Kathakali is one of the major forms of classical Indian dance.It is another “story play” genre of art, but one distinguished by its elaborately colorful make-up, costumes and face masks wearing actor-dancers.
The fully developed style of Kathakali originated around the 17th century, but its roots are in temple and folk arts such as Kutiyattam and religious drama of southwestern Indian peninsula, which are traceable to at least the 1st millennium CE. A Kathakali performance, like all classical dance arts of India, includes music, vocal performers, hand and facial gestures to express ideas, and footwork. However, Kathakali differs in its style and incorporates movements from the ancient martial arts and athletic traditions of south India.
Like many classical Indian arts, Kathakali is a dance as well as acting. It is said to be one of the most difficult acts to execute on stage, with young artists preparing for their roles for several years before they get a chance to do it on stage. The actors speak a “sign language”, where the word part of the character’s dialogue are expressed through “hand signs (mudras)”, while emotions and mood is expressed through “facial and eye” movements. In parallel, vocalists in the background sing rhythmically the play, matching the beats of the orchestra playing, thus unifying the ensemble into a resonant oneness.