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Grand Kuchipudi Recital By World Renowned Reddy Family

Ranjani Saigal

Padmabhushan Raja and Radha Reddy claim the distinction of being leading exponents of the Kuchipudi classical dance style from the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India. Watching the brilliant display of fast rhythmic footwork and sculptresque body movements was a real treat for the audience who attended the dance recital by the Reddy family that was held at the Joseph P. Brooks Middle School in Lincoln, MA.

Titled “Parampara” the presentation showcased the various features of the Kuchipudi dance style. The program began with a Ganesha Vandana in Gaula Ragam set to Adi talam. Dancing in perfect unison, Raja and Radha Reddy used creative poses and movements to describe the glory of Lord Ganesha. Next Raja and his beautiful daughter Yamini presented Shivam that described the Tandava of Lord Shiva. It also included the Shiva–Nava Rasa, depicting the nine emotions brought out by the various aspects of Shiva.

Eleven-year old Bhavana Reddy charmed the audience with her presentation of Kaliya Nartana. This was set to an interesting Tillana written by Mahakavi Venkatagiri. Yamini and Kaushalya Reddy presented Tarana, a composition by Pandit Ravi Shankar.

The next piece Natavara Taruni, combined Lalitha Lavanga Latha from Geeta Govindam followed by Geetopadesha. Radha as Arjuna and Raja as Krishna depicted the Geetopadesha scene on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Laya Vibhathi was a joint presentation that included the entire Reddy family. Variations of Pancha Nadais were used to create a brilliant rhythmic display. The presentation ended with the traditional Tarangam (Yagnasya Padaravinda) where the dancers dance standing on the edges of a brass plate.

The artists seemed to have picked parts of Kuchipudi that they felt would create an impact on a lay audience. From the excitement seen in the audience, it seems like they were quite successful. The orchestra was excellent. Manda Krishna Mohan sang with feeling and Bhaskar Rao on the Mridangam provided the right support. Kaushalya Reddy had a firm grip of talam and her Nattuvangam was brilliant. This is not easy to do especially in Kuchipudi where the speed and complexity of rhythm is great. But I did not enjoy her strange sollukattus or her rendition of the sollukattus in an unnatural voice.

I have to say that for people who know and understand Kuchipudi, the show was disappointing. It appeared like a “cut & paste” job where no attention was given to details to produce a cogent program. I have seen Radha and Raja Reddy’s work in India and they are brilliant. Telling a cogent story well is their forte. I wish they did not make assumption about the ignorance of the audience. Raja Reddy’s explanation before the program did not always correspond to the actual item.

I had a chance to speak to the family. They were humble and eager to talk. Even though they are world renowned they had no airs about them. “We are so pleased that we have been able to bring Kuchipudi to audiences all over the world,” said Raja Reddy. “By dancing to songs from different languages we have been able to reach out to audiences in different parts of the world.” What is the secret to the exquisite poses that has made them so famous? “Practice is the key. The harder you work the more your body will listen to you” says Kaushalya Reddy.

What about their unusual family arrangement where both Radha and Kaushalya are married to Raja? “There is no conflict at all. I take care of the house, Kaushalya takes care of the correspondence and Guruji takes care of dance,” says Radha. How did this unusual arrangement happen in this day and age? “Well Radha and Raja were married when Radha was five and Raja eleven. They did not have any children. I fell in love with Jijaji (Raja) who is so handsome. My mother-in-law encouraged the match. Of course I was a little sad when Radha, who is my sister had a child after my marriage. But now we have Yamini (Radha’s daughter) and Bhavna (my daughter) and we are a happy family” says Kaushalya. What is it like to dance with your husband? Do you feel any competition? “Not at all. I respect him as my Guru and my husband. I would never compete with him. But when I am on stage I really try to excel” says Radha.

New Englanders should thank Jothi Raghavan and the Academy of Performing Arts for bringing leading dance recitals to the New England area.

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Radha, Raja, Kaushalya, Bhavna & Yamini Reddy

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