Kathak is the classical dance of north indian style that was characterized by rhythmic footwork danced under the weight of more than 100 ankle bells, spectacular spins, and a representation of themes from Persian and Urdu poetry alongside those of Hindu mythology. The word kathak means “to tell a story”. It is derived from the dance dramas of ancient India. Kathak arose from the fusion of Hindu and Muslim cultures that took place during the Mughal period.
More than any other South Asian dance form, kathak expresses the aesthetic principles of Islamic culture.
The origins of the kathak style lies in the traditional unfolding of Hindu myths by Brahmin priests called kathiks, who used mime and gesture for dramatic effect. Gradually, the storytelling became more stylized and developed into a dance form. With the arrival in northern India of the Mughals, kathak was taken into the royal courts and developed into a sophisticated art form; through the patronage of the Mughal rulers, kathak took its current form.
The emphasis of the dance moved from the religious to the aesthetics. In cooperation with the aesthetics of Islamic culture, abhinaya which is defined as the use of mime and gesture, became more delicate, with emphasis placed on the performer’s ability to express a theme in many different ways. There are two main centers of education called gharanas, which are both named after cities in northern India and which expanded under the patronage of regional princes.
The Lucknow gharana developed a style of kathak that is characterized by precise, finely detailed movements and an emphasis on the exposition of thumri, (which is a semiclassical style of love song).
The Jaipur gharana required a mastery of complicated pure dance patterns. Nowadays, performers present a blend of kathak based on the styles of both gharanas. A traditional kathak performance features a solo dancer on a stage, surrounded on all sides by the audience.
The repertoire includes amad ,the dramatic entrance of the dancer on stage, tukra, tora, and paran (improvised dance compositions); parhant (rhythmic light steps), and tatkar (footwork). Male dancers perform in Persian costume of wide skirts and round caps, while female dancers wear a traditional Indian garment called a sari. Kathak has managed to survive, retaining its identity and character. This shows its natural resilience of its growth and popularity.