The famous poet, Valtathol Narayana Menon, is credited with the setting up of this premier institute in 1930 to nurture the growth of Kerata’s traditional dance forms. Initially located within the stately home of a feudal lord, it later shifted to the banks of the Nila at Cheruthuruthy. In addition to Kathakali, other dance forms such as mohiniattam, koodiyattam and thullal are also taught here. The courses taught in music include vocal classical and the panchavadyam, involving an ensemble of percussion instruments. The selected students undergo a rigorous training in their chosen art form,starting from the wee hours of the morning and stretching into the late afternoon.
It was in the late 1950s that the institute moved to its present location on a 30-acre plot of land, 1.5 km away at Vettikattiri. With the growing popularity of the centre, a grand theatre for the performing arts, called ‘Koothambalam’ was completed in 1977.’A day with the masters’, a half-day guided tour, is a major draw. An audio-visual presentation gives an overview of the institute.