This is always a long drawn out affair & many may take anywhere from a few days to a number of weeks. It is both entertainment & edification. The vidhushaka rules the roost. He moralises & his armoury satire & innuendo has some times no relevance to the theme of the play.
It is intended for presentation on eight successive nights to unfold the entire story of Lord Krishna, the style is almost akin to Kathakali.
It is the dance drama of Andhra Pradesh. It is the corresponding style of the Bhagavata Mela Nataka of Tamil Nadu. Except that the emphasis is on the animation, the grammar is derived from the Natya Sastra & in all other aspects it is akin to Bharata Natyam. Tirtha Narayana & Siddendra Yogi evolved this style. Kuchelapuram in Andhra was the originating centre for this style. Hence the name Kuchipudi. It was a male prerogative. In recent years women hab=ve taken to it but it is mostly solo dance that they perform. To this extent the concept has been watered down. Like Kathakali it used to be a week-long affair. Vedantham Satyanarayana is the doyen of this style & he has carved out a niche for himself in portraying the role of the haughty, beautiful & vain-glorious Satyabhama.
From the 15th to the 18th centuries, Vaishnavism came to be adopted in Manipur & this ushered a new era in the development of this style. For Manipuris,dance has been so inextricably woven into their pattern of life. The dance form is mostly ritualistic. It has still preserved the dance drama technique which draws heavily from the rich lore of legend & mythology. Costumes are colourful & the music has a quaint old-world charm. The numbers presented are Lai Haraoba & Rasa Leela. The former deals with the creation of the world & the latter is on Krishna Leela. Drums play an important part & the Poonang Cholom item is a must in any performance. The Kartar Cholom danced with cymbals is another exciting item.
Mohiniyattam is also the heir to Devadasi dance heritage like Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi & Odissi. The word Mohini literally means a maiden who exerts desire or steals the heart of the onlooker. There is the well-known story of Lord Vishnu taking on the guise of a Mohini to enthral people, both in connection with the churning of the milk-ocean & with the episode of slaying of Bhasmasura. Thus it is thought that Vaishnava devotees gave the name of Mohiniyattam to this dance form. In format this is similar to Bharathanatyam. The movements are graceful like Odissi & the costumes sober & attractive. It is essentially a solo dance. In Mohiniattam, story telling comes at the end. The dancer is engaged in physical enchantment. The tremendous impact which Mohiniattam builds through the eyes & the spell which their use creates between the dancer & the world to whom she tells her story is enthralling.
The origin of Odissi dance is closely linked with the religious movements of Jain, Buddha & Hindus. This is also based on the Natya Sastra & the earliest evidence, we have of the existence of the art of dance in Orissa is during the 2nd century B.C. when the Jain king Karavela ruled. Himself an expert dancer & musician, he arranged a performance of Thandava & Abhinaya. There are ample sculptures from the 7th century A.D. onwards which speak of the technique of odissi style of dance. The text of Geetha ovinda became the content of literature for Odissi dance repertoire. Of late, definitive stylistic differences in Odissi have crept in due to the painstaking efforts by several Gurus.
It is performed solo & because of its ready mass appeal, it is also known as the poor man's Kathakali. Kunjan Nambiar eveolved it & brought out the social conditions of his time, the distictions of class & the weakness & whims of the rich & the great. The dialogue is in simple Malayalam & therefore ensures mass appeal.
This belongs to Karnataka & has a rural origin. It is an admixture of dance & drama. Its heart lies in Gana meaning music. It is about 400 years old. The language is Kannada & the themes are based on Hindu Epics. The costumes are almost akin to the Kathakali ones & the style seems to have drawn inspiration from Kathakali. As prescribed in the Natya Sastra, it has the Suthra Dhara (conductor) & the vidushaka (the Jester).