Kathak from Rajasthan

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The word means « storyteller » and has its roots in the word “Katha” which means history. In the past, many communities of storytellers of North India, which regaled the audience with episodes of mythology, legends and folk tales, incorporated music, mime and dance in their performances. Among those communities, there were the Kathaks who were both dancers and musicians. Over the years, with the growing popularity of the cult of the god Vishnu, hymns, lyrical compositions and sacred songs were created and have been dedicated to him. The God Krishna (incarnation of Vishnu), which is the inspiration of Kathak, is often associated with « Natvara » attribute, the divine dancer. The dancers choose and frequently interpret episodes that chronicle the loves of Krishna and Radha, the pretty shepherdess mentioned in particular in the Gita Govinda. The rulers of Mughal and Hindu courts introduced the dance to the court, which led to transformations in the style. Therefore, that dance exclusively devotional became an entertainment, it is then enriched with new elements and play a great part in the technical virtuosity and pure dance. We often speak of the Kathak dance as the origin of Flamenco, as nomads, Gypsies from the Thar desert, would have brought to Spain. Kathak style is today characterized by a complex language: foot strikes (tatkar), « footwork » fast rhythm set to a complex cycle times, rapid pirouettes (bhramaris), poetic expression (abhinaya) and sign language hands (mudras). With great emphasis on rhythm, dance is built around rhythmic words (bowls), which are accompanied on tabla or pakhawaj, recited by the dancer before he interprets with feet keystrokes and 200 bells around the ankles. The representation is a virtuoso dialogue between the percussionist and dancer. Jaipur, Lucknow and Varanasi are identified as the three schools, or gharanas where this art is set and where the interpretative and rhythmic aspects were brought to a very high degree of sophistication.