Kathak is a classical dance form from Northern India. The dance is characterized by fast footwork and spins. The word Kathak comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “story.”
Kathak dances were first performed in temples to tell the stories of mythology, but in the 15th century they moved from the temple to become court dances as entertainment.
Kathak dances have always been solo dances that make extensive use of hand gestures as well as footwork. In the 15th century, dancers began to perform with straight rather than bent legs, giving the dance a percussive element.
When the British ruled India (1858-1947), the Victorian British administrators denounced kathak as base and unlovely—saying it was a dance of seduction--but the dance continued to be popular with the Indian people. Today, kathak is recognized as one of the seven classical dance forms of India. The temple and court dances have combined into a form that expresses both devotion and romance. The costumes are an important element of this dance form. Supple skirts enhance the twirling effect, and anklets of bells accentuate the percussive element.
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