World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival



DANCE ORIGIN: Andhra Pradesh, India
GENRE: Kuchipudi
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2010

Kuchipudi is one of India’s seven classical dance styles, traced to the second century BC. In the fourteenth century, scholar/dancer Sidhyendra Yogi, in a village in Andhra Pradesh, revived Yakshagna folk dance forms with stylized footwork and classical music. Until the 1900s, only men danced kuchipudi, as religious practice. Then Vedantam Lakshminarayana Shastri took the dance to Madras (Chennai), reintroduced women, and created the popular solo dances. Kuchipudi dancers mime stories told in song. They combine intricate classical movements with theatrical gesture, fast rhythms, alluring expressions, and swift looks. Unique to kuchipudi is tarangam, a dance performed on the edge of a brass plate. Dancers often balance on their heads a small brass pot filled with water.

Natyalaya was established by Jyothi Lakkaraju, a renowned artist and instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Initiated in the year 2000, the main aspiration of this school is to promote and proliferate kuchipudi. The school presents carefully planned lesson curricula, and has given innumerable kuchipudi performances in the Bay Area. Individual dancers from the Natyalaya team also perform frequently throughout California. The company is based in San Jose.


TITLE: Parvathi, the Divine
CHOREOGRAPHER: Jyothi Lakkaraju
COMPOSER: Ghatam Karthick
DANCERS: Neha Akella, Manaswina Avvari, Spoorthi Davala, Smitha Gundhavajhhala, Neha Kidambi, Samika Kumar, Sreenidhi Madabhushi, Rekha Thangelapalli, Meena Vemuri

Parvathi, the Divine is a presentation of the classical dance and art form South Indian kuchipudi. It is offered in praise of Goddess Parvati, the Divine Mother, protector of the universe, and consort of Lord Shiva. This performance tells an ancient story of Parvarthi’s compassionate nature, followed by a danced celebration.

A long time ago, Shiva was engaged only in his solitary and perpetual meditation. But then, one day, the gods sent Manmatha, god of love, to join Shiva and Parvahi together. Parvahi was bringing her daily offerings to Lord Shiva when Manmatha shot an arrow into Shiva, forcing him to wake from his meditation and suddenly fall in love. Shiva realized what happened, became enraged, and opened his third eye, burning Manmatha to ashes. Gentle Parvati, wanting to restore harmony, beseeched Lord Shiva to restore the god of love, and Shiva acquiesced. Parvati and Shiva married, and the world found joy in their sacred union.

Kuchipudi employs nritya pantomime gestures and movements to express emotion and tell sacred narratives, fused with the intricate movements of nritta pure dance. The form is closely related to bharatanatyam, but its theatrical elements are exaggerated: the dance is vigorous, and the dancer quite sensual and feminine. Kuchipudi is also known for its use of the entire body in the translation of words, and for the use of actual words as dialogue in performance.

Kuchipudi originated as a Hindu dance-drama form from Andhra Pradesh, linked to the Natya Shastra around 200 BCE. It was refined in the 13th century by Siddendra Yogi. The dance was originally restricted to male Brahmin dancers and is now practiced by both male and female dancers. In the twentieth century, the stage form of kuchipudi emerged and is now performed around the world.

The dancers’ jewelry and makeup are modeled after Indian wedding regalia, honoring the auspicious and traditional nature of kuchipudi. The dance is accompanied by mridangam drum, violin, flute, and cymbals. Jyothi Lakkaraju learned the dance from Dr. Uma Rama Rao in Hyderabad, India.


NatyalayaTITLE: An Evening in Brindavan
Sweta Prasad
Vedantam Keerthi, Avvari Manaswini, Vemuri Meena, Kidambi Neha, Thangelapalli Rekha, Gundavajhala Smitha, Bathina Sneha, Davala Spoorthi, Madabhushi Sreenidh


An Evening in Brindava is a well-loved South Indian kuchipudi item, based on the Hindu tale of the gopi milkmaids. One evening—amid cuckoos and honeybees, beside the Yamuna river, under cool mountain breezes and the scent of sandalwood—the gopi maidens are enchanted by the flute. They come upon Lord Krishna and they dance with him, each woman believing Krishna dances only with her.

So Krishna took each one of them by the hand and completed the circle of the dance with the cowherd women. . . Krishna sang about the harvest moon, the moonlight and the night-blooming lotus, but the crowd of cowherd women sang only the name of Krishna, over and over again . . . He whose real form is as pervasive as the wind lives as the lord in those women, in their husbands, and in all creatures as well. Just as ether, earth, water and wind are in all beings. . .

(from The Sanskrit Puranas
Dimmit & van Buitenen)

The South Indian costume is considered auspicious, with regalia, jewelry, and makeup adapted from traditional bridal wear. Dancers also wear veils to portray the milkmaids. Krishna is adorned with peacock feathers and garlands; he mimes his spiritual flute. The dancers beat sticks in formations. They dance to classical Carnatic music recorded in India by singer Swetha Persad, with mridangam, tabla, sitar, violin, and vina.

Jyothi Lakkaraju learned the dance from Dr. Uma Rama Rao in Hyderabad, India, and choreographed this version in 2010.


Title: Parvathi, the Divine 
Dancers: Avvari Manaswini, Kidambi Neha, Thangellapalli Rekha, Lakkaraju Santosh, Bathina Shalini, Tammiraju Spandana, Davala Spoorthi, Madabhushi Sreenidhi

In Parvathi, the Divine, South Indian kuchipudi art form combines the intricate movements of classical dance with narrative theatrical elements. Natyalaya's performance is in praise of Goddess Parvathi, the Divine Mother, protector of the universe, and consort of Lord Shiva.  

The performers begin with rapid and intricate movements of nritta pure dance, and then use natya pantomime to illustrate Pavarthi's compassionate nature and to tell us the ancient story: the gods send Manmatha, god of love, to join Shiva and Paravathi together. Paravathi brings her daily offerings to Lord Shiva. One day Manmatha shoots an arrow into Lord Shiva, forcing Shiva to wake from his perpetual meditation and fall in love. Shiva sees Manmatha and becomes enraged; he opens his third eye and burns Manmatha to ashes. Gentle Parvathi beseeches Lord Shiva to restore the god of love, and Shiva acquiesces. Pavarthi and Shiva marry, and the dancers—using nritya gestures and movements to express emotion—celebrate the joyful and sacred union.

Back to top