Defining Kathak


The Oxford English Dictionary defines Kathak as :

“A Type of Norther Indian Classical Dance, with alternating passages of mime and dancing.”

kathak stamp

For others, scholars and dancers alike, Kathak has been a symbol for many things, be it devotion, storytelling, symbiosis and synthesis or then emerging colonial and postcolonial identities. It’s intricate ties with Hindustani Music, the khayals, thumris, ghazals and bandishes, all weave the fabric that binds the “mime” and “dancing” that then is practiced, absorbed and titled as modern Kathak.

One of the seminal works, for me on this subject and on these variants and emerging identities within this rich dance tradition is India’s Kathak Dance in Historical Perspective, by : Dr Margaret E Walker. 

To put it simply, movement is innate, it is ever-presnt, from our breath, to the beat of our heart. I’m sure the sound of our bodies living and dying every moment or everyday could instruct the notes of a symphony. But, today as the ever-evolvign nature of Kathak has taken up my mental space, Pandit Birju Maharaj’s words are ringing in my ears :

“Take kala (art) as the root word. All other art forms are interlinked. If dance is the root, then vocals, instrumental, painting, are also its branches and leaves.”


Where to begin, is the question for most dancers, and for me, today the answer is : begin with practice, go back to what you know, to what you are feeling, and then chart your own course of expression, one gesture at a time. Be precise, be meditative, be centered in excellence!


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