Mohini Dance School is one of the few schools in the US dedicated solely to teaching Mohiniyattam, the classical dance form of Kerala, India, practiced predominantly by women. The school offers a highly structured program for ages five and above. Mohini School follows Guru Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma’s style of Mohiniyattam, which is acclaimed for its structural integrity and purity. Guru Kalyanikuttiyamma is referred to as the “Mother of Mohiniyattam” for her groundbreaking work towards resurrecting Mohiniyattam as a classical dance and bringing it to the mainstream.
The academic year at Mohini School follows the school year from September to June of each year. Class sizes are limited to under 10 in order to allow teachers to focus individually on students. Classes first introduce new students to a variety of yoga-based exercises and routines to enhance the student’s endurance and flexibility, both essential for Mohiniyattam. Students begin their formal education in Mohiniyattam by learning the following sets of adavus or footwork in Mohiniyattam:
- Samishram (Vakram)
- Thirumaanam (Finishing Adavus)
Students are only introduced to a recital piece after learning at least the first two to three sets of adavus. Along with the adavus, students are also taught the theory behind the art form such as:
- History and Evolution of Mohiniyattam
- Structural Elements of Mohiniyattam (Nrittam, Nrithyam, Natyam)
- Different types of Abhinayam
- Defined uses and applications of the body parts (head, eyes, eyebrows, etc.) in Mohiniyattam
- Mudras and their applications
- as well as mudras (hand gestures) and their usage in Mohiniyattam. The school follow’s Guru Kalyanikuttiyamma’s book “Mohiniyattam – History and Dance Structure” as part of its curriculum.
Each year, students progress through the pieces that constitute a Mohiniyattam repertoire or Kacheri. A complete Kacheri in Mohiniyattam is comprised of seven dances:
After students have progressed through all the seven items in a Kacheri, they are ready for their Arangetram, which is the debut performance of an artist on stage. However, Mohini students do get the opportunity to perform at various venues in the Seattle area every year as well as dance ballets and annual day events hosted by the school.
Mohini Dance School’s upcoming dance ballet production, Ghanashyam, will be showcased on May 12th, 2018 at the Kirkland Performance Center.