There is a new trend of foreign students coming to India, specifically to pursue full-time degree courses in Kathak and learn the nuances of this dance style.
One of the eight forms of India's classical dances, Kathak, meaning “story teller,” originated in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, and there are references to this dance form in sources dating from the third and fourth centuries B.C. Kathak dance, today characterized by fast, rhythmic footwork, became sophisticated court entertainment with the advent of Mogul culture in northern India.
It [Kathak] is a different art form, where there is more of abhinaya.
With those elegant footwork and gravity-defying turns Kathak opens a fantastical world before a dabbler, who is sure to fall deeply in love with its mesmerising ways.
Kathak has three gharanas or genres named after three culturally-rich places, Lucknow, Banaras and Jaipur.Chencho Sherin Thomas
One of the most emphatic dance forms that the City of Nawabs has given - the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak, which came into existence mainly in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the ruler of Avadh in 19th Century. Kathak, its exponents say, was so powerful that no other dance form posed a challenge to it for a long period.
Raigarh Darbar, an elite form of Kathak, encompasses the best of Kathak styles of Jaipur and Lucknow gharana. Raigarh gharana although new, has its own compositions of thumris, ghazals , todas and bols which are unique in themselves.
...in the Kathak format, which have for long been forgotten by solo dancers. In their impulse to gain instant popularity they have concentrated only on what brings an instant response from the audiences. To this day I have not had to look outside the Kathak technique for movements and forms.
The costume changes have over the years been adopted by Kathak dancers, mainly because the peshwaz is more comfortable and also allows viewers to see the intricate footwork which gets obstructed by saris and long ghagras . Rao uses all three costumes for her dancers-saris, ghagra-sari and the peshwaz.
We have several parans or rhythmic patterns based on Ganesha , which are recited or sung, along with accompaniment on the tablas . Similarly there are verses dedicated to Siva and Saraswati . There's a special invocation for Krishna , who is the patron saint of Kathak dancers
Natya Shastra was the root for both Bharata Natyam and Kathak, and both are of the same period. Kathak, which flourished in the North , was in the direct eye of the typhoon of invasions.
We dance to ghazals (Urdu poems), thumris (a genre of semi-classical Indian music) and taranas (a type of Hindustani classical vocal music). There is also a spontaneity and subtle ‘abhinaya’ about Kathak. We usually dance to the syllables of tabla and pakhawaj hence there is a lot of intricate footwork,
I was taken away by the nagma (tune), taal (rhythm) and that extempore quality of Kathak. There was that openness about the art form which I could easily connect with.