In conversation with Vanashree and Jayarama Rao, the Kuchipudi dancers from Delhi

Dance style: Kuchipudi
Gurus: Jayarama Rao was trained in the traditional guru-shishya parampara at the Sidhendra Kalakshetram, Kuchipudi Village, under Gurus Shri Chinta Krishnamurti, Shri PVGK Sharma and Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam Vanashree Rao was initially trained under guru Krishna Kumar and later continued under Shri Jayarama Rao. Later underwent training under guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna.

About Kuchipudi
Kuchipudi has come from the Bhagawat Mela tradition of Andhra Pradesh. It is basically from the Andhra culture so naturally it has a dance drama tradition, where thirty forty people enact a play it also consist of duet which is what we are doing, then there is solo and there is female impersonation that is male doing female.
The history of Kuchipudi is very vast, first the Vaishnavite philosophy then the Nawab influence to form Court dance, basically there are three influences, one, the temple dancer of Andhra, two, the court dancers, three, the Bhagwat Mela, What we do is the best of all three.

Difference from other styles
– There are many differences. Firstly all dance forms follow the Natya Shastras as a base but the technique and style becomes different because of being in different regions.
– Bharatanatyam is performed solo originated in Tamil Nadu which has a distinct culture and it had the Devadasi tradition, hence originated amongst female performers whereas Kuchipudi is originated from the male dancers, who were devotees of Lord Vishnu, that is the Vaishnavite movement
– In dance drama females performed female roles and males performed male, whereas in Kathakali men would dress up and perform all the roles and their costumes and the aharyam are much more elaborate.

Q How did dancing together begin ??

My first Guru Krishna Kumar told me if I wanted to learn genuine Kuchipudi I should learn it from him (Jayarama Rao) as he was the first person who came from Kuchipudi Village to Delhi. At that time he had Meenakshi Sheshadhari as his student. After the first year itself, though my style was a little different, we started doing some compositions together. He was initially just a guru and not a performer but I convinced him to start performing. Those days marriage was totally not in the scene. Then we started performing often and started getting a good response. We were offered a tour abroad by ICCR, and that is when he asked for my hand as he had a conservative nature and also he felt I am very much passionate and committed to dance. After that everything else fell into place. We became a very good team, I managed the administrative aspect and I was also learning from him, we were very good friends. You could say we both brought out the best in each other!

Q Format or repertoire

Kuchipudi is very interesting. In Bharatanatyam and Odissi there is a very definite format like one starts with the Mangalacharan and then go to Pallavi then Abhinaya, in Bharatanatyam you have to do Varnam and the Tillana and Moksha are the end items, ours in that way is very flexible, we can do excerpts from Ballets or we can do a dramatic enactment of a scene taken from any book or we can do Keertanams or Ashtapatis. We don’t have a compulsion that we have to start with Alarippu (in Bharatanatyam). Basic repertoire could be as follows:
1.Invocatory item – it can be on Shiva or Vishnu or a Goddess
2.Jatiswaram or Dashavatar – Technique
3.Bhama Kalapam – Tells the story of Satya Bhama, Rukmini and Vishnu. It is the most famous dance drama; It is a must for the beginners.
4.Tarangam
5.Padam
6.Javali
Jayarama Rao adds – Kuchipudi dancers use to perform and even now a solo repertoire having Shabdams. These were performed in front of kings and they wrote these items themselves.

Q How rewarding is this profession.

For us because we are established, we get recognition for the young artists I feel it is very tough because there is not much money in the arts. Also dance, we feel cannot be a hobby. It has to be a profession. If compared to sports for instance, one tournament won can make your life, but in dance you give thousands of performances and then you get rewarded.
Its true all other professions are paid more than dance, even musicians are paid more however we are very content and happy about our profession. Its sad but only dancers are asked to compromise on the amount charged, no other artist is. As the competition is so high and the sponsorship is less.

Q About audiences.

It has not increased or decreased there is a set of people who come for all the performances.

Q Advise for young dancers

You have to listen to your heart; if you feel you are committed enough you must enter the profession. You must not think that just because its not paying you mustn’t get into it. Also youngsters these days are very smart, if you can you must go and demand performances in the corporate sector. Opportunities are there you just have to explore them.

The Duo has received the ‘Padmashri’ from the President of India, Govt. of India in th year 2004, and also the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award – Govt. of India in the year 1998

Contact:
99, Baktawar Singh Block, Asiad Village Complex
New Delhi 110 049
Tel: (011)-26492244

Classes for juniors are conducted at
Matri Kala Mandir
Mothers’ international school
Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi

E-Mail: vanashreerao@yahoo.com