For a cultural tradition in a diaspora community to not only survive but thrive, there must be dedicated artists who can not only entertain, but inspire. Acclaimed Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Kalluri is an amazing ambassador for this highly complex and nuanced art form.
Based in New York City, Kalluri began a collaboration with the Carnatic Ensemble. This trio of gifted musicians are of Tamil heritage, while Kalluri is of Telugu ancestry. This inter-generational ensemble combines two regional areas of South Indian tradition to create a mesmerizing performance that delights audiences, captivates the imagination and celebrates their Indian heritage.
Kuchipudi dance comes from a village of that name in the state of Andhra Pradesh, on India’s Southeastern coast. As one of nine classical dance forms in India, Kuchipudi is based on ancient Hindu dance-dramas known as yakshagana. For 300 years, Kuchipudi was an ensemble dance form with male dancers. However, nearly 100 years ago, modern Kuchipudi was introduced as a solo dance tradition that featured female dancers.
Elements unique to Kuchipudi are an emphasis on dexterity and vigor, with the final act danced upon the rim of a brass plate. It is a dance form that is devoted to graceful, theatrical storytelling, in a vibrant traditional costume, with close interplay between the dancer and the singer. In the telling of these traditional epic dramas, through emotional clarity and delicate nuances, the tradition is made instantly accessible to a modern audience.
Yamini Kalluri performing with Chandra Rao (vocal), Sai Kolanka (violin) and Sreedharachary (mridangam)
At the tender age of 21, Kalluri is already established as a highly accomplished Kuchipudi performer, choreographer and teacher. Though born in the U.S., she grew up in Hyderabad, India, and began studying Kuchipadi dance at age seven. She proved to be especially skilled at the dance’s heightened use of abhinaya (expression), and when she was 12, she became a teacher herself. Kalluri has since performed in India, England and North America.