Folk Dance Of Kerala

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For centuries, these unique dance forms have captivated audiences all around the world with their energetic movements and powerful melodies. Kerala’s folk dances are renowned for their vibrant costumes, intricate steps and upbeat music. Each style has its own distinct flavour – from simple village-based performances to spectacular stage shows featuring large troupes of dancers.

From slow meditative pieces to fast-paced reels, there’s something here for every type of audience. With origins dating back centuries ago, each performance is sure to transport you into another world filled with rhythm and emotion!

The Origins Of Kerala’S Folk Dances

Kerala’s folk dances are a unique blend of the traditional and modern, rooted in an ancient culture full of religious symbolism and dance rituals.

Take for example Kathakali, one of Kerala’s oldest and most popular forms of folk dance. This form is said to have originated somewhere between 16th-18th century as a combination of two different classical art styles: Kudiyattam (Sanskrit theatre) and Krishnanattam (a Sanskrit devotional play). Considered sacred by many locals, this type of dance follows elaborate costumes, make up designs and hand gestures that tell stories from Hindu epics such as Ramayana or Mahabharata.

Folk dancers also perform other types of regional dances such as Kaikotti Kali, Thiruvathira Kali, Oppana and Mohiniyattam – all with their own set of distinctive features. These performances often take place during festivals like Onam or Vishu where people gather together to celebrate life through music and movement.

The vibrant colors used in dress combined with powerful drum beats create an atmosphere that brings out the joyous spirit within everyone present.

In addition to these traditional dance styles, there are more recently created ones like Theyyam which combines elements from both ritualistic practices and local folklore traditions. It has become quite popular among tourists due to its enchanting storytelling style which blends mythological themes with exciting visuals on stage.

Kerala’s folk dances are steeped in centuries of tradition and culture, exhibiting religious symbolism and ritualistic practices. As such, these traditional dances continue to be popular not only within Kerala but throughout India.

The most common dance forms of Kerala include:

  1. Kummattikali, an ancient art form from the Malabar region
  2. Kaikottikkali or Thiruvathirakkali which has its origins in Hindu mythology
  3. Theyyam – a ritualistic form of worship performed by men dressed as gods/goddesses
  4. Padayani – another ritualistic performance involving costumes made out of bamboo sticks and masks depicting deities and animals
  5. Oppana – traditionally used to celebrate marriages among Muslims
  6. Kolattam – rhythmic stick-dancing that’s usually accompanied by singing
  7. Ottanthullal – an 18th century satirical play based on the Mahabharata epics
  8. Kathakali–traditional story telling through hand gestures, facial expressions and dance movements.

In addition to their spiritual significance, these traditional dances also serve an important social purpose. Each one is unique with its own set of costumes and props designed to bring joy and entertainment to any gathering. Beyond being purely entertaining, they have become powerful symbols that help preserve Kerala’s cultural identity for generations to come.

It is no wonder then that each style continues to remain popular today! Moving forward, let us explore some of the unique costumes and props used in Kerala’s folk dances…

Costumes And Props

When it comes to folk dances of Kerala, costumes and props play an important role.

One interesting fact about the dance is that dancers often use more than one type of accessory when performing. From colorful headgears and waistbands, to garlands made from jasmine flowers – accessories are used to represent cultural symbols as well as add a splash of color.

The intricate embroidery on the saris worn by female dancers also adds texture to the performance. Apart from clothing, musical instruments like drums and cymbals are also commonly used in traditional performances.

Hand-held items such as fans or umbrellas can be seen accompanying certain routines while some dances may even require swords or knives for dramatic effect. In many cases, larger objects such as chariots or boats can also be incorporated into choreography depending on the theme of the show.

What really sets apart these vibrant performances is how each costume piece brings its own unique flavor to the overall experience. Every prop has a purpose beyond just decoration – they serve as visual cues for both performers and audience members alike, helping tell stories through movement alone.

As we move onto discussing music and instruments in our next section, let’s consider how sound enhances this already captivating art form.

Music And Instruments

The costumes and props used by folk dancers of Kerala provide an interesting counterpoint to the musical accompaniment that is essential for most traditional dance forms. The combination of both elements creates a unique performance experience, which adds to the celebratory atmosphere in many communities across India.

In terms of music and instruments, there are several popular choices among practitioners depending on their style or preference. Traditional drums such as chenda, maddalam and edakka form a backbone for keeping tempo but other stringed instruments like veena, violin and harmonium are also used with great effect. Light percussion instruments such as thimila, ilathalam and kombu can be employed too. A variety of wind instruments like flutes (venu) may occasionally supplement this rich tapestry of sound.

