Kerala Dance Forms

By | January 10, 2018

Centuries old Kerala Dance Forms are noted for the variety, youthfulness and charm. Some Kerala dance forms like Kathakali is world renowned, and a dance form Koodiyattom is recognized by UNESCO as human heritage art. All Kerala dance forms and dance forms of India are based on the instructions of ‘NatyaSastra’, the science of acting, which can be attributed to Sire Bharata who lived some 20 centuries ago. He described ‘navarasangal’ or the nine emotions viz. Sringaram (Love and seduction), Roudram (Aggressive), Hasyam (Humorous), Bhayanakam (Frightening), Veeram (Courage), Karuna (Compassion), Adbhutam (Wonder) and Shantam (Peace). Kerala dance forms seem to draw a narrow line between male and female performers.

The main dance forms of Kerala are:

Kathakali: This is divine dance form of Kerala, noted for the minute expression of emotions and colorful costumes. Kathakali is considered the art of Gods, and epical episodes are performed as a play. In earlier times it took many days for the completion of a play. Expression of emotions and narration is based on ‘Mudras’ or hand signals, and facial expression of navarasa, the nine emotions. Traditionally only men performed this Kerala dance form and they dressed like women for female characters usually Goddesses.

The costumes are heavy and it almost takes a full day to complete the make-up process. Characteristic masks, crowns and attire more than double the size of the performer.

Mohiniyattom: This Kerala dance form literally means the dance of an enchantress. Mohini means the women who tempts and Aattom means dance. Attired with white or ivory dress with golden borders, the dancer takes a majestic look. Mohiniyattom is noted for the slow movements and highly emotive eye gestures. The origin of Mohiniyattom is attributed to Lord Vishnu, who impersonated as Mohini (an enchanting woman) to seduce Asuras and take back Amrit, the medicine that gives immortality from them.

Mohiniyattom was performed in Kerala temples and palaces of Kerala.

Koothu (Chakyar Koothu): This Kerala dance form is performed only in selected place called Koothambalam associated with Kerala temples. Koothu in Malayalam means dance. Only members of the ‘Chakyar’ caste perform this.

Koodiyattam: This dance form of Kerala is the oldest of its kind and was evolved in the seventh century AD. It is an offering to deity. Mythological themes are played.

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