Recently I attended a jugalbandhi programme of Kathak with Kuchipudi at Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan. The very mention of Kathak conjures up visions of courts and places, reverberant with the thunderingmusic of pakhawaj,mingled with the tingling of ghungroos, with peals of jingling at the slightest movement of the dancers. We know that any dancing is synonymous with inner joy, with the soul’s union with God.
It is the urge to express the joyous rhythm,that gave birth to various dance styles of our country. Undoubtedly, Kathak is as much a product of the spiritual fervor and religious devotion of the people of our country as Bharatha Natyam and Kathakali are. It is a product of Vaishnavite culture, the religious renaissance in the north that took place in medieval times.
Kathak has Krishna and Radha for its deities. The Kathak dancer is therefore always depicting the life, mood and stories connected with Krishna and perhaps, that explains the title kathak, which is a derivative of “Kathak” (story). Kathak is the story teller in this case, the medium being dancing. Weaving of rhythmic patterns is the highlight of the Kathak style. The technique was probably perfected during the medieval period.
Present day Kathak has all aspects of classical dancing in nritya, abhinaya and nritta and of course, all three aspects are very well developed individually. Since the nritya aspect is complete in itself, the interpretation of songs and poetry is usually well executed. Unlike in other forms of dance, the Kathak dancer can exclude all other movements, and with the help of facial gestures and a few hand movements alone, can portray the entire meaning or the bhava of the song.
Kathak dance, though bound in rigid technique, provides ample scope and freedom to the dancer to use his/her talent and imagination. Abhinaya (acting) is also perfect in this form and, therefore, lends itself, beautifully to ballet. All would agree that the beauty of footwork is very efficiently brought out in Kathak.
(The writer is a well known music critic who has won awards both in India and abroad for propagation of classical arts and music)...