in the movement is called a Chari.
- Jati – Level 2:
Upon successful completion of the steps and Jatis, the dancer is introduced to items. The module emphasizes the basic music lessons along with learning the abhinaya and dance for the basic items listed.
- Music Beginners Module 2:
- Beginning Items
Jatis with different music background are taught here. The following are the basic items the student is exposed to in this Level.
- Koluvaitiva Ranga Sai
- Brindavana Nilaye
Hasini is a trained Kuchipudi dancer who started her journey of Kuchipudi at an early age of 5 years. She got her training in India for 7 years under Guru Sri Latha and Sridevi before moving to Jacksonville in the year 2016. Her guru Smt Sri Latha is an esteemed dancer of this dance form and a student of famous dance gurus Smt. Padmanjali, Smt Renuka and Shri Uday Kanth.