‘Dance of the Enchantress’. The transliteration of the Kerala dance form cannot be more apt. When Kerala women clad in white dhotis bordered with golden fringes sway to the tunes of a mesmerizing classical melody, it is as if the angels from heaven descending on Earth.
Mohiniattam does not boast of a tradition or history like Kathakali. Nevertheless, it enjoys an equal or even higher status as an art form than Kathakali that forms the diverse cultural identity of Kerala. Kathakali has several unique features to it. The dance form has become to be the first art form after Kathakali that is associated with to explain the glory of Kerala to the outside world.
Enchanting features of Mohiniattam
The most notable feature of Mohiniattam dance form is that only women are allowed to present it. Even the male characters in the story line are presented by women with special makeup.
Secondly, the dance form has restricted movement. Only the upper body or the torso is used for presenting the dance form. In fact, the dancers take a rigid position with legs placed like in pile position which does not move except for one or two specific movements.
It is said that, an expressive Mohiniattam dancer can keep her audience in rapt attention just with her eye movements. True to the saying, a large number of the movements in Mohiniattam are focussed on the eye and facial expressions of the dancer.
History and evolution of Mohiniattam
Historians state that reference to the art form to be present in eighteenth century texts and scriptures. However, the modern generation owes gratitude to Maharaja Swati Tirunal whose efforts and art patronage ensures that Mohiniattam did not fade away with times.
Maharaja Swati Tirunal gave structure and form to the dance style by creating Carnatic musical compositions that bear a distinct rhythm. The dance style is also set to meet the slow pace and rhythm of the compositions.
It was in later twentieth century that the great Kerala poet Vallathol gave an even recognized identity for Mohiniattam by establishing the Kerala Kalamandalam. Today the Kerala Kalamandalam is a globally recognized university of sorts where even westerners arrive to learn and master the art of Mohiniattam, Kathakalli, Theyyam and many other Kerala art forms.
Present day scenario
Kerala’s thriving art and cultural setting has given several reincarnations for the dance form of Mohiniattam. Several veterans of classical dance and Bharatanatyam has also contributed to the growth of Mohiniattam through their innovations.
Kerala’s art and culture scene provides enough feed to satiate the interests of any inquisitive mind. Ferry yourself to a slow paced cruise through Kerala backwaters and the many art forms in the region with a Kerala honeymoon package.