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Devoted to dance

K.K. GOPALAKRISHNAN

Kuchipudi exponent Kalamandalam Rajalakshmy has popularised the dance form in Kerala.



DANCE ON HER MIND: Rajalakshmy.

Although Kuchipudi has its origins in Kuchipudi village of Andhra Pradesh, which a remarkable folk tradition, the art of Kuchipudi is considered one of the strong classical dance traditions of India, thanks to stalwarts like Gurus Vedantham Satyanarayana Sarma and Vembatti Chinnasathyam and their disciples.

While the former always confined himself to the pristine purity of the tradition and became the unopposed king of the art, the latter made it more eloquent and popular through reformed choreography. Moreover, he migrated to Chennai.

Kuchipudi specialist

Of the very few Kuchipudi exponents in Kerala, Kalamandalam Rajalakshmy enjoys a pivotal role being the head of the art form in Kerala Kalamandalam. She is equally regarded as an outstanding teacher and a fine performer. After her graduation and post-graduation from the Kalamandalam in 1980, she went to Andhra Pradesh and learnt from Gurus Vedantham Satyanarayana Sarma and Vedantham Prahlada Sarma under the gurukula system by staying at the latter's home. In 1984, Rajalakshmi was appointed as a faculty at Kerala Kalamandalam, as a Kuchipudi specialist. Even now she occasionally goes to Andhra Pradesh to update her knowledge of the art form.

Misconceptions

Several acclaimed dancers outside Kerala, especially the ones from other States, who are invited to judge State school youth festival competitions, sometimes criticise the way Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, among other forms, are taught and presented in Kerala.

"This is not always true; Kuchipudi is well presented and preserved in Kerala," Rajalakshmy disagrees with such generalised statements. One of the complaints about Kuchipudi dancers from Kerala is that they never sing during a performance, while the distinctive trait of the style demands that. "If one sings loudly and performs, it definitely affects both the subtlety of abhinaya and the background music. Even a layman would agree that it is not suitable for stage presentations. Instead, we do move our lips substantially to make the audience feel as if the dancer too is singing," she says.

There is some misconception about the dance form in Kerala.

Some people feel that the slightly acrobatic dance on a plate with a water-filled goblet balanced on the head (tharangam, one of the items of the style from `Krishnaleelatharangini' of Narayana Theerthar) is Kuchipudi.

"It is very unfortunate. In many dance competitions only those who perform a tharangam get prizes, like that of a varnam for Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam, This must be one of the reasons why people confine Kuchipudi to tharangam," says Rajalakshmy.

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