3) Kathakali dance is performed mostly by men
Both the male and female characters are performed by male artists only. Kathakali was a rather strenuous dance form with heavy costumes and hard footwork, thus it was mostly practiced by men.
However, women too are practicing the dance form in the past few years.
4) Costumes of Kathakali dancers are vibrant and unique
Apart from the typical facial make-up, Kathakali dancers have the most elaborate and colorful attires of all Indian classical dances. The skirts of these dancers are over-sized and dome-shaped. The dancer wears 20-30 layers of clothes underneath their large-sized skirts.
The artists also get dolled-up in heavy jewelries around their neck, wrists, upper arms, waist, and Ghungroos (beaded anklets) on their feet.
Large crown on the head and a face mask around the jawline worn by these dancers adds an extra dimension to their costumes.
4) Kathakali dancers undergo a minimum of seven years of training
People who learn Kathakali enroll into Kathakali schools and stay as residents through the entire course. They undergo hours of practice for perfecting their eye movements, expression (or navarasas), footwork, wrist movements (or mudras ).
Every student in the Kathakali school learns every aspect of the performance i.e. a dancer even knows how to play the musical instruments and sing the verses, how to apply their own makeup, how to set up the stage.
The final Kathakali performance I witnessed-
The ambiance of the theatre was set before the performance began! A large brass oil-lamp was lit in the center of the dais, fumes from aromatic incense sticks filled the hall, a brass container filled with water and marigold flowers amplified the temple-like ambiance on the dais.
Musicians wrapped a white cloth around their waist, took positions with their instruments. Just before the act, one of the artists took the center stage to demonstrate the navarasas (facial expressions) and the mudras (hand gestures).
He demonstrated expressions like anger, disgust, sadness, calmness, laughter, shyness, and much more, by twitching specific facial muscles and eye movements.
Narakasura Vadham - a scene from Jayantha and Narakathundi