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Up-and-coming dancer

Sivaram Varma has dedicated himself to the dance form of Kuchipudi, in its unadulterated form. He has also developed a new style called Siddhendra Nrityam.

THE MAIN dance form of devdasis, Kuchipudi is one of the oldest classical dances in the world. It originated in the village of Kuchelapuri (which later evolved into Kuchipudi) in Divi taluq of Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh. It is from the foundation of `Bhagavatha Melam', the 10-day rendering of Krishna leela, that Kuchipudi evolved to its present form. It was adopted by devdasis to please the deities.

Though many elements of Bharatanatyam have crept into Kuchipudi, whereby the dance form has lost its purity, it is still loved by many. Raja Sivaram Varma is an artiste who prefers to stick to the traditional style of the dance form. His first guru was Damodaran Pillai. But his talent was first recognised by his grandmother, Krishnaveni Jayaram, who was a well-known dancer herself. Dr. Chidambaram of Hyderabad and danseuse Chitra Subramaniam have also been instrumental in guiding him.

Sivaram has received many accolades for his unadulterated dance recitals, which also prompted him to develop a dance form dedicated to Siddhendra Yogi, the scholar who first scientifically framed the art. Named Siddhendra Nrityam, this dance has four `tharangas'. `Varna Tharanga' has more of nrityam and the costumes used are colourful. The jathis are also given importance. In `Pada Tharanga', lyrics and slokas find prominence, along with abhinaya. The costumes are simpler. `Thana Tharanga', which has jathis, swarams, and abhinaya, involves more footwork. Here too, not much importance is given to costumes. The most prominent of the four is `Raja Tharanga' or `Megha Tharanga', in which a variety of brass vessels are used in course of the recital. It belongs to `janaranchaka' style, which is very attractive, and the dancer's dexterity becomes fully evident in this form. Sivaram has started a dance school, Sriranga, near Chettikulangara Devi temple. He has also choreographed for a TV serial. He is currently authoring a book, `The Great Kuchupidi Art', aimed at creating general awareness on the evolution and style of Kuchipudi.

AMBIKA VARMA

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