Kathak: The Dance of Storytellers explores the philosophical and practical aspects of Kathak dance-its origin, development, and techniques.
Investigating this compelling dance style from cultural and historical perspectives, the book delves into the essential principles of Kathak, its schools and major artists, the format of Kathak performance, repertoire, Kathak music, predominant trends in training, and the system of practice through the lens of theory and application.
A rare resource, the text is a comprehensive read for dancers, teachers, and Kathak lovers.
Performer, choreographer, author, and educator Rachna Ramya has studied Kathak under Dr Maya Rao and the Jaipur style of Kathak under Pt Rajendra Gangani, both recipients of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She is also trained in choreography at the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography in New Delhi, India. Currently, she is teaching a course in dance at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. She is also the artistic director of Sumbhaav School of Kathak Dance.
The ancient seers of india explored the fundamental truth of life by contemplating the ultimate nature of the Supreme Self. They acquired the intuitive knowledge and wisdom to deepen their communion with the Divine through meditation, yoga, and various arts. Their comprehension of the Absolute Truth formed the bedrock of classical Indian music and dance. All Indian arts take us within, where divine expressions can be felt and experienced through the principle of unity. The integrated purpose is greater than the sum of its parts. All paradoxes and contradictions of human emotions transcend in the glorious light of arts that allow us to tap into our authentic source.
Through centuries, India endured many social, political, and economic setbacks and obstacles as a result of foreign invasions and occupations. But the ironclad chain of Indian arts remained unbroken, because the arts of India graciously invited others to witness its beauty and truth with its boundless capacity for acceptance. Indian arts became a haven for all who were weary from division and destruction.
Like other Indian art forms, Kathak dance was shaped and evolved over millennia through a multitude of influences, such as the Mughal invasion in the early tenth century, the Bhakti Movement, the system of patronage, and various cross-cultural exchanges throughout India. Kathak: The Dance of Storytellers explores both the philosophical and practical aspects of Kathak dance, including its origin, development, schools, techniques, and music. Kathak, the dance of North India, originated more than 2,000 years ago as a form of storytelling. At that time, the storytellers staged performances on religious and mythological folk tales through the media of dance, drama, and music. The first few chapters offer and appraisal of this compelling dance style from artistic, cultural, and historical perspectives, explaining how Bharata Muni’s Natyashastra, an ancient trestise on dramatec arts, inspired many significant aspects of kathak. No modern-day performing art styles of India can be fully appreciated without the reference point to Natyashastra. Therefore, various concepts of Natyashastra are related throughout the book, informing Kathak’s phases of development from an ancient art form to the current Kathak style. Emerging from the traditions of ancient kathakars, Kathak during the Mughal era was influenced by the Bhakti Movement and found its place both in the devotional performances of the Raas Leelas and in the passion-infused artistic atmosphere of the Mughal courts. Reverence for Kathak declined during the British Raj, and the dance form suffered greatly from being labeled as a nautch dance-a dance style purely for sensual pleasures. Kathak in independent India regained its repute and became the classical dance of North India.
There are chapters which focus on aesthetics and expressional philosophies in Kathak, and the characterization of heroes and heroines. The aesthetic model of rasa and the characterization of heroes and heroines. The aesthetic model of rasa and bhava are explored in depth in the chapter ‘Rasa and Bhawa’, which are the elements the transform ordinary experiences into artistic ones. The ultimate goal of Indian arts is to evoke rasa in the hearts of the viewer and the performer. Brief explanations of the inner state of consciousness, such as bhutas (five elements), gunas (fundamental universal nature), doshas (physiological energies), koshas (mystical sheaths of being), and siddhis (physiological energies), koshas (mystical sheaths of being), and siddhis (spiritual powers) are provided to enhance the reader’s understanding of the nature of rasa. This chapter also explains the bhava or the internal intent and its categories, which help in creating the nine fundamental rasas. The chapter ends with the philosophy of sadharanikaran is compared with Aristotle’s Rhetoric for a better understanding of the concept. The rasa theory provided by Bharata Muni is also compared with the works of order Sanskrit scholars. Chapters ‘Abhinaya’, and ‘Nayak and Nayika Bhed’ explore the facets of abhinaya (the art of expressions) and throw light on how these categories of abhinaya are employed in Kathak dance. The chapters also include the four vrittis or style of expressions that account for the different dimensions of human behavior. Abhinaya is expressed by nayaks and nayika, the archetypal male and female characters in Indian arts. These characterization are determined through nayak-nayika-bhed, which is based on age, temperament, action, situation, class, emotions, and the inherent disposition of a characters. Vesg-bhuhsa (clothing and accessories) used by a character either to reveal or conceal a character’s personality is also examined. The section on characterization concludes with the notion that many modern-day Kathak dancers avoid the concept of stereotypical nayika-bhed in order to elevate the status of women in arts.
