Kathak means a school of dance. It is also a name of community of dancers. The word sound simple. But it has a history which throws much light on the position of classical dance in North India.
The word Kathak is etymologically related to Katha- the art of story- telling. According to some authentic Sanskrit lexicons Katha means composition of a literary piece. As such it had music and dance, with abhinaya, among the features of its technique. Knowledge was thus, conveyed to the people in a vivid and entertaining manners.
The Kathakas have been known through centuries as a community of dancers and musicians The kathak dance has in it all the classical elements such as Nritta, Nritya and Natya. The erroneous view held by some that it has no Abhinaya is refuted by the wide range of Bhawa Darshana. In the language of Kathak, Abhinaya is known by the similar word Bhawa.
The sons of Hanuman Prasad – Mohanlal, Chiranjilal and Narayan Prasad – were considered great dancers of their time. In a parallel development, their cousins, Jailal and Sunder Prasad, sons of Chunnilal, also left an indelible stamp of their greatness as dancers, the former having died young but the latter living long enough to many coveted awards.
As mentioned before, the Jaipur Gharana is famous for its layakari, or rhythmic wizardry. The masters of this gharana were all adept tabla and pakhavaj players. Speed and rhythmic challenge became the primary concern of the Kathak dancer of this gharana, to a point where often these far overshadowed grace of movement. Despite this stress on an incredibly fast, complicated and competitive style of pure dance, the Jaipur Gharana nurtured an important ang or part of the Kathak narrative tradition – the kavit-toda.
The word "Gharana" literally means "House" and it implies the house of the teacher. The Gharanas of Kathak are as follows:
Lucknow Gharana : This gharana of Kathak actually developed in the courts of the Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow,Uttar Pradesh. It particularly gives importance to grace, elegance and natural expressions in the dance. Abhinaya or expressional acting, especially improvised, plays a very strong role in this style.
Jaipur Gharana : Jaipur Gharana developed in the courts of the Kachchwaha kings of Jaipur in Rajasthan. The significance is placed on the more technical aspects of dance, such as complex and powerful footwork, multiple spins, and complicated compositions in different talas. There is also a greater incorporation of compositions from the Pakhawaj, such as, Parans.
Banaras Gharana : Gopi Krishna is One of the most outstanding exponents of the Banaras Gharana of Kathak. The Banaras Gharana was developed by Janakiprasad. It is characterized by the exclusive use of the Natwari or Dance bols, which are different from the tabla and the Pakhawaj bols. There are differences in the Thaat and Tatkaar, and Chakkars are kept at a minimum but are often taken from both the right- and the left-hand sides with equal confidence. There is also a greater use of the floor.