Kathakali dance drama is a pretty impressive art form of Kerala. The performers – traditionally only men – are dancers, but at the same time mimes with a truly incredible ability to express human experience in gesture and facial expression. It’s like an elaborate sign language combined with full body control and presence.
For at least five years the artists undergo a rigorous training, of which the physical part involves learning to control the muscles of eye balls, eye brows, eye-lids, lips, neck and shoulder to narrate their story in a larger than life manner. They also train to apply the artistic make-up signifying different shades of character according to the colour code.
The stories told by the 400 year old art form are derived from the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. A traditional performance would last 6 to 9 hours. Nowadays you can get a snapshot of about an hour plus a comprehensive demo and explanation of mudras and postures. Absolutely worthwhile!