Wednesday, 11 April 2012

K for Kathakali - ancient Indian dance form

the female character showing facial emotion
K Kathakali is the classical dance drama of Kerala in Southern India, first developed in the 17th century.
The stories come from Hindu mythology and the art form blends literature, music, painting, dance and acting. The characters do not speak, at least not vocally. Everything is conveyed through physical acting, facial and hand movements, and the narrative is sung.
The stories are full of violence. The segment we saw involved some hero killing a female demon by slicing off her breasts and then flicking away the blood from his sword. This is not theatre you would take your grandchild to see...
the male warrior
We watched a brief demonstration of the elements that comprise Kathakali.  The segment we saw featured two characters, a male and a female, who performed to music sung by a male vocalist, and accompanied by percussion instruments.
The instruments are the Chenda (a drum played with sticks), Maddalam (drum played with fingers), Chengila (gong) and Llathalam (cymbals). One of the female characters demonstrated nine different emotions by subtle movements of eyes and eyebrows. The next demonstration was of the 24 mudras that make up the alphabet of Kathakali. These are like a sign language, so you need to be able to read the minute alterations in the position of the fingers and the hands to fully understand what is being conveyed.
This was the most fascinating to watch. The bit we saw was relatively short. I gather most performances last several hours and I don’t know that I could endure that.


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