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Learning Kathakali theater and dance in Cochin/Kerala

Kathakali LearningKathakali is a magnificent traditional dance and theater form of Kerala. The stories from Hindu mythology and Puranas are represented by facial expressions, gestures, and movements.
A singer and percussionist accompany the wordless representation of the actor. An integral part of pre-coded facial expressions are the hand and body movements that are familiar to the local audience. Only in this way can the performance be "read".
You can learn Kathakali - the dance and the make up/costume in Cochin.
It usually takes about 6 months for beginners to learn a complete role for the performance of a Hindi poem. Participants with experience in theater or dance can often learn much faster.



About Kathakali

Welcome to the land of ancient Maharajas, marvelous palaces and profound spirituality of the holy cities of Shiva, Rama and Krishna! While the golden evening sun sets into the horizon, divine figures rise from the depths of the Arabian Sea accompanied by exhilarating spicy scents, intensive melodies and rhythmical movements of dancers. They float, they swing, they love, argue and cry in an art form that is more ingenious and colourful than any other form of drama – Kathakali, the splendid theatrical dance of Kerala.
Kathakali literally means “story-telling by pantomime”. It is based on the union of literature, music, drama and painting and combines drama, dance, music and tradition. It was originally developed as an entertainment for rich Maharajas and feudal families of the 15th century. Later, also Hindu temples were chosen as performance locations, and Kathakali finally became a theatre for the people. Still today, in Kerala Kathakali performances are popular for young and old. A typical performance takes some 8 – 10 hours, from the evening to the early morning hours.
KathakaliThe actors don’t speak - the performances are completely based on facial expressions, movements and gestures of the actors. The topics of Kathakali are usually taken from Hindi legends and “puranas” where heroic fights between gods and demons are common themes. The characters arise from three spheres: the world of gods, the world of demons and of the human world. A singer and some percussionists accompany the pantomimic performance and the actual plot is being sung in narrative style including dialogues in Malayalam language.
The actors make use of encoded facial expressions and hand and body movements that are familiar to the local audience which is therefore able to “read” the performance. There are for instance nine basic facial expressions which stand for love, contempt, pathos, anger, valour, fear, disgust, wonder and peace.
Another characteristic feature of Kathakali are the extravagant costumes and painted mask-like faces. Applying the Kathakali make-up is a slow transformation of the actors from mortal beings to immortal divinities and demons. This metamorphosis takes place in front of the audience and takes around 2 – 3 hours until the actors are fully costumed and painted. By use of natural pigments such as manayola, the actor is being transformed step by step into a legendary creature. With the enormous head-dress as a part of the costume, the actor further adopts a height beyond human nature. Every figure has a characteristic facial painting and a particularly made costume.
KathakaliThere are some main characters in Kathakali which are being featured regularly: “Pachcha” are heroic figures such as divinities and other positive figures that are dressed with bright green colours standing for a good character. "Chuvanna Thaadi" are mean figures craving for power – the colour black is chosen for them which has negative connotations in Indian mythology. They may as well carry red moustaches symbolizing fury. “Kari” are dangerous man-eaters or witches, also painted in negative black, whereas “Minukku” rather define noble characters such as women and wise men in light colours such as yellow. Traditionally, Kathakali is only performed by men. Even female acts are played by male actors wearing the specific female costumes and facial paintings.
The actor also does makeup himself. The colors yellow, indigo and black for the make-up are obtained from stone, which is ground and mixed with coconut oil. Indigo and yellow produce green. The white makeup is made from rice paste.
A professional actor of Kathakali needs to be capable of presenting hundreds if not thousands of legends and stories and to know exactly about the numerous pantomimic expressions and their right combinations. Hence, an intensive training and a high level of discipline as well as body control is needed. To wear the heavy costumes and hair garment which weigh around 30 kg in total demands physical fitness – training in muscle control and flexibility are essentials during the training of a professional actor, which is traditionally being started in early childhood at special Kathakali schools.

Kathakali Watching, Dance and/or Make-Up learning

At Cochin (Ernakulam) it is possible for you to learn the wonderful art of Kathakali in one of the leading Kathakali schools. However, the school expects that you are serious about wanting to learn it. Previous experience or skills of western acting, dance or other performing arts are certainly helpful if you want to learn Kathakali, but not a requirement. Men and women can participate; it is possible to start at any time.
You are going to be taught by your private teacher for 2 hours every day. The minimum duration of stay should be at least one month to gain basic insight and understanding. To fully learn the role of a Kathakali character and being able to perform a Hindi epos, a beginner usually needs around 6 months, depending on his individual speed. At the Kathakali school for instance, an American jazz percussionist was able to reach a level of Kathakali percussion in just one month which usually takes 6 months to achieve.
Subjects of the Kathakali training include learning the encoded facial, hand and body expressions as well as muscle control, giving massages for flexibility (only for men), Kathakali make-up and maintenance of the hand-made costumes.

Kathakali Lessons:

Private lessons (also for small groups) in Kathakali for 2 hours daily, Monday to Friday.
Minimum Duration: 1 week
Language Requirements: English
Location: Cochin/Kerala, India
Accommodation: Guesthouse

Price: In Tab "Rate"

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