Parallel worlds Watermans Kathak

The origin and aesthetics of Kathak

Morley College offers courses in a diversity of dance forms within its very dynamic Dance department. One of the dance forms is Kathak, a classical dance from South Asia. It is marked by scintillating rhythms, dramatic moves, swift turns and vivid expression.

Kathak in its simplest form originated as a story telling tradition in North India during the Aryan civilisation around 2000 BC. Katha kahe’ so kathak kehlave’ (the one who tells a story is a Kathak). Communities of wandering story-tellers moved from village to village acting out stories from great Indian epics and folklore through narration, music and movement. It also became a part of worship in the temples where groups of worshipers gathered together to listen to these stories with fascination.

Kathak flourished in Hindu courts in medieval India. Later in the Muslim courts of the Mughal Emperors, Kathak underwent a transformation. Today it is an art form for the stage.

Adorned by Hindustani music Kathak displays a glorious amalgam of the Hindu and Muslim cultural traditions. To be able to appreciate Kathak in its entirety, It is important that elements and repertoire from both cultures are learnt and performed. Salaami, aamad,  gazal,  tarana ( muslim influence) are as integral a part of Kathak as rang manch ki pooja, bhajan, Vandana, and thumri (Hindu influence). Inclusivity adds to the beauty of the dance form. 

Because of its very fluid nature Kathak has imbibed many influences during its long evolution. It lends itself easily to innovation and over time that innovation becomes part of the tradition. Tradition and modernity are two sides of the same coin in Kathak- a dance form that embodies beauty and soul.

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