Kathakali Dance, Kerala: A Kaleidoscope of Emotions
“Then come the lights shining on you from above. You are a performer. You forget all you learned, the process of technique, the fear, the pain, you even forget who you are, you become one with the music, the lights, indeed one with the dance.” This wonderful quote by Shirley Maclaine raced through my mind while treating my senses with the mesmerizing Kathakali dance performance in Kerala. Elated, I was dancing too, but in my heart.
Kerala is popularly known as God’s Own Country. I would like to add something to it: Kerala is God’s Own Country and its dancers are God’s Own Artists. How beautifully these artists express human emotions such as laughter, tears, madness, fears, hopes, faith, anger and happiness through dance.
After exploring the fascinating beaches of Kerala, I reached the Cochin Cultural Center to see the famous classical dance form of South India, Kathakali. This dance drama originated in South India in the 16th century and there are more than 100 classical stories which are the themes of this dance form. Initially Kathakali was performed only in the temples and palaces. However now it is performed on several celebrations and for tourism purposes also. For enjoying the dance to its fullest I asked the guide about the story of the dance in advance.
From graceful dance movements to fabulous facial expressions, eye movements, colorful and unique costumes and heavy make-up, everything about this dance form is captivating. I simply loved their colorful and bright make-up. The guide told me that the artists spend more than 2 hours to apply such a make-up. What a challenging task! Here the dancers still use herbal and home-made cosmetics for make-up. I think it would be apt to say that the dancers paint their faces in a creative way. And it is done according to the role of the character. Each character was powerfully depicted, from protagonist to the villain. There is also a difference in the make-up of the positive characters and negative ones.
The show was divided into three parts: dancers perform prayer, English narration of the story and finally the drama. It lasted for an hour and I know that its memories will last forever. I had never seen such a fantastic dance performance.