Chavittunatakom Dance in Kerala is one of the oldest dance forms in Kerala. This is one of the Christian dance forms of Kerala whose origin can be traced to the time of Portuguese invasion. Chavittunatakom Dance evolved in Kerala during the 16th century A.D. with the Portuguese colonization. A typical musical dance drama, here the characters adorn the medieval Greco Roman costumes which depicts the traces of that period. The plays are generally performed on an open stage or in a Church as it is considered to a Christian art form in Kerala. The narration used in this dance form is generally a mix of Tamil or Malayam. When Portuguese came to Kerala they found cultural scarceness. They started looking for effectual medium to spread legends and myths of their own culture. They found Kathakali impressive but their ego were not allowing them to imbed their legends on it. They decided to evolve their own dance drama portraying their own legends & cultures.In the beginning this theatre was practiced by Latin Christians. This concept of the western opera type of theatre was inspired from the miracle plays of the west. The themes presented were also western. The texts were written in old Tamil. The acting techniques, stage structure and treatment of the plot were all western. The influence of Kathakali can be seen in the use of curtains and in certain elements of the costumes. The influence of Kalaripayattu is evident from the vivacious fighting scenes. The characters used to sing their dialogues. The adventurous themes selected for Chavittunatakam, like 'Charlemangne', 'St. George' etc gave immense opportunity to use the local martial art form, Kalaripayattu both for the fighting scenes and the total kinetic design.

The basic steps to be learned are commonly twelve in number, but there are slight variations, depending on the individual Asan. The steps are set to talas or complex rhythmic patterns of South Indian music. (19) Most of the chuvatus (footsteps) include forceful stamping in strict rhythm with the percussion instruments. Each chuvatu consists of a pattern of a number of beats and movements. As an example, onnam chuvatu (first footstep) will have four beats from the basic position of stand-at-ease in which both the hands are resting on the hip and left leg kept a little in front. For the first beat, the right foot is forcefully stamped in front, while the second beat corresponds with the stamping of the left foot in the same position. On the third beat, the right foot is brought back and stamped at the original position, and on the next the left is then stamped. Correspondingly, the hands are moved away from the body with the closing and opening of the palms.The stage for the performance used to be a low platform of the strongest wood, about twenty yards long, eight yards broad and half a yard high. The performance was deemed a failure if, by the time the play ended, the platform had not been completely wrecked by the tremendous pounding of the actors feet.The training in the art was given by the chief Guru known as 'Annavi' or 'Asan'. He used to give basic martial training to the actors before introducing them to the text. The texts were preserved either in palm leaf or paper and they were known as 'Chuvati'. They sing loudly with exaggerated gestures and pound the wooden stage. The play is considered success if at the finale, the stage cave into the pressure of heavy pounding.The steps, the stamping and the locomotion of the body sharply coincide with the vocal singing and the accompanying rhythm on the instrument chenda creating a very vibrant dramatic effect. Male actors does the roles of women.




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