Andhra Pradesh has always been known for its rich culture, having presented a wide range of performing arts, including dance, drama and music, to the world. Dance is the
most interesting form of performing arts that has been encouraged from centuries in India. The state boasts of so many folk dances that it would not be possible to describe
all of them. The Dance forms of Andhra Pradesh take on a wide variety of colors, costumes, and types and involve different settings and musical instruments. Here, let us
have a glance over a few of them.
Lambadi, which is a tribal dance of Andhra Pradesh, is a special art form. It owes its origin to the village of Anupu near Nagarjunakonda. The participants are tribal women who belong to the nomadic Senegalese and Banjara tribes. These women are heavily bedecked in colourful costumes and ornaments such as ivory bangles. The dresses are decorated with mirrors and sequins. The male drummers also dance along with the women as the dance gains momentum. The songs for this dance are sung in the Lambadi dialect. The dance depicts the daily chores of the farmer such as sowing, planting and harvesting. It is performed during festivals such as Dussehra and Diwali. These dancers move from one house to another, performing at each place and are rewarded with alms for their efforts.
Burrakatha, also known as Jangam Katha, is another folk dance of Andhra Pradesh. In Telengana it goes by the name of Tamboorakatha while in Rayalaseema it is known as
Tandana katha or Suddulu. This art form is used to narrate tales from Indian mythology. The chief narrator plays a stringed instrument known as a tambura. His narration and dance are performed simultaneously while his associates accompany him on small drums called gummeta. These small drums are also known as budike. The performers comprise a team of two or three people from the same family. They belong to certain castes or tribes known as picchuguntla or jangalu.
Burrakatha gained prominence during the freedom movement when it was used to educate the people about the current political situation during various meetings. This art
form was therefore banned in the then Madras province by the British government and in the independent Hyderabad kingdom by the Nizam’s government. The authorities
feared that it could be used to stir up a popular uprising in these areas. The narrator’s associate would liven up his story with humorous comments.
Veeranatyam is an ancient dance form of Andhra Pradesh of high religious significance. Also known as the Dance of Destruction, it is said to have been performed by Lord Shiva who was enraged at his wife Sati’s death. Veeranatyam is performed by the Veeramusti community who claim lineage from Veerabhadra, who is depicted as another form of Lord Shiva. Veeranatyam is performed by men in the Saivite temples of East and West Godavari, Kurnool, Anantapur and Khammam. In the first stage the men hold a huge plate, with burning camphor, known as the Veerabhadra Pallem. They dance vigorously to the accompaniment of many percussion instruments till the burning camphor is
extinguished. During the ceremony the priest, brandishes a long sword representing the weapon of Veerabhadra.
In the second stage, the performers hold a long sacred pole representing the ‘Dhwaja Sthamba’ of Lord Shiva. It is smeared with Vibhuti or sacred ashes and has bells tied to
the top. During the third stage the performers go through a painful ordeal as they dance with spears and tridents pierced into their ankles, hands and tongues. This part of the dance is known as Narasam. They are dressed in knee-length dhotis with waist bands and have ashes smeared all over their bodies. Their dance is accompanied by the
Veeranam or the war drum.
Kuchipudi not only a dance, but a fine amalgamation of dance, gestures, speech and song. A Kuchipudi dancer is required to be well versed in dancing, acting, music, various languages and texts. In the 17th century, Siddhendra Yogi started this dance during the 'bhakti' movement. It originated in a village named Kuchipudi. Kuchipudi has its roots in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra.
The Kuchipudi performance usually begins with an invocation. Then, each costumed actor is introduced, their role stated, and they then perform a short preliminary dance
set to music (dharavu). Next, the performance presents pure dance (nritta). This is followed by the expressive part of the performance (nritya), where rhythmic hand gestures help convey the story. Vocal and instrumental Carnatic music in the Telugu language accompanies the performance. The typical musical instruments in Kuchipudi are mridangam, cymbals, veena, flute and the tambura.
The popularity of Kuchipudi has grown within India, and it is performed worldwide. The unique folk dances of the region give Andhra Pradesh a place of pride in the cultural map of India.