Kuchupudi Kalakendram: The 25-year-old abode of Andhra’s own dance form in Vizag

Dance is a way of life; dance is a form of expression; dance is a channel to pass down culture and tradition, believes the second-generation Kuchipudi dancer Aditya Anukula of the Kuchupudi Kalakendram in Vizag. Speaking to Yo! Vizag, on the occasion of completing 25 glorious years, the principal of the Kuchupudi dance classes in Vizag shares his journey with this art form.

Born to A B Bala Kondala Rao, founder of the Kuchupudi Kalakendram with 50 years of experience, Aditya had the art form ingrained from birth. Watching his mother, who has also been his guru, teach the dance form from a very young age, it came naturally to him to take up dance as his career. “I completed my MBA in HR from Andhra University and also took up a job in Pune. But my body and mind gave up on the 9 to 5 format of life within 6 months. That is when I decided to return to Visakhapatnam to pursue what I loved the most; Kuchupudi,” said the artist. Aditya is currently pursuing his PhD research in Dance from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu.

Also read: The legend of the 135-year-old Kanyaka Parameswari Temple in Visakhapatnam 

Aditya, who had been learning Kuchupudi from the age of 8, recalled his first stage performance and said, “At the age of 13, I played the role of Shiva opposite a 20-year-old Parvathi. After the performance, I received accolades from across the room, and that is when I realised how age is just a number.” Little did he realise that he was destined to carry forward his mother’s legacy of Kuchupudi Kalakendram in Vizag and beyond.

Aditya, who has toured the world to perform dance shows, believes it is extremely important to propagate Indian culture. “The simple ritual of dressing up in a traditional dance attire is one of the many steps we have been encouraging our students to follow every day since the beginning. Dance has the power to bring discipline into one’s life,” he added.

The Kuchupudi Kalakendram has completed 25 years of teaching the traditional dance of Andhra Pradesh to thousands of students. From the age of 2 to 60, they have had people from all walks of life wanting to learn this form of expression. “The Kuchupudi Kalakendram was built with the sole purpose of teaching Kuchupudi. Taking this art form to every corner of the world is our vision,” said the seasoned dancer.

South India is home to multiple dance forms, with every state nurturing its own. All of them have carved their niche globally, and have represented the country and its culture. Sadly, Kuchupudi has not gained equal prominence as others. It is frequently mistaken to be a form of Bharatanatyam, while on the contrary, they share very few similarities. “Sadly, many people from Andhra do not recognise their very own dance form, and hence Kuchupudi needs to be performed more on stages nationally and internationally,” said the principal when asked about the prominence of Kuchupudi. He further added that there has been a considerable rise in participation today. “Kuchupudi is more visible today. It has become more than just a dance for women. The number of men enrolling to learn this classical art is higher when compared to three years ago,” said Aditya, who has been heading the Kuchupudi Kalakendram in Vizag for 10 years now.

Speaking about his personal experience, the ace dancer said that the societal construct that men will become feminine after learning dance is untrue. “There is nothing feminine nor masculine in the dance form. It is a way of storytelling, it is a way of expression,” affirmed Aditya. The dancer himself encourages youngsters in Vizag, irrespective of gender, to take up the art form for its endless benefits and join dance classes.

Addressing how Kuchupudi can be a career option, Aditya said, “It all depends on each individual’s calibre. Dance requires an investment of time, dedication, and concentration. Taking it up as a career broadens the scope for various other opportunities. An example being teaching the dance form at the university level,” said Aditya.

The students of Kuchupudi Kalakendram, along with Aditya and his guru Bala Kondala Rao, have crafted a new ballet to commemorate the 25 years of the institute. Additionally, it will also honour the Telugu poet Nannaya who was the first to translate Telugu scriptures to Sanskrit back in the 11th century. Named ‘Bharatha Avathakanam’, the new ballet has been performed at various places across the city.

Aditya strongly believes Kuchupudi is of rising interest among the people of Vizag. The Kuchupudi Kalakendram dance classes in Vizag have opened doors for all those who are willing to learn the art form. Although the institute does charge a reasonable fee, there have been times when the founders have taught for free. “Young or old, Kuchupudi Kalakendram is a dance school for all. If you love the dance form, it will show you the path ahead,” he concluded.

Stay tuned to Yo! Vizag website and Instagram for more interesting stories.

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