In Northern India, during Medieval times, sacred legends and epic tales were transmitted and taught by Brahman storytellers: Kathakas. They formed a hereditary caste and moved around from temple to temple, accompanying their narration with music and illustrating it through dance, which would develop, become richer and go on to create the traditional style: Kathak. From the 13th century onwards, the art of the Kathakas moved on from temples to palaces. Considered as a court dance, it reached an incredible level of virtuosity.
Kathak techniques require highly-developed choreographic language expressed through “mudras” – coded hand gestures –, movements of the feet, facial expressions and body positions.
The musical accompaniment includes percussions, song and one or several melodic instruments (sitar, santur, harmonium). The main qualities of Kathak are feet rotating, turning and creating rhythms, pounding the ground, improvisations of pure rhythmic mastery dialoguing with percussions.
Birju Maharaj, now retired from the stage, is a great Guru but also an internationally renowned performer. His knowledge goes beyond dance as he is also a singer and plays a wide range of instruments.
Source : Maison de la Danse
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Born in a family of hereditary dancers, Pt. Birju Maharaj is the torch bearer of the famous family, Kalka-Bindadin Gharana of Lucknow, which has seen serving the art of Kathak dance through centuries. Besides being a superb dancer, he is also gifted with a number of other qualities which add to his artistic career. He is a wonderful singer having command over Thumri, Dadra, Bhajan and Ghazal, and is also a superb drummer, playing nearly all drums with ease and precision. He has given a new dimension to Kathak by experimenting this technique in the application of dance dramas, which has today become a very successful medium for mass propagation. As a choreographer he is the finest in the country today. His bold and intellectual compositions in traditional themes are brilliant, whereas his contemporary works are also refreshing in concept, crisp and entertaining. He directed and composed music and sung for two classical dance sequences in the film « The chess players », directed by Satyajit Ray. A mesure of his genius is the fact that at the young age of 28 years, he received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award. He is widely acclaimed not only as a performer but also as an inspiring ‘Guru' – teacher, having sucessfully trained numerous students in India and abroad.
Source : Pandit Birju Maharaj 's website
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Maison de la Danse