Kathakalī is a major form of classical Indian dance. It is a "story play" genre of art, but one distinguished by the elaborately colorful make-up, costumes and face masks that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. 
The fully developed style of Kathakalī originated around the 17th century, but its roots are in the temple and folk arts (such as Kutiyattam and religious drama of the southwestern Indian peninsula), which are traceable to at least the 1st millennium CE. A Kathakali performance, like all classical dance arts of India, synthesizes music, vocal performers, choreography and hand and facial gestures together to express ideas. However, Kathakali also incorporates movements from ancient Indian martial arts and athletic traditions of South India. The structure and details of this art form were developed in the courts and theatres of Hindu principalities, unlike other classical Indian dances that were primarily developed in Hindu temples and monastic schools.
A Kathakalī repertoire is an operatic performance where an ancient story is playfully dramatized. Traditionally, a Kathakali performance is long, starting at dusk and continuing through the night until dawn, with interludes and breaks for the performers and the audience. Kathakalī is structured around plays called Attakathas (literally, "enacted stories"), written in Sanskritized Malayalam. These plays are written in a particular format that helps identify the "action" and the "dialogue" parts of the performance.


Yakshagana is a traditional Indian theatre form, developed in Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada districts, in the state of Karnataka and in Kasaragod district in Kerala. It combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form. The art form is believed to have evolved from pre-classical music and theater during the period of the Bhakti movement. It is sometimes simply called "the play" in Tulu Language. Yakshagana is traditionally presented from dusk to dawn.
A typical Yakshagana performance consists of background music played by a group of musicians (known as the himmela) and a dance and dialog group (known as the mummela), who together enact poetic epics on stage. The music is based on ragas, which are characterized by rhythmic patterns called mattu and tala (or musical meter in Western music). A Yakshagana performance typically begins in the twilight hours, with an initial beating of the drums of several fixed compositions, called abbara or peetike. This may last for up to an hour before the actors finally arrive on the stage. The actors wear resplendent costumes, head-dresses, and face paints.
Experts have placed the origin of Yakshagana somewhere in the period of the 11th to 16th centuries CE. Yakshagana was an established performance art form by the time of the noted Yakshagana poet, Parthi Subba (c. 1600). Troupe centers, such as Koodlu and Kumbala in the Kasaragod District, and Amritheshwari, Kota near Kundapura, claim to have had troupes three to four centuries ago, indicating that the art form almost certainly had begun to take shape by circa 1500.