Artbeat

15th September 2000 at 01:00
Kathakali, the classical dance of the Kerala region of south India, is traditionally a male preserve. Now the Kala Chethena Kathakali Company is crossing all boundaries, including that of gender. Barbara Vijayakumar is the first woman to be trained in Kathakali make-up application (Chutti) and, after 24 years' international experience with Kathakali, is in charge of the company's costume and make-up.

Kathakali, which originated more than 500 years ago in the temples of south India, requires actors to undertake training based on the martial art of the Kerala region.

Theyam, also performed by the company, is a dance ritual to ensure the prosperity of a village. But now everyone can learn the secret of how they are done. The company is embarking on a tour starting in Luton and Stevenage on September 28 and taking in the west country, Cardiff, two venues in Lincolnshire and University College, Northampton. Funded by the Millennium Commission Lottery Project, the tour will include workshops for people of all ages.

Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar (her title means she is a graduate of the leading Kathakali college) is a Lancastrian who began as an art student in Rochdale and Winchester and experimented with turning people into colourful sculptures with the help of paint. Then she travelled in Afghanistan on her own on the back of a potato wagon and crossed the border into India. "I immediately knewI'd come home," she says.

She was robbed in north India "and I'm so glad, because I couldn't afford the express train and got off the ordinary passenger train at the wrong stop and found the Kalamandalam."

She studied there for two years and, a quarter of a century later, married to another Kalamandalam, is still fascinated by Kathakali. "There's nothing like it. The leading actors have to spend two hours a day doing eye exercises and two hours doing face exercises." It is a way of life, a way of "expressing emotion through colour and shape".

For the tour, Barbara's visual arts background has been put to good use and there will be a spectacular gateway and other structures to involve the audience. In the workshops, children can try Kathakali drumming and take part in celebrations involving music, incense and flowers as well as watching the application of a chutti. For tour details: 020380420114.

Jazz is one kind of 20th-century music that students may study under the national curriculum. Jazz FM, well aware of this, has tried to bridge any remaining gap between school-work and fun. Jazz FM workshops in the north-west have been a great success in the past few years. Now it is the turn of Greater London. Schools in this area are invited to apply for workshops later this term which will consist of a demonstration of music from New Orleans to be-bop, swing to bossa Nova, fusion to funkand a two-hour session of improvisation for students learning instruments or studying for GCSE or A-level music.

In the evening a specially recruited quartet, perhaps joined by students, will give a concert. Information: 020 7706 4100; www.jazzfm.com Tate Modern continues to attract visitors in the sort of numbers that must make the organisers of the ailing Dome sigh in envy. More than 35,000 people are said to have used the audio guides alone since the opening in May. Now three new audio tours are available: the Director's Tour, a personal approach to key works by the gallery's director, Lars Nittve; the Architecture Tour about the work of the Tate's transforming architect, Jacques Herzog, and the Children's Tour, narrated by favourite children's poet, storyteller and broadcaster Michael Rosen. This offers two trails, the Landscape Trail and the Still Life Trail. The approach is just what you would expect from mind-opening teaching: "You should be standing in front of a green frame with eight panes. It is by the French artist Marcel Duchamp...but can you see anything different about this window?" Then there's a chance to pause before you are given answers. "Well, for a start this window's a model and not a painting of a window...The window panes are actually covered with black leather and Duchamp insisted that the leather should be 'shined every day like shoes'. I wonder why he did that?" and this is followed by some suggestions. For information: 020 7887 8701; www.tate.org.uk Seven hundred young voices will be raised together in the Barbican Hall and on Barbican Lakeside in London on September 25 in Dreamspaces. The singing of a new cantata will be followed by a procession to the lakeside for the launch of dreamboats. The music, the libretto and the flotilla of tiny boats containing dreams, wishes and lighted candles are the result of many months' work undertaken with nine and 12-year-olds who have been working with professional artists in local schools.

Poet Matthew Sweeney has written the words for the cantata "inspired by the creative writing of 540 pupils from the Adopt the Barbican schools", five local schools with which the Barbican Centre has built up a special relationship. Information about Barbican education events: 020 7638 4141; www.barbican.org.uk That perennially successful book about the tribal behaviour of well-brought-up schoolboys, Lord of the Flies, is becoming almost as well known in its stage version by Nigel Williams. Pilot Theatre's production will be at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, between September 25 and October 21 accompanied by a full programme of workshops. Tickets: 0113 213 7700. Information for teachers: www.pilot-theatre.com And don't forget the TES website, where reviews are being included with the changing news: www.tes.co.uk Heather Neill


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