Kathakali Dance


Kathakali (pic: Wiki, Qnonsense)

Kathakali is ome of the most important dance form of Kerala state and as well as highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. Kathakali originated in Kerala only in 17 century and is still practiced dance form of the region. It has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming. Kathakali dance are done on religious theme only they are play with the blend of music and expressions. Kathakali is usually performed only by men.Female characters are portrayed by men dressed in women’s costume. However, in recent years, women have started to become Kathakali dancers. Kerala Kala Mandalam founder Mahakavi Vallathol Narayan Menon gave kathakali its present form .Kathakali also shares a lot of similarities with Krishnanattam, Koodiyattam (a classical Sanskrit drama existing in Kerala) and Ashtapadiyattam (an adaptation of 12th-century musical called Gitagovindam

Brief History of Kathakali

It is believed that Kathakali originated from "Krishnanattam" a dance form dedicated to Lord Krishna life and activities which was created by Zamorian of calicut Sri Manavedan Raja during 1585-1658 AD, Once Kottarakkara Thampuran, the Raja of Kottarakkara who was attracted by Krishnanattam requested the Zamorin for the loan of a troupe of performers. Due to the political rivalry between the two, Zamorin did not allow this. So Kottarakkara Thampuran created another art form called Ramanattam which was later transformed into Aattakatha. Krishnanaattam was written in Sanskrit, and Ramanattam was in Malayalam. By the end of 17th century, Attakatha was presented to the world with the title ‘Kathakali’. Kottayathu Thampuran composed four great works — Kirmeeravadham, Bakavadham, Nivathakavacha Kalakeyavadham and Kalyanasaugandhikam. After this the most important changes in Kathakali were brought about through the efforts of a single person namely, Kaplingad Narayanan Nambudiri (1739–1789).

Kathakali Styles

Traditionally there are 101 classical Kathakali stories, though the commonly staged among them these days total less than one-third that number. There are three different Kathakali Styles that differ from each other in subtleties like choreographic profile, position of hand gestures and stress on dance than drama and vice versa. The major Kathakali Styles were –

  • Vettathu Sampradayam
  • Kalladikkodan Sampradyam
  • Kaplingadu Sampradayam

Elements of Kathakali Dance

Kathakali Kerala

Kathakali Kerala (Pic: Wiki, Jovianeye)

Kathakali dance form is a blend of great expressions and beats. Kathakali is considered to be a combination of five elements of fine art:

  • Expressions (Natyam, the component with emphasis on facial expressions)
  • Dance (Nritham, the component of dance with emphasis on rhythm and movement of hands, legs and body)
  • Enactment (Nrithyam, the element of drama with emphasis on “mudras”, which are hand gestures)
  • Song/vocal accompaniment (Geetha)
  • Instrument accompaniment (Vadyam)

Manipravalam is termed a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil is the language of the songs used for Kathakali.Though most of the songs are set in ragas based on the microtone-heavy Carnatic music, there is a distinct style of plain-note rendition, which is known as the Sopanam style. A Kathakali actor uses immense concentration, skill and physical stamina, gained from regimented training based on Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art of Kerala, to prepare for his demanding role.

Kathakali Training Centers

Kathakali is a very famous dance form of Kerala and artistes need assiduous grooming for almost a decade’s time, and most masters are products of accomplished institutions that give a minimum training course of half-a-dozen years. Some of the leading schools of Kathakali are-

  • Kerala Kamandalam
  • PSV Natya Sangham
  • Sadanam Kathakali and Classical Arts Academy
  • Unnayi Varier Smaraka Kalanilayam
  • Margi in Thiruvananthapuram
  • Muthappan Kaliyogam
  • Parassinikkadavu in Kannur
  • RLV School at Tripunithura
  • Kalabharathi at Pakalkkuri near Kottarakkara in Kollam
  • Sandarshan Kathakali Kendram in Ambalapuzha
  • Vellinazhi Nanu Nair Smaraka Kalakendra in Kuruvattor

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