Kathakali

Hi Everyone

Like I said in my previous post, I have just been back to Kerala. Thanks to my Japanese travel mates we managed to see a Kathakali dance show in Kocchi on our way from Alleppey to Mumbai. I have been to Kocchi two times before, but never seen this, so it was a very interesting experience.

The show itself started one hour before the show started. Not possible you say? Well, do remember that this is India, so anything can happen. But well, here it is actually the case that this happened. An important part of the dance is the painting of the dancer. And at the show we watched the dancer actually put up his makeup on stage!  We enjoyed watching this and it gave us a nice introduction to the play.

Kathakali is said to be a combination of five elements; expressions, dance, enhancement and instruments. During the show we watched, we could see all of these elements. We were told that there are more than 500 different stories in Kathakali (even if Wikipedia lists only 101). Each of them is from the Hindu religion.

At the play we watched there were four people at the stage. It was a drummer; two dancers and a presenter, if that’s the right word for the job this person. The presenter told us the story as it unfolded in front of our eyes. This was actually quite nice, and it made it much easier for us to follow what happened at stage. The show started with one of the dancers entering the scene and he did some absolutely extremely movements with his eyes. The way he could roll them around was almost distracting. After this he went on to present some different alphabets and small scenes. He showed up different faces depending on what he was. He showed expressions like sad, happy, joyful and such. Also he showed different animals like an elephant or a snake. All of this he did to the rhythm of the drummer and very skillfully.

After this one dancer had been alone on the stage for some time, it was time for the main dancer to enter. The first dancer and the presenter let the curtain fall and there he was. He showed a dance where he played two characters at the same time. It was the classic good against bad. He played a prince and a dragon at the same time.

I had some knowledge about this kind of dance from before. But seeing it was really nice. If you ever are in Kocchi I can absolutely advice you to drop by. The place we visited had <a hreshows every day. It was supposed to start with the make-up at 6 pm, but unlike most other things in India it actually started earlier! We watched some of the make-up session before we went for a walk, and then came back for the start of the show. That was good enough for us. Having seen this one, actually quite small show, just makes me want to go back to Kerala to see even more when they have some bigger festivals with many more dancers.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

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