Kerala Dance and Music

The classical dance form of Kerala has its origins in folk dances, which became more sophisticated and stylized as it evolved into the classical dance performed today. Kathakali is characterized by its elaborate costume, which includes multiple layers of clothing and ornate headgear. The stories performed are all episodes from the epics, including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The faces of the heroic characters in Kathakali are painted green in color, the villains and demons are painted black and the women's faces are painted yellow. Performances often begin in the evening and can go on all night.

The dance of the celestial enchantress, Mohiniattam is characterized by graceful movements of the body and limbs and facial and hand gestures that convey a range of emotions.

This graceful dance is performed by women on the festival of Onam. An oil lamp is lit in the courtyard and women dance around it in a circle with coordinated graceful movements of the limbs and body.

Also called Kaliyattam, Theyyam is characterized by huge masks painted bright red or orange, which can appear to be quite terrifying. This dance form is practiced in northern Kerala and includes mime, music, dance and fortune telling in a ritual performance that sometimes leads to the performer entering a trance like state.

This ritual performance consists of a solo artiste who dances and recites the accompanying verses. The symbolic meaning of the verses, are explained through the medium of the Thullal dance.

This folk dance is performed by the men of the Nair community of Palakkad. The dance incorporates elements of martial arts and ritualized fighting in its performance.

This folk dance is performed by the Nair men of South Kerala. Wearing the colorful clothing of the martial Nair warriors, the men dance in a ritual that includes elements of mock warfare and physical training.

This ritual dance is performed by the Syrian Christian community in Kerala. Dancers move in a circle around a lit oil lamp in time to the accompanying songs and music. Converted by St Thomas when he visited Kerala between 52-70 A.D., the Syrian Christians have many rituals that are similar to the rituals of traditional Hindus in Kerala.

Performed by the farmers and by Muslim men in Kerala, Kolkalli is an energetic rhythmic dance that recalls the rhythm planting and harvesting crops in the fields.

These are only some of folk dances and musical performances of Kerala. You can see many more and join in the folk dances and music of Kerala on your Kerala tours.

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