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The word Kathak is derived from 'Katha', which literally means 'storyteller'. In ancient times, storytellers used song and dance to embellish their narration. This took the form of Kathakalakshepam and Harikatha in southern India, and the form of Kathak in the north. At first Kathak was very similar to the Bharatanatyam. Around the 15th century, the dance form underwent a drastic transition due to the influence of the Mughal tradition, which gave it a distinct Hindu-Muslim texture. It gradually got altered from a temple dance to a courtly entertainment. Traditionally danced by both men and women, what distinguish Kathak from other dance forms are its spontaneity, freedom from uniformity and the room for innovation and improvisations. Thus, it enjoys a fair amount of individuality and autonomy.

The Kathak recital commences with the invocation to God, followed by Tatkar or Tukras, which consists of a series of successive rhythmic designs danced to the drum. At this stage the dancer performs many Paranas in perfect combination with the drummer's syllables. Kathak is based on bhava, raga and tala. Its compositions are based on the Hindustani Classical music. The dancer usually does the singing himself. The expressional numbers, which are in Hindi, Hindustani or Urdu language pertaining to Krishna Leela legends from the Puranas or a love episode, are retold and interpreted through abhinaya, facial expressions and postures. Sometimes a Kathak item called gatbhava may be without a chant or singing. Here the dancer takes the Radha-Krishna episode and interprets it through mime only. The excitement in a typical Kathak performance is the jugalbandi, which is the interactive and competitive play between the dancer and the tabla player. Kathak is fundamentally a solo performance with a strong emphasis on footwork and rhythm. Dancers wear tight-fitting churidars under angarkhas, achkans or kurtas, with long strings of bells wound firmly around the ankles. Jaipur, Lucknow and Benaras are the famous Gharanas of Kathak.

Famous Exponents: Kalka Prasad, Binda Din, Shambhu Maharaj, Lachchu Maharaj, Achchan Maharaj, Birju Maharaj, Munalal Shukla and Reba Vidhyarthi (all of Lucknow Gharana); Roshan Kumari, Mohan Rao Kalyanpurkar, Durgalal and Rajendra Gangani (all of Jaipur Gharana); Gopi Krishna, Sitara Devi, Sunayana Hazarilal, Uma Sharma, Kumudini Lakhia, Maulik Shah, Ishira Parikh and Neelima Azeem.

||Introduction||  ||Classical dances|| Folk/Tribal Dances| |Modern Dances|
Great Dancers & Choreographers|| 

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