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Kathak is one of the main genres of ancient Indian classical dance and is traditionally regarded to have originated from the traveling bards of North India referred to as Kathakars or storytellers. These Kathakars wandered around and communicated legendary stories via music, dance and songs quite like the early Greek theatre. The genre developed during the Bhakti movement, the trend of theistic devotion which evolved in medieval Hinduism. The Kathakars communicate stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye work. This performing art that incorporates legends from ancient mythology and great Indian epics, especially from the life of Lord Krishna became quite popular in the courts of North Indian kingdoms. Three specific forms of this genre that is three gharanas (schools), which mostly differ in the emphasis given to footwork versus acting, are more famous names, the Jaipur Gharana, the Benaras Gharana and the Lucknow Gharana.
Kathak is one of the six classical Indian dance forms. An ancient storytelling device, Kathak originated within the Hindu temples as a means of portraying the epic tales contained within the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Hindu scriptures. Poetry combined with rhythmic movement to aid in the worshipful storytelling.
A Kathak performance may include a dozen classical instruments depending more on the effect and depth required for a particular performance. However, some instruments are typically used in a Kathak performance like the tabla that harmonizes well with the rhythmic foot movements of the dancer and often imitates the sound of such footwork movements or vice-versa to create a brilliant jugalbandi. A manjira that is hand cymbals and sarangi or harmonium are also used most often.
Katha Dance Theatre is honored to consider Pandit Birju Maharaj, the living legend of Katha dance, an honorary member of its Board of Directors. Additionally, he is a bi-annual visiting instructor at KDT School. Founder and artistic director of Katha Dance Theatre, Rita Mustaphi, is a disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj. This special relationship between Maharaj and KDT has fostered a strong teaching tradition and cultural vibrancy at the Katha Dance Theatre.