Kathak, a story telling dance form, originated
in the temples where the dance was performed
by the bards, to narrate stories of Gods
and Goddesses in the temples of ancient
India. The name Kathak has its origins in
the Sanskrit word Katha meaning story. It
is predominant in the Ganges valley and
Northwest India. The popularity of the style
brought to the attention and patronage of
the foreign rulers. The dancers competed
for attention from their royal patrons and
introduced more complex techniques and speed
in the dance. These changes in the style
made it unique which separated from other
styles of Indian dance.
dance style is the least structured and
most spontaneous of the classical dance
styles of India, encouraging informal and
intimate rapport with the audience. Its
beauty lies in the precise relationship
of movements and rhythm, subtle gestures,
graceful sweeps, rapid turns and the complex
and precise footwork, as well as subdued,
naturalistic evocation of human emotions.
In fact, it is possible for a dancer to
convey a story through rhythms and movements
of Tukre, short, rhythmic, passages.
most commonly used rhythmic pattern in a
Kathak repertoire is the Teental or a pattern
of 16 beats. The cycles are continually
repeated. Its first beat is known as Sum.
The precision of the arrival at the Sum
after extended variations provides a dramatic
climax, as seen in the Tukre, short rhythmic
passages and Tatkaar, rhythmic footwork.
A repetitive refrain, known as Lahra, provides
the accurate rhythm for the dancer and the
stance is straight and the knees though
flexible are kept in straight position unlike
other styles. The feet are also kept flat
on the ground. One of the salient features
of Kathak are the Chakkars, fast turns very
similar to a Sufi dancer.
costume consists of Chudidar Pajama, tight
trousers worn by both female and male dancers.
Female dancers use either a Kurta, tunic
or Lehanga, ankle length skirt and Choli,
blouse with a Dupatta or scarf worn in a
variety of ways. Male dancers wear Dhoti,
fabric or Angarkha, long sleeved shirt with
Kamarband, sash around the waist. The emphasis
on the rhythmic aspect makes it important
for a Kathak dancer to wear hundreds of
ankle bells anywhere from 100 to 300 on
or the two cylindrical drums are essential
instrumental accompaniment in the present
times. Before the 10th century when Tabla
was introduced in the Indian music the dance
was performed to the accompaniment of Pakhawas
a two sided drums. The melody is played
on a variety of instruments, Harmonium,
Sitar, Sarangi or Sarod.