The kathakali actor has an entire language in dance which includes all the possibilities of odily expression, from the most subtle to the most spectacular. His hands are his words, his face and eyes are his emotions, and the movements of his body are the punctuation and poetry of his sentences. The artists devoted themselves to the training with an ever increasing intensity. The Training procedure starts early in the morning.
Meisadhakam, Kaal sadhakam, Uzhichil, Chuzhippu, Todayam, Purappad and Kalasam.
The meisadhakam consists of the namaskarapanchaka (prostration in five ways). This involves a lot of bodily action - jumping with articulated steps, shifting the position of the legs, swinging the legs back and around, moving the hips laterally, stooping and stretching the body, pressing the body against the floor corner, lowering the body, stamping the feet, upturning the body by swinging hands, somersaulting along a circular path on the floor and jumping and moving the arms in circles.
Kalamandalam Gopalakrishnan takes Kathakali class
The steps are practise in the chempada and panchari rhythms, in four tempos. By this time, the disciple is prone to sweat profusely. This is the snehasveda treatment. The body is now ready for the uzhichil, which is also a part of Ayurveda treatment.
In this elaborate process, the preceptor uses his legs to apply hius weight in different degrees through various relative poses and movements. The face alone is massaged with the hands. Uzhichil is done using foot by keeping the disciple's body in varous steps like lying with the chest and abdomen on the floor, lying with the back on the floor, sitting posture etc. At the end, the disciple massages the legs of the preceptor, from the top down to the feet. After uzhichil the disciple practises several jumps thrusting out his hands, throwing forward his legs, jumping in circles, somersaulting , jumping sideways in circles to the left and right several times and suchikirikkika (needle sitting).
According to the availability of time, the performer practises several movements which render his dance more graceful. This is called chuzhippu. These stances consist of round movements, lateral movements, postures with the body set low, pulling up the body, the body set slow with feet held close, chest movements, and sitting with outstretched legs.
Kathakali-Eyes Exercise-Kalamandalam John
This is a pure dance item by incompletely dressed performers accompanied by an invocatory song, several kalasams are rendered behind the curtain in different rhythms and tempos. The junior disciples practise todayam and purappad and the seniors cholliyattom.
This is the most formal entry of the principal character of the play, presented in a highly stylized manner. The singers render a song in four parts extolling the qualities of the principal character. After each part is sung, the performers representing the principal character and his consort execute stylized dances. The purappad commences with dances behind the curtain with the performer paying obeisance; then in the first look, with the curtain lowered half-way, the performer uses eye movements, then upper part of the body, then entire body and finally the full-fledged dance.