As the name indicates, Kathak originated as an art of storytelling. Reference to Kathak is found in the Arjuna-Vanavas chapter of the Adiparva of Mahabharat. According to this reference, at that time, the Kathak artists were sweetly singing divine stories. Kathak which was a form of ballad singing had elements of dance. The nomadic bards , known as Kathaks, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It was a quintessential theatre, incorporating narration, recitation, using instrumental and vocal music along with stylized gestures, to enliven the stories. With the advent of Mughal culture, Kathak became a sophisticated chamber art. Patronized by art-loving rulers, the practitioners of Kathak worked at refining its dramatic and rhythmic aspects, delighting elite audiences with their mastery over rhythm and the stylized mime. The technique of Kathak today is characterized by gliding movements, fast rhythmic footwork set to complex time cycles and pirouettes executed at lightning speed and ending in silvery statuesque poses. The footwork is matched by the accompanying percussion instruments such as tabla and pakhawaj, and the dancer and percussionists often indulge in a virtuoso display of rhythmic wizardry.
Dr. S.K. Saxena