A confluence of expressions

Published: 26th September 2013 08:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2013 08:48 AM   |  A+A-


A student and daughter-in-law of Padmabhushan Guru Vempatti Chinna Satyam, Kuchipudi dancer and teacher, Srimayi Vempatti, feels ecstatic while talking about her guru, who has made her what she is today. She recalls how much she wanted to learn this dance form, while she was learning Bharathanatyam in Kolkata, her native place.

She explains how Kuchipudi made its entry in Chennai. It was her guru, founder of Kuchipudi Art Academy, who popularised the dance form by modifying it. The dance form has its roots in the village called Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh.  She says, “This institute is the mother institute as any Kuchipudi dancer is directly or indirectly related to this institute.” She says that almost 70 percent of her students are Tamilians. “My students include Bengalis, North Indians, Malayalees and so on, but most of them are Tamilians, who enjoy learning Kuchipudi as much as Bharathanatyam,” she says. She adds that at present she has around 50 students.

“Often people confuse between the two dance forms because of their similarities, but they are very different from each other. Kuchipudi is the only dance form that has all the elements of all dance forms. There is a lot of torso movement (shoulder to waist) in the form, unlike the other forms. It is graceful and rigid at the same time, involving a lot of quick foot movements,” she says.


Trained by the renowned Keluchran Mohapatra, Sanhita Basu Ghose is an Odissi dancer and a teacher who takes classes in Chennai. She says that she faced a lot of difficulties in popularising the dance form in Chennai, but her hardwork was rewarded when she started getting requests from natives to teach their children. She, her daughter Ushoshi Ghose and her students (of her academy Konarak Odissi Dance and Art Academy) have done numerous shows in Chennai, which has been well received here. At present, she is training close to forty students.

Odissi, which is the native dance form of Odisha has five elements to it—  mangalacharana, invocation of Lord Jagannath, batu dance on beats, pallavi, dance on different ragas, abhinay, depiction of stories related to Lord Krishna and moksha, depiction of dance showing ultimate liberation from the earth.

This form has an interesting history, as it revolves around the poses of statues carved on the walls on the temples in Odisha.

It involves lasyam— fine and smooth body movements and a lot of eye movements, which is common for all dance forms.

 If you see an Odissi performance you will see a dancer dancing with a subtle smile, doing intricate hand and foot movements with a lot of swinging motions.


Karthiyayini Srinivas, dancer and teacher of Bharathanatyam and Mohiniattam for the past 40 years, has a different opinion about the response of Chennaites towards Mohiniattam— a native dance form of Kerala. She says that although Tamilians learn this dance form, there are not many in number. She has more Malayalee students for Mohiniattam apart from North Indians and Bengalis who come to her academy—Karthiyayini Performing Arts. However, she adds that a lot of foreign students come to her to learn this sensuous dance form, especially Americans, British, Japanese and Italians.

Mohiniattam, which is the most sensuous of all classical dance forms, comprises lasyam and bhava — elegant and soft body movements and a myriad of expressions with a lot of eyebrow movements. It is a personification of the navrasam or the nine emotions especially love, as it revolves around episodes from Lord Krishna’s stories. It has three important elements— pallavi, the beginning, anu pallavi, the theme and charanam, depictions of various raas lilas of Lord Krishna. She says that Mohiniattam is popular mostly in December during the Margazhi season, as there is a lot of demand for performances.


A Gujarati, born and brought up in Chennai, Kathak dancer and teacher Jigyasa Giri, who heads ‘Devaniya’ shares how difficult it was to teach a completely different dance form in a city, initially. However, with time and awareness, people started taking up the dance form and in the last five years the popularity has grown immensely. Jigyasa says, “Initially there were a lot of problems as the language in not conducive for the people of Chennai, musicians required for the dance form were not available, people confused it with Kathakali but now the scenario has changed. Over 50 per cent of my students are Tamilians and there is a lot of demand.” She explains the North-centred dance form, “Kathak is a beautiful blend of two cultures — Hindu and Muslim, It has the salaam as well as the namaskar. It can be performed on a wide arena of music like ghazal, bhajan, thumri and so on.”


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