In Padayani, elements of theatre dominate and it has ritualistic overtones as it is danced before Devi temples, especially in the districts of Alleppey and Quilon. The performers wear highly stylized masks and towering headgears made out of arecanut fronds and painted with indigenous colors. The dancers wearing appropriate masks, headgears, and costumes represent gods, goddesses, demons, etc. The gods and goddesses mainly represented are : Bhadrakali, Bhairavan, and Kalan (the god of death). About a dozen dancers are needed for the performance. There is no age restriction for participating in the dance. Thappu, an indigenous musical instrument, provides the accompanying music. Because of the dominant theatrical elements Padayam may come under the category of dance-drama.
In Palghat district of Kerala, the Urula tribal community perform Karadiyattam. Men and women of all ages perform it. About ten to thirteen dancers are requited to perform the dance. The main aim of the dance is to propitiate the gods, but it is believed that the performance of the dance makes the departed souls of the community more comfortable. The dancers move in a circular way and sing while dancing. The main refrain of the song is, “Ele le le… Karadi Ele le le”. The percussion music is provided by Para and Thakil, both drums. The melodic accompaniment is provided by Kuzhal, a wind instrument. The dancers wear their usual dress and dance around a bonfire which is the only light source for the dance.
The Kolam Tullal is another fascinating ceremonial dance of Kerala. Kolam is a highly stylized and colorful mask or headgear or both unified into one. The dancer or actor who wears this, together with appropriate costume is also called a kolam. In Kolam Tullal dancers wearing different kinds of kolams, perform. This dance has a deep association with the Bhagavati cult. The Kolam dancers are brought in a procession by a number of traditionally dressed young girls. Each of them holds a plate of offerings in one hand and an oil-fed lamp in another. The priest wearing jingle bells on his ankles accompany the procession. The Kolams are brought to the stage tastefully decorated with banana stems and lamp steads. It is believed that the kolams are titans sent by Lord Shiva to terminate the evils of the society and bring prosperity. Percussion music is provided by drums, such as, Chenda, Maddalam, Timila and idiophones like gong and cymbals. The percussion music is punctuated by the sound of horns called Kompu. The music is loud and pulsating and the dance is performed with increasing tempo till it becomes frenzied.
The Pookkavadi ceremonial dance is mainly performed by the Kudumbi, Ezhava and Nair communities of Trichur district in Kerala. Pookkavadi literally means floral arches. This dance originated as a component of Ambalakkavadi, a religious procession in which the model of a temple is ceremonially carried. The dancers of Pookkavadi accompany the procession carrying on their heads or shoulders arch – like structures made of colorful paper flowers. The dancers dance in circular formation and in faster tempo. The dance enhances the grandeur of the procession.