These days however it is not uncommon to see a different approach being taken towards musical accompaniment during performances where modern genres mix with more classical styles. This has enabled folk dancers from Kerala’s rural areas to reach out to audiences in urban centers who appreciate the novel sounds produced when old meets new.

With this shift in attitude comes an opportunity for further exploration into how we interact with our cultural heritage through dance forms that have been passed down generations.

How To Learn Folk Dance Of Kerala

Learning folk dance of Kerala is both a fascinating and rewarding experience. It provides an insight into the culture and history of this state, with its unique performance techniques and cultural influences.

According to recent research conducted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), there are over 200 traditional dances in Kerala that have been passed down through generations.

Aspiring dancers can learn these traditional dance forms from experienced teachers and practitioners or by attending classes or workshops hosted on special occasions like local festivals.

For starters, it’s important to observe how other professional dancers perform their routines as they demonstrate the nuances and finer aspects of each style more effectively. As one develops skills gradually, learning new steps becomes easier since practicing regularly is key to mastering any art form.

It’s worth noting that different regional styles exist within Kerala, so taking time to understand the various influences behind them can help one develop better technique and improve overall performance quality.

With practice, even those who have never danced before may soon be able to become proficient at performing intricate moves with finesse!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What Is The Historical Significance Of Kerala’S Folk Dances?

A. Kerala’s folk dances have a long and varied history, with each dance having its own unique place in the cultural importance of the region.

Music has evolved over time to reflect this and it is easy to see how these traditional dances are still an integral part of everyday life for many people.

From religious rituals to harvest celebrations, Kerala’s folk dances have been around for centuries and remain deeply embedded in their culture today.

As such, they offer us insight into the evolution of music as well as the significance of local customs and traditions throughout the years.

Q2. How Does The Choreography Of Traditional Dances Differ From Modern Dance Styles?

A. As the saying goes, ‘all that glitters is not gold’, and this certainly applies to traditional and modern dance styles.

While traditional dances are often heavily influenced by music and cultural elements, modern dance has evolved into something much more intricate.

Choreography for traditional dances usually follows a simple set of steps or movements that are easy for everyone to follow, while modern choreography consists of complex sequences that require skill and agility.

The difference between the two lies in how they use music influences and cultural influences; traditional dances often emphasize movement over rhythm while modern ones focus on both.

As an expert/researcher on folk dances of Kerala, I can confidently say that these differences make all the difference in creating performances that truly stand out!

Q3. How Does The Costuming Of Traditional Dances Reflect The Culture Of Kerala?

A. When it comes to traditional folk dances of Kerala, costuming is a major way that culture and heritage are expressed.

Every aspect of the costume has deep cultural roots and serves as an interpretation of the dance’s symbolism.

From the fabrics used in each outfit to the colors chosen for adornment, all reflect upon traditions passed down through generations.

The use of certain ornaments such as jewelry, head pieces and other accessories also convey meaning specific to Kerala’s unique history and customs.

It is this careful attention to detail when constructing costumes for traditional dances which helps keep these age-old stories alive.

Q4. What Types Of Instruments Are Used To Accompany Folk Dances Of Kerala?

A. When discussing the evolution and symbolism of music, folk dances from Kerala are an integral part.

These traditional dances are typically accompanied by a wide variety of instruments, ranging from drums to flutes to strings.

As you move across different regions in Kerala, there’s likely to be a change in instrumentation as well; this is due to each area having its own unique musical style that reflects their local customs and culture.

For instance, some areas may use more drums while others rely heavily on stringed instruments like the santoor or veena.

So no matter where you go in India’s southern state of Kerala, it’s clear that music plays an essential role in traditional folk dance performances!

Q5. How Can I Find A Professional Teacher To Learn Folk Dance Of Kerala?

A. If you’re looking to learn how to dance the traditional folk dances of Kerala, then finding a professional teacher is key.

It isn’t just important for mastering the steps and techniques; it’s also necessary to gain an understanding of the cultural impact and social customs associated with these dances.

A qualified instructor will be able to provide you with all of the knowledge and skills required to become skilled in this beautiful art form.

With their help, you’ll soon be dancing your way through one of India’s most vibrant cultural traditions.


It’s clear that the folk dances of Kerala are much more than just a form of entertainment. They represent an important part of this culture and its history, connecting us to our ancestors’ way of life in a very real way.

It is with great irony that although these traditional dance styles have been passed down for centuries, many today do not know how to properly perform them or even recognize them when they see it.

We need to make sure we preserve this art form for future generations by teaching and learning from professional teachers who understand the cultural importance behind each movement.

This will ensure that the vibrant culture of Kerala continues to be celebrated through its beautiful folk dances!

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