Kathak is one of the oldest form of the ten major Indian Classical Dance forms. The word translates to 'Katha' which means story and 'Kathaka' means storyteller. Early Kathakars travelled to different towns, telling stories from the great epics through dance, music and songs. An art form that came across quite similar to the early Greek theatre.
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Kathak, as a beautiful dance form involving rhythmic movements of feet adorned with Ghungroo and movements that are sycned to the music. The main story is usually in the form of songs, expressions, movements and stage presentation that communicates with the crowd. Jaipur, Benares and Lucknow are the three major cities that Kathak, as a main dance form evolved and developed. As a performance art, the dance form has survived and developed over the years. One of the main reasons for the growth of this art being, the emperors during the 16th and 17th Century.
What lost its space to develop and grow during the British era, regained its full form of status as an admired art after the Independence.
Kathak as Pure Dance and Expressive Dance
Kathak as pure dance (Nritta), shows a gradual progression from slow movements to faster moves during a performance. These moves are in sync with the Ghungroo and the bol. The performance during the actual dance does turn out to be abstract based on the rhythms of the music that the dancer follows during the performance.
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Kathak as a dance form that involves a lot of expressions (Nritya), is used to communicate with the audience through emotions and expressions. This dance form goes a bit deeper with lyrics, movement, facial expressions and involving the audience, making them feel like a part of the story that is being conveyed. Kathak basically communicates through 'Abhinaya', which includes song, music, drama that is a lot more expressive than in other forms of dance. According to Massey, another important ancient text that has influenced Kathak is the Abhinaya Darpanam of Nandikeshvara.
These expressions and gestures that builds the performance to more a more realistic way, sets the mood for the plot of the story conveying the details in the story. Persian gazals have similar expressive performances. Kathak performances mainly focus on stories of Lord Krishna or of the Indian Epics.
Sessions on this dance forms, mainly focus on helping the artists bring out the best performances. Apart from learning the dance, the artist also learns to present it with great creativity and professionalism. In fact Kathak Classes help the artist master the art.
The classes focus on the artists expressions, movements, stage presence and performing skills. Once these are set in line, the stories and performances take a special form, that will help the artist connect with the audience and convey the story.
As basic as this sounds to be an art of storytelling, the practice session help the artist understand and present the audience with the ultimate essence of the story.
Kathak classes are also means by which the art can be kept alive, as on of the oldest forms of dance. It also helps artists increase the quality of the art that would reach out to many more passionate dancers around.