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  • Shalaka Kulkarni

Fusing Bharatnatyam and Kathak

What is Bharatnatyam?

Bharatanatyam, a pre-eminent Indian classical dance form presumably the oldest classical dance heritage of India is regarded as mother of many other Indian classical dance forms. Conventionally a solo dance performed only by women, it initiated in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu and eventually flourished in South India. Theoretical base of this form traces back to ‘Natya Shastra’, the ancient Sanskrit Hindu text on the performing arts. A form of illustrative anecdote of Hindu religious themes and spiritual ideas emoted by dancer with excellent footwork and impressive gestures its performance repertoire includes nrita, nritya and natya. Accompanists include a singer, music and particularly the guru who directs and conducts the performance. It also continues to inspire several art forms including paintings and sculptures starting from the spectacular 6th to 9th century CE temple sculptures.


What is Kathak?

Kathak is one of the main genres of ancient Indian classical dance and is traditionally regarded to have originated from the travelling bards of North India referred as Kathakars or storytellers. These Kathakars wandered around and communicated legendary stories via music, dance and songs quite like the early Greek theatre. The genre developed during the Bhakti movement, the trend of theistic devotion which evolved in medieval Hinduism. The Kathakars communicate stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye work. This performing art that incorporates legends from ancient mythology and great Indian epics, especially from the life of Lord Krishna became quite popular in the courts of North Indian kingdoms. Three specific forms of this genre that is three gharanas (schools), which mostly differ in emphasis given to footwork versus acting, are more famous namely, the Jaipur gharana, the Benaras gharana and the Lucknow gharana.


The fusion of Kathak and Bharatnatyam not only provides the audience a treat to watch, but also give them an opportunity to witness how two different styles of dance can be blended together for a beautiful end result. As an Indian Classical dancer trained in these two forms, I am always trying to find ways to find intersections between these two different forms for re-creating moments of storytelling for contemporary voices. This fusion of genres is not something that you see every day, but it’s one that will surely impress any audience. With the knowledge and experience in both dance styles, I know that this fusion as part of a performance can create a memorable experience for anyone! I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the similarities and differences between these two dance forms. If you are looking for a cultural dance performance for your wedding or special event, we would love to create a performance for you! Simply contact at shakulkarni@gmail.com for more info.



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