On the 4th day of the Natyakala Conference 2010, Convenor Shanta Dhananjayan presented the training methods in Kuchipudi developed by the legendary Vempatti Chinna Satyam. One of the earliest students of the Kuchipudi Arts Academy, Rathna Papa Kumar spoke about the vision of her guru and his constant search for perfection, while enlightening the audience about the technique of Kuchpudi.

The audience was given a simultaneous demonstration of the traditional namaskaram by Keshav Prasad and the Vempatti-embellished one by Srimayi Vempati. A similiar exercise was done with a pravesha daru, or the entry of a character. The adavu saamu, or the core foundation of adavus was presented in different tala patterns and even here, one learnt that earlier, the adavus to various tala-s were all one unit which were separated into individual strands. This helped in creating a method of teaching where the emphasis on increasing levels of difficulty had a logical progression.

The extension of the leg and the bending of the torso are key in the Kuchipudi style. Vempati Chinna Satyam created new movements based on the classical texts. He had an intuitive understanding of the dance texts and used his knowledge of them to make sure that the chari-s and other movements were in the classical mould. Dance movements were a process, a flow in positions from the beginning to the end. These movements had to be given an elaborate treatment, if they were to deserve the term ‘natya’. Diagonal patterns, circles, and the use of space resulted in a geometry made visual, and sculpturesque dance.

Earlier, Kuchipudi as related to the yakshagana tradition had a lot of dance-theatre in it, so the nritta part was restricted. Vempati expanded the range of nritta movements so as to suit the proscenium stage and the presentation of Kuchipudi as a separate style of dance. Hasta-s too were given full play.

Two of Vempati’s senior disciples, Madhavapeddi Murthy and Kishore Mosalikanti performed pieces they had choreographed themselves, proof that the parampara of Guru Vempati continues to flourish. Five year old Lakshmi Kameshwari, who presented a tarangam, is clearly the proud inheritor of her grand-father’s dancing genes.

Vempati Ramu - nattuvangam, Kanakadurga - vocal, Sudhakar - flute and Phani Kumar on the mridangam provided the music.