a student practice facial gestures :
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Indian culture is rich in art
forms, not the least important of which are music
and dance. The two most important Hindu gods appear
as musicians: Vishnu in his incarnation (gods can
take many forms or incarnations) as blue-skinned Krishna
plays the flute and Shiva as Nataraja is a beautiful
dancer. There are many kinds of dance, but all tell
stories. Village dances often tell folk tales, while
temple dance usually depicts religious scenes from
the classical epic poems. Kerala has many kinds of
dance, but one is unique to the state. Called Kathakali,
or "story-play" it was begun in the 1600s
by the ruler of central Kerala and developed over
time into a highly refined art form.
It takes years of training to become
a Kathakali performer. The most celebrated school
is at Kalamandalam where students train for 6 years.
Kathakali is always done by men, but there is a also
a school where girls train in traditional Indian dance.
The work is arduous because the performers must train
every muscle in their bodies and faces in precise
movements. Nine facial expressions to depict emotions:
disgust, fear, anger, repose, bravery, wonder, pity,
derision, and love. Combined with 24 basic body movements
these become some 800 gestures that the actors must
learn to tell the story. The actors never speak, the
story is told by two singers accompanied by musicians,
so they must mime everything, like a silent movie.
practicing facial gesture:sadness.
Elaborate makeup is equally important and it takes
years to learn how to apply it. Each element of costume
and each color have meanings. For instance, green
means a highly moral person, usually a god. Fiery
red and fierce moustaches represent evil characters
such as the demon Ravana. Those wearing huge skirts
and headgear, with red faces and black or white beards
are vicious, lazy, and gluttonous people, but the
spiritual types have less complex clothing and jewelry.
practicing applying makeup to the bottom
A classical performance of
Kathakali might take one whole day and night, or even
three! Today these have been reduced to three or four
hours, or even less for foreign visitors. Even so,
performances can be long unless the audience is attuned
to Kathakali traditions and the stories on which they
are based. Nevertheless, this is brilliant and colorful
theater that is well worth seeing and hearing in person.