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Kerala Nadanam is a new dance form that has evolved from Kathakali, an epical form of Indian-dance drama. It was conceptually created and developed by Guru Gopinath who was an accomplished Kathakali artist in Kerala.
Origin and History
During the old times, Kathakali was more confined to the four walls of temples and palaces in Kerala. Since this epic dance-drama was using Sanskrit as the medium and the excerpts from Hindu mythology, it was the monopoly of Brahmins and Maharajas who were sufficiently educated to enjoy its beauty. This made the legendary dancer to think of evolving a dance form that could be enjoyed by people from different strata of society. In order to make such a dance form, Guru Gopinath brought some innovative changes in the Kathakali framework and chose day-to-day events as its themes. To be more precise, this dance form combines various mudras and facial expressions of Kathakali with selected elements from Mohiniyattom and Koodiyattom dance forms. This new dance form was initially christened as 'Kathakali Natanam' or 'Oriental dance', which was subsequently renamed as 'Kerala Nadanam'.
About Kerala Nadanam
This dance style is comprised of 'Nritha', 'Nrithya' and 'Natya' based on Kathakali, without deviating from its basic tenets and purity, but has some of its complex involutions and intricacies. Though it originated from Kathakali, it is neither Kathakali nor an attempt to redefine or reform it. In simple words, Kerala Nadanam is a classical dance form following the rudiments of 'Natya Shasthra' and basic techniques of Kathakali. Unlike Kathakali, this dance form is suited for both men and women. It is ideal for solo, duet and group performances. This style of dance is also suitable for long performances such as ballet. Since Kerala Nadanam is stylized and choreographed with large audience in mind, it has a universal appeal.
Characters and Costumes
In tune with its name, Kerala Nadanam could be enjoyed by ordinary public who had no formal training or knowledge in understanding the classical dance form to enjoy its beauty. To make this dance form more people-friendly, the costumes and characters were selected in such a manner that the characters in the theme could be easily identified by them. Moreover, the language of rendition was made simple to help the people understand the story. In social dances, performers wore the dresses of peasants, laborers, farmers, etc. Thus in a dance on Christ, the dancer is dressed like Christ. Likewise, the roles of Krishna, King, and Snake Charmer had the appropriate attire to help the people identify the characters.
In Kerala Nadanam, the most popular Carnatic music compositions were used to attract more audiences. Unlike Kathakali and Mohiniyattom, this dance form uses a variety of music instruments to add more depth to its presentation. To add more variations to the musical renditions, the reputed and melodious folk songs were also introduced. Apart from these, the traditional Kathakali musical instruments were used as well.
Kerala Nadanam is a new-generation classical dance form that evolved from Kathakali. This dance form is more appealing to the public at large due to its simple language and easily identifiable costumes. Moreover, the dance form is capable of using classical and popular Carnatic music compositions, and melodious folk music to win the hearts of the people. The themes of this dance form are derived from either Hindu mythology or day-to-day events that occur in the society. Hence, it has become a preferred dance item in various dance competitions conducted in Kerala.