Dance-drama marvel | Daily News

Dance-drama marvel

The present Tamil Dance Dramas are blended and influenced by the ancient folk theatre Theerukoothu (street drama). Dance-dramas are not a part of the classical Bharatha Natyam dance form. But multiple character dance-dramas more or less belong to drama forms rather than that of the classical Bharatha Natyam. Today there is numerous misconception about dance dramas.

Therukoothu was practised by the ancient Tamils mainly for entertainment purposes. In simple words, Therukoothu comprises dance, drama, music and dialogue.

Like many other traditional dance forms, males are the main members of this street play. Even the female role was played by the males. Theru means street, koothu means folk dance. Hence Therukoothu means street dance. Numerous street dance dramas were known as Therukoothu. These plays were based on Puranic or Ithikasa themes (epics). Therukoothu is often regarded as one of the oldest open-air dance-dramas in Tamil cultural tradition. During the early days, this particular dance was practised by the common masses for mental relaxation or just to pass off the time. The theme of the stories was imparted to some basic truths or some basic philosophy.

Farmers’ community

Aesthetic essence, value and religious affiliations are interwoven or bound together in this particular oldest dance drama. Originally, this particular dance form originated among the farmers’ community and later it was passed on to the labourer community and the ordinary masses. Even this art form was quite popular among the common masses in some remote villages. Like all other traditional art forms, this ancient art form was also deeply influenced by religious affiliations.

Some of the historical evidence proved that this particular variety of dance-drama originated especially during the 10th century A.D. In those days each temple was attached to one theatre or another. Special performances took place during the special temple festivals.

Even now the folk dance dramas of the Tamils are generally referred to as Therukoothu. The Instruments mainly used for Therukoothu were harmonium, Mridangam and flute. The songs were sung in a very high pitch. The labour class was the main actors and audience for Therukoothu. The labourers after their day-long hard work and for their mental relaxation, they involved in the Therukoothu dance drama.

Normally this traditional folk dance drama started around 10 P.M. It continued till the early hours of the following day. In earlier days it was believed that this particular dance drama was introduced in the society mainly to invoke rain to the village. Normally Therukoothu was held somewhere else in the village or front of the village temple within the temple premises. The villagers bore the total cost of the Therukoothu dance drama. Some of the most popular Therukoothu dance dramas were Madurai Veeran, Kathavarayan, Ramayanam, Harischandran, Nallathangal, ValliThirumanam, Pavalakkodi and Arjunan penance.

Numerous misconception

Dance drama developed and penetrated classical Bharatha Natyam in the 20th century. The Tamil classical dance Bharatha Natyam is always considered a divine art.

Dance-dramas are not a part of classical dance forms. But multiple character dance-dramas more or less belong to drama forms rather than that of the classical dance forms. Today there is numerous misconception about dance dramas.

Dance drama developed and penetrated classical Bharatha Natyam in the 20th century. The Tamil classical dance Bharatha Natyam is always considered a divine art.

Bharatha Natyam is totally based on a classical Carnatic music base while in dance drama the repertoire is set then and there based on the story of the dance-drama portrays. And many times most of the dance dramas are considered as a part and parcel of Bharatha Natyam or branch of Bharatha Natyam. Yet one-act dance dramas are totally based on classical dance Bharatha Natyam and one-act dance dramas are more or less based on Bharatha Natyam. Still, in one act dance dramas, the sole music is not at all always based on classical music. Many times in one act dance-dramas the sole music is in a mixed form. Especially the music is adopted along with classical, folk and fusion music.

Numerous misconception

For dance drama, the music is not necessarily confined to traditional Carnatic music. In dance dramas, a variety of musical instruments is used to enhance the effect and beauty of the scene.

But in Bharatha Natyam, the use of musical instruments are limited and strongly adhered to the tradition. However, for Bharatha Natyam the stage is set once and for all while in dance drama the stage has to be rearranged according to the scene portrayed.

Generally, in dance drama the costumes, the make-up and hairdressing are adapted to each character’s needs and necessity, while Bharatha Natyam uses only certain well-designed costumes with one distinctive makeup.


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