India

India is home to many dances that have been practised for thousands of years. Some of the dances have religious or social significance whereas others are just forms of artistic expression. Kuchipudi is a classical Indian dance that has graceful, elegant moves.

Kuchipudi dance is named after the village ‘Kuchipudi’ in South India. The dance was usually only performed in certain temples and at certain religious festivals. It is now performed on stages throughout the world where there is a large Indian audience.

Another thing that has changed in Kuchipudi performance over the years is that at first the dance was mainly performed by men, but now the dance is completely dominated by female dancers. The female dancers are really defining the Kuchipudi dance form and bringing it to a new audience.

There is very little knowledge of the person or the people who invented the dance. A legend is often widely accepted by most people. According to the legend that a young orphan who lived near the village Kuchipudi. The local people got him married as it was common in those days to marry young. For Vedic studies he went to a place called Udipi. His name was changed to Sidhendrah Yogi.

Once Sidhendrah came back to the village, he was told by the elders of his village to go and take his responsibilities as a husband and go to his house. He was travelling back and on the way he had to cross a river. He tried his best to swim but could not do so and he prayed to God to give him the strength to get across the river.

He did make it to the other side of the river. He made a vow that he would devout himself to religion and become a Sanyyasa. A Sanyyasa is someone who lives a celibate lifestyle without any possessions and devote themselves to God.

He is said to settle in a nearby village and dedicated his time in teaching young Brahmin boys a devotional dance that included drama based on the Hindu religion. The dancers played different roles and men played the female and male roles.

When India was under Muslim leadership it did not stop people from enjoying the dance. In fact some of the Muslim leaders used to give land and protection to the dancers. However with the rise of the British power in India Kuchipudi began to lose out.

Some aspects of the British society of that time considered some of the classical Indian dances as vulgar. For years the dances were seen by the Indian people as a way of showing their devotion and love for God, but the dancers were now being given the reputation of prostitutes.

Once the British left and India gained it’s independence there was a strong revival of classical Indian dances and art. People wanted to show the true beauty of the dance. Theatres and stages were the place where modern Kuchipudi dancers could revive their (almost) lost heritage.