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Wednesday, 2 June 2010



Mask dances

Mask dances could be divided into three major categories; one is classical mask dance, other category is folk mask dance, and the other is ritual mask dance. Mask dances in classical dances are very less, as compared to the mask dances of ritual and folk mask dances. In some classical mask dances the masks are fully face covered masks; some are side face covered masks, for example the Kathakali, the classical dance of Kerala.

Devilish facet of masks

Most of these dances use craft work kreedam (crown).In Bharatha Natyam, a branch which developed in the twentieth century, was called “dance drama”. In the dance drama, different types of masks are used, according to the needs of the selective characters of the selective themes. These characters use fully covered face masks.

These masks are mostly made out of certain soft wood, which is easy to carve according to the craftsman’s needs. Even the Thai dances, for instance in Ramayana, certain characters, like Hanuman, Sukreevan, and Vaali use fully face covered masks.

Mask making is really an excellent and unique talent, and it is a good craftsmanship. Many of the families took this profession as family heredity profession. But unfortunately, such craftsmanship artistes do not get much recognition in the modern society. While making the masks the mask maker, must clearly express the real facial expressions of the selective characters.

Classical mask dances, and folk mask dances have certain norms, and both provide equal opportunity for creativity, within the limited frame work. All the classical and folk dances have certain defined clarified items. The items of the classical mask dances and Folk mask dances have their own defined order, and use certain selected ornaments, and designed costumes.Simillarly each and every Classical and Folk mask dances are based on certain selective music.

Some are accompanied with vocal music alone, and some are only accompanied with instrumental music alone, and some more are accompanied with vocal music and instrumental music together. Hence all the classical and folk mask dances have rich historical background, and longstanding historical developments. Some of the folk mask dances are practised only for certain festivals, and for certain occasions, by certain caste or clan annually.

Performer wearing a mask

Before the introduction of Cinema, drama was quite popular among the common masses for the entertainment purposes. In Tamil folklore, Naadukoothu, and Therukoothu were quite popular among the earlier Tamils. Both these Koothu forms used the masks, to depict the characters. Due to the arrival of cinema, tele dramas, T.V, and home vedio systems, these traditional art forms lost their values and demands. Many of the hereditary actors abandoned these professions, and switched on to other professions. The past thirty years of war in Sri Lanka was also one of the major causes for the downfall of these folk based mask dances.

One of the most popular mask dances of Southern Sri Lanka is Kolam. Different characters are involved in this dance, and according to the needs of the story, beautiful carved masks are used. Kolam was originally considered a mask dance form for amusement, but it had a divine origin.

Ritual mask dances are also naturally found in Sri Lankan. Generally the purposes of these ritual mask dances are used for different purposes such as religious, magical and ritual purposes. This particular variety of dances takes place in the open spaces.

Another important mask dance of South Sri Lanka is Sanni Yakuma.There are altogether 18, Sanni Yakuma demons to cure eighteen types of diseases. Each Sanni demon has a particular name and each demon is supposed to heal certain diseases.The dancers representing these demons by wearing specific masks, black colour costumes, and the skirts decorated with leaves.

In West Bengal there are two popular mask dances practised, during the Sun festival.Chhau is a ritual dance, and also it is a group dance, danced by group of dancers. Gamphira is another Bengali mask dance, but it is essentially a solo dance.

Almost all around the world like other dance forms, mask dance is also quite popular, which is based on its own tradition, and cultural background.


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