The basic technique of Kuchipudi is similar to that of Bharatanatyam, with adavus (dance steps), jathis (combinded dance steps) and teermanams (rhythmic conclusions), though it has a distinct identity of its own. The foot is stamped in a lighter beat and faster tempo, and the typical araimandi position (demi-plié) of Bharatanatyam is in the Kuchipudi style not always obvious. The dancer covers the stage with dynamic steps, rhythmically swaying her torso, giving so a female grace to this style. In Kuchipudi there is a greater variety of neck and hip movements, various types of feet positions, leaps, pirouettes and gaits – all based on the Natya Shastra. This brilliant dance style today stands out as an intresting mix of the old and new.
The virtuosity and the aesthetically pleasing, flowing movements give the dance its unique energy which has also made Kuchipudi increasingly popular worldwide.
The Kuchipudi dance drama, with its caracteristic technique, goes back, to the period between the sixth and the tenth centuries when the cult of bhakti and devotion with its emphasis on a personalised love for the godhead, spread like wildfire all over India, beginning in Tamil Nadu. The mystics and the seers who preached this cult went from place to place, dancing and singing in praise of the Lord.
Although their order of appearance is not known for certain, the closely related Bhagavata Mela, Kuchipudi and Yakshagana can be traced back to the efforts of these seers. However, it is evident from certain inscriptions that these styles existed before the sixteenth century A.D.
It is to Tirtha Narayana Yati and his disciple Siddhendra Yogi, that we owe the creation of the basis for Kuchipudi as it is practised today.
It is related that at the end of the 13th century in the village of Kuchipudi in the state of Andra Pradesh the sage Siddhendra Yogi, inspired by a vision of Lord Krishna, encouraged young men of the priestly cast to learn a new style of the Andra dance he had created to popularize the holy legend of Rhada – Krishna with his Bhama Kalapam compositions. Ethical reasons forbade Siddhendra yogi to initiate the Devadasis into the new dance style. Thus Kuchipudi progressively took on the character of a dance theater and for many centuries remained male domain.
With India’s independence came the awareness throughout the country of many almost forgotten ancient cultural traditions. Thus it was amongst others also thanks to the great Vedantam Laskmi Narayana Sastry that Kuchpudi was relaunched as a classical solo dance, nowadays with mainly female interpreters.
In recent times, some great Gurus like Vedantam Satyanarayana, Nataraja Ramakrishna, Vempati Chinna Satyam, Narasimha Chari and a few others have helped to preserve and develop this art form.