|By Pandit Chitresh Das - 'Kathak opens a gateway to knowledge. Access to this knowledge comes only through years of systematic study and practice in front of the teacher and alone with oneself.'
My main thrust is to kindle the energy within each student that will propel them beyond their normal levels of endurance. Over time this process develops stamina and strength – the necessary ingredients to sustain between one to two hours of continuous dancing. I guide this process through the playing of tabla (drums), while reciting the bols (language of the drums and dance) and simultaneously singing lahara (a repetitive melodic phrase). This continuous dancing, drumming, reciting, and singing generates a combined energy force which radiates an exhilirating feeling and a high state of mind. As my guruji taught me,'Dance in such a way that your dance becomes one with everything.'
The word katha means to tell stories. The early history of the dance dates back to the kathakas who rendered the great mythologies and scriptures of India through song, dance, and oral commentary. Today, the kathaka continues this tradition of rendering stories through ensemble dance dramas and solo presentations known as gat bhav. Through the study of nava rasa (nine codified sentiments of Indian classical dance), ardhanariswara (the embodiment of both masculine and feminine aspects), bhav (expression), gestures, and timing, the dancer learns to portray the wide array of characters from traditional stories as well as contemporary themes. On a more etheric level, the kathaka delves beyond character interpretation to explore the inner world of imagination and creativity. In this realm, it is possible to transcend the world of ordinary reality, to receive inspiration from the Gods and Goddesses, and to draw from the wellspring of the spirit. My teaching begins with the tradition that was taught to me by my guruji (teacher). These basic principles embody the body, mind, and spirit of the dance.
- Tayari (in readiness) – refers to the virtuosity of technique acquired through systematic practice.
- Layakari - deep understanding and versatility of rhythm and timing.
- Khubsurti and Nazakat (beauty and delicacy) – the aesthetics of the art and the refined subtlety of rendering expression.
Each student learns the following aspects of the dance:
- Nritta (pure dance, technique): include movement exercises, basic footwork tatkar; turns chakkars; rhythmic patterns and timing; recitation of the language of the dance bols.
- Nritya (dance with rhythm and expression): use of interpretive gestures, expression, and rendering of tradtional songs and poems.
- Natya (drama): learning the art of storytelling, the nine sentiments nava rasa, working with masculine/feminine energies (ardhanariswara-shiva/shakti).