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The theme of Mohiniattam is love and devotion to god. Lord Vishnu or Krishna is the hero in most of the recitals. The spectators feel His invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions, through the circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expression. The dancer, with the slow and medium tempos, is able to find adequate space for improvisations and suggestive bhavas. In format, this dance is similar to Bharatanatyam. The movements are as graceful as Odissi. Mohiniattam, like many other dance forms, follows the Hastha Lakshandeepika, as a text book for Mudras, or hand gestures.
Mohiniattam, essentially a solo dance, is nowadays being performed in groups as well. The repertoire of Mohiniattam closely follows that of Bharatanatyam. Beginning with Cholkettu, the dancer performs Jathiswaram, Varnam, Padam and Thillana in a concert. Varnam combines purity and expression in dance, while Padam tests the histrionic talent of a dancer and Thillana exposes her technical artistry. The basic dance steps are the Adavus which are of four kinds: Taganam, Jaganam, Dhaganam and Sammisram. These names are derived from the nomenclature called Vaittari.