1. Cholkettu: The opening dance, Cholkettu, sets the tone of the performance. It is performed in praise of Shiva and Parvatiand is very similar to Alarippu and Sabdam of Bharatnatyam. Cholkkattu means stylized rhythm, beginning and ending with passages of appeal. The dancer stands with hands raised over the head in welcome. To begin with, there is a verse in praise of Lord Shiva as Nataraja. It is followed by a hymn of 14 lines that outlines the story of Lord Rama. This is sung in a rhythmically stressed manner, and the dancer interprets the story through expressions and gestures. When the song is over, the dancer continues to dance, offering passages of sheer dance. The entire composition lasts no more than ten minutes.
2. Varnam: The next number is a Varnam, which contains alternate sequences of expressional and abstract dance. The theme is invariably love, hidden by making the object of love, a God. There are only five Varnams in the tradition, and all of them are credited to Swati Tirunal. Jatiswaram is performed next. It is composed of sequences of pure, decorative dance in variegated rhythmic pattern set to adjust with melodic lines rendered through musical note.
3. Padam: The Padam is also on the theme of love, and is a purely expressional piece. The Padams in Mohiniattamare nearly all the compositions of Swati Tirunal.
4. Tillana: The last item is the Tillana, an abstract dance combined with garlands of sound syllables. But while in Bharatnatyam the Jatis are recited separately, here they are incorporated into the main melody of the Varnam. Padams, Kirtis, Thillana, Javalis and Shlokas are the varying items in Mohiniattam as well.
There is a tremendous amount of force that a Mohiniattam dancer brings out in her performance without which the performance would be lacking in its lustre but this tremendous energy is released in a very controlled and graceful manner which can be achieved only with discipline, hard work and (bhakti) or devotion to the art form. But at the end of it all the transformation is tremendous. The joyful dancing eyes and the waving of the eyebrows of the dancer all create a great mischievous atmosphere .The sweet smelling of the flowers, the gentle, swaying movement of the upper body in perfect harmony with the music and the bewitching personality of a Mohiniattam dancer all take us to the highest aesthetic order "the atmosphere of enchantment".
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