Learning - Dance/Music | 3-18 yrs

Classical Dances Of India: Kathak

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One of the most prominent classical dances in the country is Kathak. Having originated in North India as early as 2000 B.C, Kathak was initially a storytelling art. In fact, the word Kathak is derived from katha meaning "storytelling". Kathaks were a caste of professional storytellers who wandered from village to village narrating stories from the sacred literature and folklore on India. Music, gesture, mime and movements were added to make the listening of these stories more memorable.

Later, with the advent of Mughal rule in India, this classical dance form became less of a religious art and more of a secular form of entertainment. Today, Kathak is the only Indian classical dance form that presents a strong symbiosis of both the Hindu and Muslim cultures. Also, at present, its reach has spread through out the country, and is being taught and learnt in all nooks and corners.

An article in Centre for Cultural Resources and Training describes the intricacies of this art. “The technique is built by the use of an intricate system of foot-work. Pure dance(nritta) is all important where complex rhythmic patterns are created through the use of the flat feet and the control of sound of the ankle bells worn by the dancer. As in Bharatnatyam, Odissi and Manipuri, Kathak also builds its pure dance sequences by combining units of movement.”

From steps to costumes, our ClipBook contains articles and videos about every aspect of this distinct dance form. Flip through it to learn more.


About Kathak

Kathak is the classical dance form that prevails in the North of India. The word Kathak is derived from katha meaning "storytelling". The expression 'Katha kahe so Kathak' means whoever tells a story in a dance form with song is a Kathak.

History Of Kathak

Kathak is one of the foremost classical dance forms of South Asia. It originated from the tradition of storytelling during the Aryan civilization of North India around 2000 BC. Kathak relates to the Hindi word kathã meaning a story.

Style And Technique

The word Kathak has been derived from the word Katha which means a story. Kathakars or story-tellers are people who narrate stories largely based on episodes from the epics, myths and legends. It probably started as an oral tradition

Kathak Technique

Kathak is two-dimensional in character. In the dance, there is only a front-back treatment of space. Even when pirouettes are executed, it is long a central vertical median from which no shifts or deflections take place.

Flexibility In Style

Kathak dances are performed straight-legged and the ankle bells worn by the dancers are skillfully controlled. In Kathak dance, the emphasis is more on footwork as against hasta mudras or hand formations in Bharatnatyam dance.

Different Compositions

Kathak is a fusion of the Hindu and Muslim cultures that took place during the Mughal period. Kathak expresses the aesthetic principles of Islamic culture. It was mainly misunderstood as the dance of the courtesans.

Nritta And Nritya

There are two aspects to this dance form - Nritta and Nritya.The former refers to the technical, abstract aspect of the dance with a tremendous sense of rhythm and joy of movement.

Gharanas Of Kathak

The word "Gharana" literally means "House" and it implies the house of the teacher. It is linked to the very ancient concept of the Guru-Shishya-Parampara (lineage of teacher or disciple) but with some interesting modern twists.

Costumes In Kathak

Kathak costume for the female dancer comprises of a long pleated 'Kurta' (Shirt) worn over Pyjama, a brocaded cap and a 'Dupatta'. Traditional Hindu costume sometimes consists of a Sari, to allow greater freedom of movement during the dance.

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