History of kathak dance

Kathak is one of the eight forms of India’s classical dances. The word ‘Kathak’ has its origins from the Sanskrit word Katha which means story.  This dance form is originated in northern India, and there are references to this dance form in sources dating from the third and fourth centuries B.C. Kathak dance.Kathak is an amalgamation of three arts- music, dance and drama. Both Hindu and Muslim rulers patronised this dance form giving it the status of a court entertainment, today characterized by fast, rhythmic footwork, became sophisticated court entertainment with the advent of Mogul culture in northern India.

Kathak has over time evolved into three styles namely Classical, Contemporary and Sufi. It charms and captivates people with its swift pirouettes, unique rhythmic virtuosity and lyrical exploration of romantic as well as devotional poetry. The pure dance is called a nritta, while the expressive dance is called a nritya A Kathak performance can be solo, duo or team.The sharp yet fluid movements synchronised with deft and brisk spins, unleashes a visual splendour onstage taking audiences on a spiritual journey.

Kathak is characterized by intricate footwork and precise rhythmic patterns that the dancer articulates by controlling about 100 ankle bells. It takes its movements from life, stylizes them, and adds the complex rhythmic patterns. Kathak is danced by both males and females; many of the dances convey moods of love.

  • Gharana

Gharana – The different styles of kathak are called gharanas. There are four gharanas-

Lucknow Gharana– It was developed in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the ruler of awadh, in early 19th century.
Jaipur Gharana – It was developed in the courts of Kachchwaha kings of Jaipur.
Banaras Gharana – It was developed by Janakiprasad.
Raigarh Gharana – It was developed by maharaja Chakradhar Singh in raigarh.

  • Ghunghroo

Ghunghroo are an important part of this dance form. For an observer it is easy to notice the movement of eyes, head and hand but it might not be quite that easy to decipher and appreciate leg movements. This dance form uses complex leg movements that serve to highlight the dancing skills of the individual. This will all go unnoticed if there is nothing to accentuate these movements.

This exactly the reason why ghunghroo or ankle bells came into being. They emphasize the complexity of the leg movements and make the dance more graceful and easy to notice and appreciate for the viewers. It also helps the dancer to stay in tune and rhythm, gives more life to dance and adds to the grandeur.

  • Nritta

The nritta performance starts off with a thàth sequence, which is a slower graceful movement of wrists, neck and eyebrows. Thereafter, the dancer gradually increases speed and energy, while completing a sequence of bol (mnemonic syllables in Indian tradition). Each bol has short sections, similar to technical exercises in western dance traditions, wherein the dancer engages the audience with toratukraparhantparan and others stressing footwork, gestures and turns. Each section when completed has a punctuation mark, usually a sharp turn of the head.Each ankle is adorned with small bells (ghungroo), which may have just one bell or hundreds. The dancer’s rapid movements and footwork in a nritta is perfectly timed to the musical beats (tala) and tempos, and the footwork sequences are called tatkars.

  • Nritya

Nritya is slower and expressive aspect of Kathak that attempts to communicate feelings, storyline particularly with spiritual themes in Hindu dance traditions. In a nritya, the dance expands to include words, musical notes and gestures to articulate a legend or message, it is more than sensory enjoyment, it aims to engage the emotions and mind of the viewer.

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