The Kuchipudi connection

Express News Service

CHENNAI: With the pandemic-induced lockdown in place, both art and artistes have been shut indoors. But thankfully, hope and choice have not been locked down. Even as we remain socially distanced, art is unfolding in our separate homes, but bringing with it a democratic spirit especially in Indian classical music and dance, which has not been a social equaliser. COVID-19, however, is now rewriting this history, and for all the good reasons. So welcome to the new stage — Facebook and Instagram — where the show must go on. Inspired by this new platform, 11 Kuchipudi dancers from around the world will come together to perform live on Instagram from April 28-30.

Titled Samarambham, which means a new beginning, this event is being conducted by members of Kuchipudi Meet Up, an Instagram page, which was started in August 2019 by Lalitha Sindhuri, a Kuchipudi dancer from Rajahmundry and now based in Hyderabad, along with fellow artistes like Sai Gangadhar Venkata and Srilekhya. “Samarambham means beginning of something new. There has never been a community-level activity online. This is the first of a kind for Kuchipudi,” says Lalitha.

While these communities made great effort to help artistes, it never ventured into the area of organising programmes for themselves, she soon found. This prompted her to consider creating a platform for Kuchipudi dancers. It was also a means to break the trend of getting dancers to perform for free. In her part of the world, she took to passing the hat around and let people pay whatever they can. She made sure that all the money went to the artistes and only them. With most of the globe under lockdown for World Dance Day, she 

decided to move the model to the virtual space; albeit, minus the hat. Fellow dancers seemed equally thrilled with the idea, it looks like. “We have been flooded with requests from artistes the world over. Keeping time in mind, we are going with just 11 of them this time. However, we hope to keep the momentum of this initiative going.

World Dance Day is just another excuse to perform. During the lockdown, it is also an excuse for us to celebrate and be happy,” she shares. Taking this art to patrons in the safety of their homes will be 11 dancers performing across the three days. On day one and two, there will be performances by four dancers on each day, while the concluding day will have three performances.

Despite the challenges of the virtual stage, artistes remain enthusiastic and confident of entertaining the audience by showcasing some of their original works, some by showcasing traditional items where the focus stays on storytelling, and some others by peforming the Tarangam — a piece unique to the Kuchpudi repertoire, where the artistes will dance of the rim of a brass plate and perform to fastpaced rhythms. A 2017 Fulbright scholar in dance, Lalitha’s trip to the US as part of this experience opened her up to the idea of a community only for Kuchipudi artistes.

“Fullbright made me understand that instead of focusing on individual growth one should think of the community at large. Artistes in the US keep asking themselves that. That attitude inspired me to start this in India,” she says. The event will be held from April 28 to April 30 starting at 5 pm on the Instagram handle @kuchipudimeetup

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