is one of the most important classical dances of India. Kathak is said
to be derived from the word katha, meaning "the art of storytelling."
The Kathak dance form originated in north India and was very similar to
the Bharatnatyam dance form. In ancient India, there were Kathakars or
bards who used to recite religious and mythological tales to the accompaniment
music, mime and dance.
Under the influence
of Persian and Muslim traditions Kathak dance assumed the form of courtly
entertainment. Under the patronage of medieval rulers and Nawabs a class
of dancing girls and courtesans emerged to entertain the palaces and courts.
Medieval traditions imparted Kathak a distinct Hindu-Muslim texture. Thus,
with the passage of time Kathak went on changing its form and character.
This change was also reflected in the dress of Kathak dance.
During the nineteenth
century Kathak enjoyed a revival and gained prominence among the kings
and zamindars (feudal lords) not only as a form of entertainment but also
as a classical art form. Slowly and gradually Gharanas or schools of Kathak
emerged. The Jaipur Gharana of Kathak emphasized technical mastery of
pure dance. In the court of Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Oudh (a student
of Kathak), Kathak dance emphasized dramatic and sensuous expression and
developed into a distinct style called the Lucknow Gharana. This Gharana
is said to have originated with Wajid Ali Shah's court dancer Thakur Prasadji.
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. Kathak
dance can be performed by both men and women. A Kathak dancer is not required
strictly to stick to fixed steps and stages in. He or she can change the
sequence of steps to suit his or her skill and style of dancing. Modern
exponents of Kathak dance are Birju Maharaj and Uma Sharma.
Classical Dances of India