for pecuniary reasons, that as a young lad Vempati, inspired by his Late Guru Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry, vowed to himself that he would spread Kuchipudi dance form, which was his family traditions, bringing out its innate potential. His journey and settlement in Chennai where he established Kuchipudi Art Academy in 1963, has facilitated him to bring in a national wide exposure to Kuchipudi. The institutionalized teaching in which he created a systematic method of teaching made evident the potential of the form, many lauding him as a great innovator.
Innovator- in what sense? Was he just creating things anew? Was he adopting a new methodology? Or what was exactly that Vempati did to Kuchipudi? This needs an inquiry into his training, an analysis of his dance dramas and solo, and in totality his approach towards the form.
Vempati Chinna Satyam, right from the beginnings of his career as a performer and a teacher was different from the others of his ilk. He did not blindly follow what he was taught but understood it with a spirit of inquiry. He crosschecked his practice with the tenets of the earliest text on dance, which he believed is the basis for Kuchipudi dance, Natya Sastra. He made ardent efforts to analyze and meaningfully interpret what he was practically doing. His shrewdness in picking up the interpretations for different abhinayas by his Guru Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry, coupled with his observation and grasp of the intricacies of various great dancers and teachers of various dance forms of his time, made Vempati Chinna Satyam tread a new path in Kuchipudi which over four decades proved to be more than successful and rewarding for the form.
When he started teaching this form which originally was practiced by men only to young girls in his institution he took care to preserve the purity of its body kinetics, bringing in a finesse to each movement. He felt that the female body has an ingredient grace, the bobbing up and swaying movements that are practiced in executing the basics need to the curtailed as they would look odd on a female body and a movement is much graceful when done with an inborn vigour rather than an outwardly exhibition of the same. A comparison of the earlier practice and the same executed in one of Vempatiâ€™s training of the steps illustrates the point.
The first step with the pataksharas tam digi digi tai can be taken as an example. In this step, the hands are held at the chest level as hamsasyas and the dancer is in turn out position I the beginning. When the right foot is struck on Sama, the left is lifted and then the left foot is struck. This is alternately done. The hand follows the foot movements that is the right hand opens out as alapadma when the right foot strikes and then the left. In the original practice, the body is entirely turned to that of the foot that is struck or sometime to the opposite side. Also while striking and lifting the other foot the dancer moves as if jumping. Such movements are curtailed by Vempati so that they look elegant on a female body. Besides such minor changes he largely followed the then existing practice. However, these minor changes with maintenance of clear lines both in the foot as well as arm movements, graceful sway of the body following the hand movements, instead of constant bobbing up and