Celebrating Dr. Vempati Chinna Sathyam’s birthday
- Bhavanvitha Venkat
e-mail: bhavanvitha@gmail.com

November 23, 2013

The city of Visakhapatnam once again took the initiative to celebrate an important dance occasion. Since the guru-parampara tradition is slowly fading and disappearing, it’s a welcome initiative that Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam’s birthday is being celebrated. It is a well known fact that Kuchipudi tradition owes its spread and sustenance to the vision of Vempati. VAADA  (Visakha Art and Dance Association) and NMDA (Nataraj Music and Dance Academy) as organizers and Kalabharathi and Kali temple as the sabhas are to be commended for taking the initiative.

Andhra Pradesh is going through some very interesting times. There is this State bifurcation process, and culture is much talked about in this context. After all, Telangana issue centers around culture and traditions besides development. What is happening in the political front would have its impact on everything else as well including Kuchipudi. Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam made a huge contribution to the art and as we celebrate his birthday, there is this feeling of anxiety and curiosity about the future of the state of Andhra Pradesh. 

Kali Festival

Kuchipudi guru Vempati Chinna Satyam’s birthday and ‘Pranamya’ were celebrated at Visakhapatnam on October 15, 2013. The celebrations of Nataraj Music and Dance Academy took place at the famous Kali Temple on the beach road. The temple has a special place in a Vizagite’s heart. Overlooking the sea and built in 1984, the temple’s architecture reminds you of Dakshineswar temple in Kolkata. The trust operating the temple is doing a great job and the reception was so nice at the temple that we also got special prasad.

NMDA’s founder Vikram Goud proposed that Guru Vempati’s birthday be celebrated as Andhra Pradesh Dance Day by the Andhra Pradesh Government. Once we follow the initiative, thereafter recognition would soon follow by itself. Even though we have a World Dance Day, it makes sense to celebrate Andhra Pradesh dance since Vempati’s birthday symbolizes how the rich and divine Kuchipudi dance survived through many centuries and is now spread across the world and so calls for a special dedication.

At Kalabharathi
Andhra Pradesh is a land of many traditional dance forms and all of these are slowly fading into oblivion. Vikram reminds that soon many of the traditional dance forms may be limited to dancing figures in museums. NMDA presented folk artistes too and thereafter classical dance performances followed. In a simple function, an English book on Vempati Chinna Satyam titled ‘Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam - A Reformer’ was released and a few copies were distributed. An impressive ‘framed-photograph’ of the guru in dance pose was placed on the stage and Vikram informed that similar photo frames were distributed to some cultural associations in the morning.

Later at Kalabharathi, VAADA together with support from Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam Kuchipudi Kalakshetra celebrated the maestro’s birthday with performances by young and senior students of the institute. The celebrations were appropriately titled ‘Pranamya Vempati Chinna Satyam Dance Festival.’ The sloka in Natyashastra initiates with “Pranamya.”

Kuchipudi dance performances of Vempati’s choreographic works were performed well and the talent exhibited holds promise to the future of the dance form. Last year the celebrations were marked with workshops and with performances by top artistes from other dance forms too. Disciples of Vempati themselves constituted VAADA and have been doing service to Kuchipudi community by way of organizing performances. The students of Hari Rama Murthy and Kumar are in good hands. With support from disciples of Vempati viz. Ramana Rao K and Jagan, we can expect to see even more efforts for the cause of Kuchipudi.

As we come close to the celebrations this year, any dance enthusiast would wonder whether the State would continue to be one, Samaikyandhra or if it’s going to be Seemandhra in 2014. Let’s wait and watch.

Bhavanvitha Venkat is a writer, critic and Kuchipudi dancer. He is a finance consultant, advisor to cultural institutes and likes to work on creative ideas.