Classical Dances of India

KATHAKALI
A rich and flourishing tradition of dance drama can be witnessed in the picturesque state of Kerala, a narrow strip of beautiful land running along the west coast of India. Here, in the night, the drums roll, beckoning an audience to a most magnificent spectacle. Kathakali, a well-developed dance-drama, is a performance where the actors depict characters from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and from the Puranas (ancient scriptures). The dancers adorn themselves in huge skirts and head-dress, wearing a most intricate style of make-up.

Kathakali draws heavily from drama and is danced with elaborate masks and costumes. Kathakali recitals are generally long and while other dance forms are more emotive than narrative, Kathakali is both. It combines dance with dialogue to bring myth and legend to life in the temple courtyards of Kerala. The dancers use their stunning costumes and make-up, with the accompaniment of drums and vocalists, to create various moods and emotions.

So strong is the identification of the dancers with the characters they play and so absolute their conviction, that they seem to surpass themselves, becoming one with the legendary heroes and heroines they depict.

Present day Kathakali is a dance drama tradition, which evolved from centuries of highly stylised theatrical traditions of Kerala, especially Kudiyattam. Ritual traditions like Theyyams, Mudiyattam and the martial arts of Kerala played a major role in shaping the dance into its present form. Like Bharatanatyam Kathakali also needed a resurrection in the 1930s. The great poet Vallathol rediscovered Kathakali, establishing the Kerala Kalamandalam in 1932 which lent a new dimension to the art-form.


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