Creating English captions for a dance performance seems like a mere technical detail – but can get complicated when the translated language is a highly formalised gesture language, when the video accompanies an academic project by renowned scholars and translation needs to be scientifically robust, and when the syntax of the dance movement itself has little in common with English syntax. Is it possible to preserve the delight and suspense in the original narration while respecting those limitations? You be the judge – after watching minute 27:00 and on.

This video presents the sequence of performative events that constitute the first part of the puṟappāṭә (the coming on stage) of the Kūṭiyāṭṭam play called Mantrâṅkam. The actor is Kalamandalam Raman Cakyar, accompanied by Kalamandalam Ravikumar and Ramachandran Nambiar on the Miȥāvә and by Kalanilayam Rajan on the Iṭakka (hand drum). On the Tāḷam (cymbals) are Kalamandalam Krishnendu and Kalamandalam Prasanthi. The perfromance was recorded in full in Kiḷimaṅgaḷam August 2013 by Aviv Nave under the auspices of the German-Israeli Foundation (

The video was created as part of a paper, “The Syntax of Performance: The Mantrâṅkam as a Case Study“, published in Nartanam: A Quarterly Journal for Indian Dance, 2016) by Ophira Gamliel (

♦ Video editing: Edo the Reliable.

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