Kathak is a rhythm-oriented dance form. Therefore, chapters ‘Tala and Laya: Musical Time in Kathak’, Laykari’, ‘Ways of Resolving a Composition on Sum’, ‘Nrtta: Rhythmic Interpretation through Body Movements’ are devoted to the musical time/interplay of rhythmic execution through footwork and body movements in Kathak. Most of this subject matter is supported with musical notations of compositions from the kathak repertoire. Tala and laya are discussed in detail in these chapters. The nature of the ancient Indian rhythmic system, which was based on the ideas of chhand and Laya (the metrical modes) that imbued the recitation of Vedic chants, is the basis of the modern-day tala system. Tala provide the rhythmic laws of Indian music based on stresses, form, regularity, accents, intonation, duration, length, and continuity of the rhythmic patterns. The medieval concept of the dus pran of talas(ten life forces of talas) determines the nature, arrangement, mood, and magnitude of rhythmic cycles. Although not practiced precisely today, they remain important as profound influences on the characteristics of the modern-day tala system. The components of tala and the concept and performance of laya in Kathak are explained with examples, using musical notations . Tala is not merely a rhythmic structure to measure time; it also assists in evoking rasa during a performance. The aesthetic value of rhythmic structure to measure time; it also assists in evoking rasa during a performance. The aesthetic value of rhythms depends on many factors, such as laykari and the ways of resolving compositions. Laykari is the performance of captivating variations and patterns in tempo. The presentation of laykari is a stimulating aspect of Kathak dance. The way in which compositions conclude on sum(the first beat of a tala ) facilitates the dynamic laykari of a composition. Tihai is one of the most important ways to resolve a compositions. This section of the book gives considerable attention to the art of creating tihai, a triadic structure and a agential configuration that creates a sense of conclusion. The rules and the aesthetic functions of tihai have been discussed. Type of tihais, including atypical and exceptional varieties, are explained with their mathematical equations. Many exceptional and unique compositions that are performed only by the masters of kathak are notated here. Creating designs of sound imagery through footwork is one of the most dazzling aspects of Kathak. A lot of laykari in Kathak is performed though intricate footwork. The book covers different kriyas or actions of footwork in kathak are suggestions provided with notated examples to strengthen both a dancer’s footwork and rhythmic interpretation. The rhythmic repertoire of Kathak falls under the category of nrtta of the art of the art of pure dance. There are many repertoires in Kathak that entail laykari through engaging body movements and are performed in different tempos. The varieties of laykari are described with examples from Kathak repertoire using musical notations, which can be practically followed by the readers.
The book further delves into the use of Kathak repertoire to express an idea or a story, essential principles and techniques of Kathak, its school and major artists, the format of a kathak performance, kathak repertoire, the application of music in Kathak, the importance of conscientious training, and the system of practice through the lens of theory application.
Terminology The use of dance terminologies and philosophical vocabulary was anticipated in this book . Most of these terms are from Sanskrit, Hindi, and Arabic languages, or from some North Indian dialects. Transliterating the words from another language to English was sometimes challenging. The spelling of words from Sanskrit language was particularly complicated because Sanskrit is written in Devanagari script- a writing system that user syllabify. In Sanskrit, a word is composed of one or many consonants and symbols, followed by a vowel sound. Also, when a word ends in a consonant, it shares a syllable with the subsequent word. Sometimes a word ends with a consonant and a symbol, where the symbol represents an intended vowel. This is why the English spelling of Sanskrit words is somewhat problematic . I have spelled the Sanskrit and Hindi words in a way that they represent the way they are spoken. There may be spelling differences in the text of this book and the quotes cited from other books; nonetheless, the subject matter being discussed is not diluted. In the beginning of the book, I have also included the diacritical marks of some key words that are used commonly in the field of Kathak dance. However, Sanskrit and Hindi words are not transliterated in the body of the text so that it is less cumbersome for the readers.
Notation The examples and notations for the tihais and footwork compositions are given in a tala called teental. Teental is used because it is the most employed tala in classical Indian music and dance. It is a symmetrical tala and its sixteen beats are divided evenly, making it a balanced tala to handle. This tala can also be subdivided and compounded easily , and the sixteen-beat cycle in slow speed gives ample opportunities to a dancer to improvise in one cycle.
Examples for the compositional repertoire in the chapter ‘Rhythmic Interpretation through Body Movements’ are not given since these compositional repertoire in the chapter ‘Rhythmic Interpretation through Body Movements’ are not given since these compositions have specific body movements that can only be learned from instruction by a competent guru. There are examples, notations, and mathematical equations for which uses only footwork, is also supported by examples and musical notations.
In many dance compositions, both the capital ‘T’ and small ‘t’ are used to differentiate between their pronunciations. The capital ‘T’ is pronounced with a ‘hard’ sound, as in the English word ‘tea’, where the tip of the tongue touches the back of the upper middle teeth. The small ‘t’ in compositional examples is pronounced more softly, as in the English word ’tambourine’.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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