The Revival of Andhranatyam

To fulfill this promise, Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna focused his research on reviving most of the ancient dance forms of Andhra Pradesh performed by women. This included interacting and compiling the research reports on dance styles and traditions of several temple dancers and court dancers while closely interacting with prominent dance exponents who stopped performing in temples and courts due to Devadasi Act’s implementation in 1947. These dancers then were on the verge of giving up the dance profession due to lack of patronage and were practicing Mejuvani and Kalaapams for the general public in temple festivals for survival.

1st conference on Nattuva Mela traditions of Telugu region in the name of Abhinaya Sadassu

Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna was supported for this cause by another enthusiastic dance exponent Annabathula Buli Venkataratnamma, a famous abhinaya and prabandha style dancer. She played an essential role in interacting and convincing other exponents from the temple and court dances to join Nattuva Mela’s revival traditions of Andhra Pradesh.

"Abhinaya Sadassu" conference and seminar held on 22nd and 23rd of August 1970 at Lalitha Kala Niketan in Rajamundry was attended by 31 elderly artists who were between the age group of sixty-five and eighty, who practiced dance their whole life in the temples and courts, besides Late Pasala Suryachandra Rao, former President, AP Sangeet Nataka Academy, Late SBPBK Satyanarayana Rao, Zamindar of Kapileswarapuram, Late T. Bullaiah, Navabharat Gurukulam, Rajahmundry and Late Nataraja Ramakrishna.

The conference focused on the lasya tradition of dances from Andhra Pradesh, with discussions interspersed with lecture-demonstrations and performances in Temple, Kaccheri, and Bhagavata. Some of the several points discussed that stand out and form the core essentials of the Nattuva Mela tradition of Andhra Pradesh are:

• Training system followed in temple dance tradition

• Choreography concepts in Kaccheri style

• Identifying the differences between Kaccheri and Bhagavata traditions and the adavu system

• Abhinaya aspects in both Lasya and Tandava in Bhagavatha tradition and abhinaya by female artists.

This was a historic seminar which unanimously decided for the first time that the Lasya Nartana practiced by these artists till then should adopt a new name Andhranatyam, since it was known variously as Agamanartanam, Kelika, Darbar ata, Katcheri ata, Karnatakam, Nattuvamelam, Mezuvani, etc. However, intense deliberations by experts and scholars on dance were continued after this seminar.

1st Andhranatyam workshop

With the inspiration from the 1970 seminar, the Andhra Pradesh Sangeet Nataka Academy conducted three months of training in Andhranatyam from January to April in 1973, in Kala Bhavan - Ravindra Bharathi. In this, the artists from other States, countries like Germany, USA also were trained under experts like Annabattula Buli Venkataratnamma (Katcheri and Kalapam), Saride Manikyamma (Agamam - Adhyatma Ramayanam), Duggirala Jagadamba (Kshetrayya Padabhinayam), Nataraja Ramakrishna (theoretical and practical aspects of the dance).

meeting to prepare a repertoire and syllabus for Andhranatyam

The necessity of writing a syllabus for the training and performance generated a need for another seminar held from 25 to 27 February 1974. In this seminar, the temple dancers, court dancers, and prabandha dancers - a total of 19 members from all over the Telugu region attended to formulate the syllabus. For this purpose, Nataraja Ramakrishna had to take the responsibility to propagate Andhranatyam, as the artists were all female artists looked down upon by society. So they didn't want to come out to propagate the art form. Nataraja Ramakrishna introduced this dance form in his institution Nrityaniketan at Hyderabad and made his disciples learn, even though they were learning Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi from him. He requested some of the core dancers to come and stay in his institution to train his disciples. Gudigunta Nagamanamma, Saride Manikyamma, Duggirala Jagadamba, Gaddibhukta Jeevartnamma, Jampa Mutyam gave teaching his disciples.

Executive committee meeting to formulate syllabus for Andhranatyam with some changes: 16th September 1982

At the time of this meeting, several artists who had shared their ideas originally in framing the syllabus in the 1974 forum were no more. Hence, a new committee was formed with Saride Manikyamma, Chinta Chiniganiraju, Duggirala Jagadamba, and Jampa Mutyam for conducting a refresher course to prepare the latest syllabus for students of Andhranatyam. Korada Narasimha Rao was the convenor for the syllabus committee to introduce Andhranatyam for six years in various colleges and universities for academic pursuits. Some of the prominent Kuchipudi gurus, like Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma and Sumathy Kaushal, were part of the core committee, who approved and officiated the recognition of Andhranatyam. The then Nritya Academy officially recorded the same.

Conference in Vijayawada organized by Ramakrishna Nritya Kalakshetram on 17th July 1994

During this seminar, Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna, Sarada Ramakrishna, Guru Kalakrishna, and several prominent artists discussed the historical details of Andhranatyam, compiling the list of ancient dancers in the history of Andhra Pradesh. A particular discussion was also about Narasaraopeta’s tradition of performing style. Dr. Mikkilineni Radhakrishna Murthy recapped the history of temple sculptures concerning performing arts. Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna emphasized the lasya tradition of performance and Navajanardana Parijatam. Viswanatha Satyanarayana mentioned the historical details of Andhranatyam and Deva Ganikas. Sappa Durga Prasad detailed the Agama nritya style in temples of the Andhra region. Perini Kumar spoke about Yoga sadhana concerning Perini dance. Sarada Ramakrishna organized the meeting in Vijayawada.

National conference at St. Dominic School, Andhranatyam & Perini Research Centre, Hyderabad, 24-25 Sept 1994

In 1994, 24th to 25th September a National Seminar was conducted in Andhranatyam at Hyderabad with some outstanding participants like Dr. Sunil Kothari, Dr. PSR Appa Rao, Usha Malik, Uma Rama Rao along with noteworthy Andhranatyam exponents like Pula Adi Lakshmi, Puvvula Lakshmikantamma, Saride Manikyamma, Annabattula Satyabhama, etc.
And 1995, two festivals were held with Andhranatyam performances at Vijayawada and Hyderabad to propagate the art form. In the same year, a G.O. was passed by the Andhra Pradesh state government to include Andhranatyam as the syllabus for students at Telugu University and its affiliated colleges, enabling them to pursue Certificate and Diploma courses in Andhranatyam.
A 9-day festival was attended by some eminent artists, historians, and scholars like Sharon Lowen, B.N. Sastry, Kala Subba Rao, and Gidugu Ramamurty unanimously agreed that Andhranatyam needs to be propagated across India.
Since then, thousands of students have attained certificate and diploma certifications from Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University. In 2002, Andhranatyam was introduced at the post-graduation level at Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University. Every year a minimum of 5 students graduate from the University. Under Guru Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna’s guidance, Dr. Suvarchala Devi holds the first Ph.D. in Andhranatyam from Hyderabad.