Originating in Northern India, Kathak is presently recognized for its rapid spins (“chakkars”) and fast footwork accompanied by hundreds of ankle bells (“ghungroo”). Our kathak classes focus on the theory, abhinaya (expression), and technical components of dance. Our students will learn foundational hand and leg movements, footwork patterns, spins, recitation (padhant), technical pieces, and compositions based on a taal (beat cycle). As the student progresses every year, they will learn a new taal cycle and more complex compositions. Students will also be taught theory which will include definitions of terms, history of kathak, etc.
At the India School of Dance, we believe that knowledge of the dance theory solidifies an understanding of the dance itself and the traditions being passed on. Therefore, time will be spent learning to notate, recite, and clap the compositions. These components may be tested depending on the student’s level towards the end of the year.
We offer multiple performance opportunities such as Asian Heritage month, Folklorama, and several other private events at request. Our students have also participated in the annual Manitoba Dance festival, receiving multiple silver, gold, and gold honours certificates.
Students can begin learning from ages 4 or 5, and there is no upper limit on age to enroll! Please email the school if you are interested and we will try our best to accommodate your schedule for our Sunday Kathak classes.
Kathak (“katha” = story) is a classical dance style originating in Northern India. The earliest evidence of this dance form is contained within the text Natya Shastra, estimated to date back to 500 BCE and 500 CE. In the ancient Hindu temples, the priests would recite and use facial expressions and hand gestures to act out segments of ancient Hindu texts. Storytellers (“Kathakaar”) in the temples and streets then adopted this storytelling and added extra flourishes to transform it into a dance style. They travelled between villages and passed the dance form on to subsequent generations.
Bhakti Movement era
Kathak during the Bhakti movement focused on depicting the legendary love between Lord Krishna and Radha, as well as Lord Krishna’s playful side with Radha and the “gopis” (milkmaids), stories found in texts such as the Bhagavata Purana. Other Hindu gods were also included in these dances.
The Mughal Era in India transformed Kathak into a kind of aristocratic entertainment in which lower status dancers would perform for the nobles. Europeans arriving in India were also encompassed in the entertained crowds by these dancers (“nautch girls”). The style became less spiritual and more abstract, and began incorporating sensual elements. It also brought many central Asian and Persian aspects to the dance, such as the rapid chakkars (spins), powerful footwork, anarkali (tunic-style) dress, music, and musical instruments.
British Raj era
British rule spread throughout India during the 19th century, missionaries and colonial officials discouraged classical dance forms, especially those that used seductive gestures and facial expressions. However, despite this obstacle, Hindu families continued to privately tutor students, especially males, to keep Kathak alive as an oral tradition.
Kathak revival after the British Raj era allowed for the co-development of the Muslim and Hindu schools (“gharanas”) and brought much attention to the dance form as a vessel of traditions. The Indira Kala Sangeet University was the first to establish a Kathak department in 1956, and many other universities have followed suit.
Presently, the Beneras, Jaipur, and Lucknow gharanas are widely practiced and disciples of these style variations teach all around the world. Kathak can be seen incorporated into many contemporary dance shows and has been recognized for its similarity to Flamenco – both dance styles with a history of being used by gypsies, or travelers. It is also extensively used in Bollywood film movies.
Brittany Young Tenn
An Indian classical dance student begins preparing for an Aradhana, or graduation, from the very first class. After a significant amount of effort has been put into learning various aspects of Kathak dances and its theory and history, and expressional and complex technical pieces can be comfortably performed, a student is qualified to present their knowledge on the stage and graduate to a performer and junior educator level.
At the Aradhana level, a dedicated student who is committed to 1.5 to 2 years of learning will accomplish mastery on performing skills, ability to perform with live musicians, ability to present a recital along, with readiness for written and practical exams.
Brittany Young Tenn
Following an Aradhana, a dancer can choose whether he/she wants to continue learning and expanding on their expertise in Kathak. After additional years of training and study, a dancer may be eligible for a Rangmanch Pravesh, a graduation that marks the “welcoming to the stage”, celebrates a dancer’s many years of discipline, devotion, and perseverance, and qualifies the dancer as a professional solo artist. The candidate again dedicates 1.5 - 2 years to learning additional dances and theory before the final dance graduation show.