Traditional stories in India were often told through dance and drama and were passed from one generation to the next to be performed in the heart of the community. Is a stylized classical Indian dance drama noted for the attractive make-up Of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. It originated in the state of Kraal during the 17th century and has to date improved, tremendously.
It is said that Catskill emerged from ‘Christianization’, a dance drama on the life and activities of rod Krishna. As a part of modernizing propagating, promoting and popularizing Catskill, the International Centre for Catskill at New Delhi has awaken up a continuing project since 1980 of producing new plays based on not only traditional and mythological stories, but also historical stories, European classics and Shakespearean plays. They have also produced Catskill plays based on Shakespearean Othello and Greek-Roman mythology of Psyche and Cupid.
Traditionally there are 101 classical Catskill stories, though the commonly staged among them these days total less than one- third that numbers. Almost all of them were initially composed to last a whole night. Nowadays, there is increasing popularity for concise, or oftener select, regions of stories so as the performance lasts not more than three to four hours from evening. Thus, many stories find stage presentation in parts rather than totality. And the selection is based on criteria like cerographical beauty, thematic relevance/popularity or their melodramatic elements.
Catskill is a classical art form, but it can be appreciated also by novices?all contributed by the elegant looks of its character, their abstract movement and its synchronization with the musical notes and rhythmic beats. And, in any case, the folk elements too continue to exist. MUSIC The language of the songs used for Catskill is Manipulate. Though most Of the songs are set in ragas based on the microcode-heavy Carnation music, there is a distinct style of plain-note rendition, which is known as the Sopranos style.
This typically Kraal style of rendition takes its roots from the temple songs which used to be sung at the time when Catskill was born. There are three drums used in Catskill, The Madam, played with both hands, the Agenda – played with sticks and hand, the Decked, played with hands and stick PERFORMANCE Traditionally, a Catskill performance is usually conducted at night and ends in early morning. Nowadays it isn’t difficult to see performances as short as here hours or fewer.
Catskill is usually performed in front of the huge Killable (kali meaning dance; villain meaning lamp) with its thick wick sunk till the neck in coconut oil. Traditionally, this lamp used to provide sole light when the plays used to be performed inside temples, palaces or abodes houses of nobles and aristocrats. Enactment of a play by actors takes place to the accompaniment of music (Goethe) and instruments (vodka). The percussion instruments used are agenda, madam (both of which underwent revolutionary changes in their aesthetics.
In addition, the singers the lead singer is called “opinion” and his follower is called “singing”) use changing (gong made of bell metal, which can be struck with a wooden stick) and lethally (a pair of cymbals). The lead singer in some sense uses the Change to conduct the Payday and Goethe components, just as a conductor uses his wand in western classical music. A distinguishing characteristic of this art form is that the actors never speak but use hand gestures, expressions and rhythmic dancing instead of dialogue (but for a couple of rare characters).
ACTING A Catskill actor uses immense concentration, skill and physical stamina, mined from regimented training based on Calligraphist, the ancient martial art of Kraal, to prepare for his demanding role. The training can often last for 8-10 years, and is intensive. In Catskill, the story is enacted purely by the movements of the hands (called madras or hand gestures) and by facial expressions (arras) and bodily movements.
The expressions are derived from Intrastate (the tome that deals with the science of expressions) and are classified into nine as in most Indian classical art forms. Dancers also undergo special practice sessions to learn control of their eye movements. There are 4 basic madras?the permutation and combination of which would add up a chunk of the hand gestures in vogue today. Each can again be classified into ‘Sampans-madras'(one muddy symbolizing two entities) or miser-madras (both the hands are used to show these madras). The madras are a form of sign language used to tell the story.
The main facial expressions of a Catskill artist are the ‘invariants’ (Universal in anglicizes form) (literal translation: Nine Tastes, but more loosely translated as nine feelings or expressions) which are 1 – Grammarians – love 2 – Has – big headed 3 – Koruna – sad 4 – Average – proud 5 – Eardrum – anger – Bananas – fear 7 – Blames – disgust 8 – Tabulate – wonder 9 – Sandman – peace MAKE UP One of the most interesting aspects of Catskill is its elaborate make-up code. Most often, the make-up can be classified into five basic sets namely Apache, Kathy, Kari, That’d, and Mukluk.
The differences between these sets lie in the predominant colors that are applied on the face; 1 – Pasha green – heroic 2 – Katie – green with some red signifying a fallen hero. 3- Tad – red & black beards are evil. 4 – Tad – white beard is Human 5 – Catalan – forest dweller 6 – Moniker – radiant – female characters, Brahmins – specials such as Nurseryman – lion The make-up is made up of Chute [the three dimensional section Of the make-up made from rice paste and paper shapes]. This technique is in the Guinness Book of Records as the most three dimensional make up in the world.
STYLES Known as Samaras, these are leading Catskill styles that differ from each other in subtleties like choreographic profile, position of hand gestures and stress on dance than drama and vice versa. Some of the major original Catskill styles included: 1 . Bathtub Sympathy 2. Kaleidoscope Samaras 3. Explaining Sympathy TRAINING The training of all members Of a Catskill Troupe takes years of hard work and devotion. Each section has an Ashcan – Guru – who will guide his student throughout his life. For the actor it takes a minimum f 13 years to train a Catskill actor.
The training techniques are based on the ancient exercises of the military called Kali Putty laid down in the Intrastate and remains the basis of Catskill training. The whole body has to be trained to portray the great characters from the Hindu epics. A summary of the acting technique is: “Where the hand moves, the eyes follow. Where the eyes move, the mind follows. Where the mind moves, the mood follows. Where the mood goes, there the Rasa [flavor] arises”. As with most classical performing arts of India, a Catskill story is told through sign language – Madras.
The Madras used in Catskill are considered to be the language of the gods. After hundreds of years of evolution Catskill is able to contact the very core of our understanding and generate a connection with our most basic instincts which is the desire to create, explore the unknown and express what we find with others. A traditional Catskill play is usually performed as part of a village temple activates in the temple forecourt illuminated with lights and decorated with The Villa – [bras lamp] is lit at the front of the stage and represents divine presence.
The play begins with Arrange Keel – a drumming session played on a Madam drum to invite the gods to the performance. A satin curtain – Terrestrial – is held up at the front on the stage and represents the state of illusion in Hinduism known as Maya. It is reminiscent of the closed doors of the temple shrine where the priest prays and prepares the images of the gods in private. As the actors make their way to the stage they travel from earth into the world Of the gods. Catskill is now in its ancestral home – the temple.
Doomsday – is the first item to be learned by a young Catskill actor to test his ability to balance, use Madras, understand facial expressions, keep classical positions and maintain rhythm. Doomsday is traditionally performed behind the Terrestrial and out of site of the audience followed by Vandal Slalom – a prayer to the gods. Upward follows as a piece of pure dance by junior actors. Next we have Maladapted – a musical master piece where senior singers and drummers are given an opportunity to show their outstanding skills. The singers bestow respect to Jadedly by singing his poems.
When Maladapted has finished the audience has been uplifted and the stage is now prepared for the Catskill play where good and evil will battle throughout the night until dawn the next day. Chute artists and costumers work throughout the night to prepare possibly 30 actors for the stage. When the actor takes his place behind the Terrestrial he first shows respect to the musical instruments and the stage. The Terrestrial is lowered to reveal is magnificent character. At dawn Danni – a dance ritual is performed by one of the heroic characters in the play to ask for blessings on the audience.