Contact Us
Mental Health
Financial advice
Youth Matters
Techno Corner

The word Kathak is derived from the name given to its practitioners 'Kathakars.' Katha means story and its practitioners are those who told the stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other mythological epics or Puranas.

The practitioners were taught by temple priests who were well versed in dance and music. The style has gained immense popularity today. It is known for its sparkling footwork, fast- whirling movements and subtle abhinaya or mimetic dance.

It almost never fails to capture the audience and this ability is probably because of its long history in the courts of emperors and kings.

From 11th century A.D. onward, Northern India was ruled by a series of Muslim dynasties who viewed dance and music as a form of secular entertainment rather than a spiritual or religious act. Kathak, being a prominent dance form, was introduced in the royal courts. The court dancers were encouraged to explore sheer beauty of movements and the joy and excitement of rhythm with minimum or no reference to the Hindu mythical structure of Hindustani vocal and instrumental.

The story-telling aspects give the Kathak dancer certain privileges over other classical dance forms. The dancer has the liberty to communicate verbally to the audience. An intelligent dancer often uses this informal mode of communication to draw the audience closer into his/her magic world. Hence, it can be said that Kathak dance depicts �Life.� The dances are based on natural movements and poses that are true to life.

There are three main Gharanas or schools of Kathak. These schools are named according to the geographical area in which they are developed. These are the Jaipur, Lucknow and Banaras Gharanas. Each has a slight difference in interpretation and repertoire. The Kathak dancer invariably recites the bols (syllables) of the dance cadences. Bols has been considered an essential part of the Kathak dancer's demonstration.

Traditionally, the accompanying instruments were the pakhavaj (drum), small cymbals (manjira) and the flute but they were replaced with the tabla, harmonium and sarangi. The costumes of the dancers also underwent a change, and ghaghara (long skirt ), choli (blouse) and a veil gave way to churidar pyjama and angarkha. Besides� many ornaments�in gold and silver for head, neck, arms, hands fingers, waist and feet, the small ankle bells are an essential part of adornment. These sweet-sounding and tinkling bells not only accentuate the movement of the dancing foot but also help in dancing many complex patterns and designs, which are hallmarks of Kathak.

Kathak is based on Bhava (mood ), raga (melody) and Tal (rhythmic beat). In the process of executing these rhythmic patterns, the dancer tries to control�the sound of�the ankle bells�and restrict the sound to the jingling�of one or two bells on her ankles or the jingling of the entire hundred to two�hundred bells.

This is indeed a challenging�part of the dancer's� training because while executing these patterns and maintaining the right axis of the body and giving various emphasis on the round of the bells, the dancer must be static from the torso upward. This is a difficult discipline for the dancer, because the feet, when tired have a tendency of seeking relief through a free use of the pelvic region. The charm of the dancer is in the seemingly static figure producing dynamic sounds.

Most of the Kathak dance numbers are compositions based on North Indian classical music, which include Dhrupad, Hori, Dhamar, Pad and Bhajan on the one hand, and Thumari, Ghazal and Dadra on the other hand. The first category� reflects the religious and devotional sentiment while the second one a clear-cut erotic taste and tang. The singing is done by the dancer himself/herself, which by implication means that a dancer should be an adept both in dancing and singing. He/she is to be an expert in abhinaya (acting ).

Kathak makes a great use of a number of Hindustani musical compositions. These have been entirely composed for the purpose of dance. The Dhamar and Hori composition�are related to Radha-Krishna legend and Rasa Lila with the gopis, the cow girls of the Braj. The Bhajan�and the Pada are strictly devotional composition set to ragas. The Thumari is a short musical composition of four�to five lines. The dancer repeats each line to bring out its varied meanings and richness of interpretation. The Dadra and Ghazal are love lyrics and danced at relaxed pace and smooth tempo.

Kathak's unique grace, intricate footwork, dizzying pirouettes, the brilliant control of the feet, combined with scintillating rhythmic syllables and instrumental�music make it a thing of�transcendental�experience, aesthetic perfection and great inner beauty. It is one of the classical�Indian dance-forms�destined to live forever with its various characteristic highlights getting richer and still richer with�the passage of time and further deep studies done in its creative and aesthetic aspects.

Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Contact Information
The Editor: [email protected]
Advertising: [email protected]
Webmaster: [email protected]
Send mail to [email protected] with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright � 2004 Khaas Baat.

Anything that appears in Khaas Baat cannot be reproduced, whether wholly or in part, without permission. Opinions expressed by Khaas Baat contributors are their own and do not reflect the publisher's opinion.

Khaas Baat reserves the right to edit and/or reject any advertising. Khaas Baat is not responsible for errors in advertising or for the validity of any claims made by its advertisers. Khaas Baat is published by Khaas Baat Communications.