By Somali K Chakrabarti
flicking fingers, shifting glance,
moving in tandem –
sea of emotions in a
lavish spectacle of dance
© Somali K Chakrabarti
Kathakali, the classical dance form of Kerala, originated in the 17th century, though the roots date back to 1500 years ago and lie in the ritual folk dances and dance dramas of Kerala.
Characterized by ornate makeup and fanciful costumes, the dance drama form blends dance, drama, mime and song to depict stories from Indian epics.
The body movements of Kathakali are influenced by Kalaripayattu, the early martial arts of Kerala.
In an excerpt from the novel ‘Arjun Without a Doubt‘ by Dr Sweety Shinde, Arjuna, of Mahabharata, draws parallel between dance and martial arts.
‘I would never regard dancers with disdain; I now know what efforts and grueling hours went into excelling in it. Archery and dance, both required an equal amount of dedication and dexterity; timing and tempo; elegance and concentration. Both required rhythm and restraint. War-dance had its rhythm too. ‘
The dance form makes extensive use of the facial gestures such as movement of the eyebrows, eye-balls and the lower eye-lids than any other dance style. Performers enact the story using hand gestures, facial expressions and eye movements that capture a whole range of emotions.are used to convey the story and translate words into the visual language of dance.