A trip to Kerala would be incomplete without witnessing, and participating if you’re feeling brave, in some of the classic styles of Indian dance originating in the region. There are many dance centres across the region that not only put on performances of the traditional dances but also provide demonstration classes and make up tutorials for the full experience.
Koodiyattam is seen to be one of the oldest forms of dramatic dance that comes from India, it is rumoured to have originated from Kerala; renowned for its dramatic style it is the first artistic element that has even been given a heritage status by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Koodiyattam was originally performed in Hindu temples as an offering to the Gods, but is now seen far more frequently in public performances and taught to visiting tourists.
Koodiyattam translates to means ’dancing together’ this is symbolic of being one of the few dances in Indian culture where women and men dance alongside one another with equal status, and where the purpose of the females dance is not to express love towards the male. This makes it an extremely popular and famous dance in the region and one you don’t want to miss out on seeing during your visit.
The Kathakali dance turns human life into dance form as one of the most expressive traditional dances of Kerala. With some of the most highly trained dancers in India participating in this dance, attention is given to every detail of their body in this intricate dance.
Expect to see vivid costumes, with headdresses that the average person would struggle to even walk in, let alone perform the energetic dances these professionals do. Key characters in the dance-stories wear eye-catching masks or have unrecognisable makeovers to show them as super-human beings.
Not for the faint-hearted, those planning to dance the Kathakali must even exercise their eyes before performances to fully demonstrate the passionate acting and theatrical performance associated with this intense dance-form.
Mohini Attam is a dance performed by females in the Kerala region, thought to be a dance of seduction as the maiden “mohini” gains the affections of the onlookers with her beautiful costume and delicate floating movements. This traditional dance is centred round graceful choreography with subtle gestures to represent feminine love.
The dance originates from an ancient story of the Lord Vishnu disguising himself as an enchanting Mohini to attract and capture the attentions of all the people. This dance then became commonplace to be performed in temples as a form of offering to the women’s God to demonstrate their love for him.
Women often perform this as a solo dance, with simple white and gold ruffled costume and naturally enhanced make up. They decorate their hair with jasmine flowers and wear ankle bells which suit the gentle nature of the dance.