A classical dance-drama style occasionally performed as a solo female dance, that originates from Kuchipudi village in Andra Pradesh and is often regarded as an off-shoot of Bharatanatyam. Developed over various parts of south India during the 16th century under the Vaishnavaite bhakti cults, popular religious movements involving devotion to the god Vishnu, this art form spread later to the north and east of the Indian subcontinent and emerged as a classical dance style under Siddendra Yogi, a Telugu brahmin playwright, who initially trained brahmin boys from the village of Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh.
Kuchipudi dance-dramas are highly decorative and involve much abhinaya (mime). It is performed either as a dance-drama with a retinue of dancers or in solo. Dance items are executed with a characteristic stamping of the feet and dipping and bobbing of the body, following curved lines and require flexing of the hips. The themes of Kuchipudi dance dramas are derived from the Sanskrit epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
As in other South Indian dance styles, Kuchipudi is performed to Carnatic music, with the mridangam, cymbals, violin and clarinet as principal instruments. In Kuchipudi, the artists themselves provide the vocal accompaniment both in Telugu and Sanskrit. These songs are pure poetry, and as they are recited the dancer gives full scope to their physical expression. In the pure dance aspect, where the Kuchipudi artist engages in highly technical pieces, a clear similarity with the North Indian classical style of Kathak exists in the footwork. Indeed, Kuchipudi is characterised by a clapping rhythm that accompanies the instruments and follows the dance items.