Kathakali And A Pot Of Beer Please

Kochi Travel Blog

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Kathakali is a traditional dance originating in the state of Kerala known for its dramtic make-up and costumes. The dance tells a story by the numerous moves, or mudras, that the dancers perform. There is a small live band with one singer, but the dancers do not speak. Kathakali is performed during festivals and other special occasions beginning in the evening and continuing until dawn.

Thankfully, there are many shortened versions for tourists.

The one I saw in Fort Cochin was a one and a half hour show……which was a bit too long for my taste. It was interesting to watch the big facial gestures during the demonstration part of the show. At the beginning, an announcer and one performer showed us some examples of the beautiful movements in kathakali dance and explained what those moves meant.

It was a great idea because most of the dance seems to be conversations held in a kathakali sign language. The dance was less dance-like than I thought it would be.

Unfortunately, you learn so many gestures during the demonstration that my friends and I forgot most of them during the show. Plus, the huge costumes and colourful make-up actually made the gestures smaller and harder to read.

Basically, I found the show interesting and entertaining at the beginning, but in my eyes, the dance became this show of bumbling performers in giant poofy dresses wandering around stage talking to each other using a sign language I couldn’t understand of even see very well. The fact that the performer playing Lord Shiva kept bellowing "wooh wooh wooh!", (much like a monkey) just made the whole thing seem cartoonish.

Well, I did something cultural I guess.

Here’s a funny note: Sometimes, when you order a beer at a restaurant in Kerala, the beer is actually being served illegally due to licensing or city regulations. So after the show, when a beer was ordered at our street-side table, it came in a GIANT TEAPOT with a mug. Maybe this is the true reasons Indians love their tea……!

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photo by: Stevie_Wes