In Mohiniyattam dance two techniques are used by dancer for communicating with the audience. The dancer / performer uses these two techniques effectively for telling the story, expressing emotions or showing different characters like a king or a God .
The techniques of Mohiniyattam consists of :
1. Adavus (steps)
2. Mudras ( hand gestures)
Adavus ( steps)
The basic steps or dance units of Mohiniyattam are called “Adavus” . Adavus is classified into four:
These adavus were codified by Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma in 20th century CE . Earlier there were no particular pattern to the “Adavus”. The classification was based on the first syllable with which the song or vaithari of Adavu
Mudras ( hand gestures)
The mudras are based on the book Hastalakshana Deepika . Some of the mudras include:
4. Karthari etc
Mudras helps to explain and perform concepts in an easy to understand way to the audience . There are specific Mudras which denotes Lord Mahadeva , Lord Vishnu, a King or a peacock.
Other than these two techniques facial expressions symbolizing navarasas( the nine expressions that humans often show ) will also help the dancer to communicate the emotions of the character.
Repertoire of Mohiniyattam
The Mohiniyattam dance form has definite repertoire sequence .It consists of seven items that are performed to a structure described in classical dance texts:
1. Cholkettu (invocation, but starts with offering reverence to a goddess Bhagavati and ends with a prayer to Shiva),
2. Jatisvaram or more precisely Swarajeti, (dance with no expressions that is performed on only notes and no lyrics / sahityam)
3. Varnam (a play wherein she embeds a mimicry for distraction while communicating the underlying story or message),
4. Padam (song),
5. Tillana (dancer’s interpretation of melody the musician create),
6. Shlokam ( a hymn in praise ) and
7. Saptam (the Expressions (or Abhinaya) are introduced for the first time in the repertoire )
Costume of Mohiniyattam
Mohinayattam dance is performed by women.The dress of a Mohiniyattam dancer would be an off-white( soemtimes cream colour) saree with golden brocade. A blouse with similar colour code also will be worn. The jewelry of Mohiniyattam dancer includes rings in fingers, golden bangles in wrists, Chilanka / ghungroo (leather straps with bells ) tied in legs and hair will be gathered and tied into a smooth tight round chignon on one side.Fragrent flowers like jasmin will be used for decorating head. The leyes would be having Kohl / Kajal for highlighting the eye movement.
Destination: Kerala, India
Photo courtesy: By Shagil Kannur – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85755353