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  • Taking Center Stage: The Poet-Saint and the Impersonator of Kuchipudi Dance History

    Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

    Chapter from the book: Kamath, H. 2019. Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance.


    This chapter examines the significance of impersonation in Kuchipudi dance history as both vocal guising in narrative and as sartorial guising in performance to trace the constructed genealogy of Kuchipudi dance and foreground the mechanisms by which Siddhendra and the brahmin impersonator came to occupy center stage. The chapter begins by examining the figure of Siddhendra, the purported founding saint of Kuchipudi dance. Elite Telugu proponents in the mid-twentieth century significantly expanded the life story of Siddhendra into a devotional hagiography of religious significance. Alongside this discursive rescripting is the performative ecology of colonial and postcolonial South India, in which the hereditary brahmin impersonator achieved prominence on the Kuchipudi stage. By virtue of his caste status and gender identity, the brahmin impersonator from the Kuchipudi village became the face of Kuchipudi classical dance in postcolonial South India. By focusing on the figure of the Kuchipudi brahmin impersonator, this chapter contributes to the field of Indian dance historiography, which often overlooks the critical role the dancing male body, particularly the dancing brahmin male body, played in shaping South Indian dance as classical.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Kamath, H. 2019. Taking Center Stage: The Poet-Saint and the Impersonator of Kuchipudi Dance History. In: Kamath, H, Impersonations. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.72.b

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    Published on June 4, 2019


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