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Kathak is a refined classical dance form one of the six foremost classical dances of India. Its name is derived from the word 'Katha' meaning story.

Kathak dance form has originated in Northern India during the 6th - 7th century AD. In ancient times, there was a class of professional storytellers who recited the epics and mythological stories with added element of abhinaya.They were called Kathakas who travelled around the country entertaining and educating the people with sacred legends, folklores and mythology.

By the 13th century, the style of singing by Kathakas had developed its own special features. The emphasis of the dance moved from the religious to the aesthetic. Abhinaya (the use of mime and gesture) became subtler, with emphasis placed on the performer's ability to express a theme in many different ways and with infinite nuances.

Later it spread to Lucknow, Raipur and Jaipur. The style that flourished under patronage of Muslim rulers of Lucknow came to be known as Lucknow Gharana. Lucknow Gharana was greatly influenced by Muslim culture and traditions. The Lucknow Gharana developed a style of Kathak that is characterized by precise, finely detailed movements and an emphasis on the exposition of thumri, a semi-classical style of love song.

The footwork is matched by the percussion instruments like tabala and pakhwaj. It has very intricate movements of the hands and feet along with facial expressions set to complex time cycles. The dance movements include numerous pirouettes executed at lightning speed and ending in statuesque pose.

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Odissi Dance

Orissa, on the Eastern sea coast, is the home of the highly sensuous and lyrical form known as Odissi. Like Bharatanatyam, it was intended to be performed in temples as a religious offering by Maharis or devadasis.

It has an intensely emotional and lyrical structure and consists of literary compositions on the Krishna theme, the staple being the 12th century poem Geet Govinda by Jayadev.

Nritta and Nritya or evenly balanced in a recital. Odissi throbs with motifs reflecting sculptural design. Odissi is a dance of love and passion, tender and intense. Inspired by temple carvings, its poses are statuesque at vibrant. Costume of Odissi is simple and colourful.

Ornaments are in silver colour unlike Bharatanatyam which is in gold colour. Odissi for centuries had been a solo dance. Now under the name of innovation group performances are being presented.

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Manipuri Dance

Manipur is a beautiful valley, located in the North East of India. The important items in the repertoire of Manipuri are Ras Dances, of which there are four main types which pertain to Krishna and are performed only by women and girls.

Lyrical grace, lightness or delicacy of hand gestures set Manipuri apart from the geometric structure of Bharatanatyam and the linear quality of Kathak.The costumes and ornaments in Ras are colourful and glittering.

Apart from the graceful Ras dances, Manipuri has another form called Choloms. These are vigorous Tandava items in which the dancer jumps, leaps and on floor while marking the rhythm on the drum slung from his neck.

Important in this category are the Poong Cholom, danced by men holding drums and the Kartal cholom, performed by men or women with cymbals in their hands. The choloms are all part of the Sankeertana of Manipuri, a tradition of singing and dancing directed towards achieving union with Lord Krishna.

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Kuchupudi Dance

This major classical form takes its name from the village Kuchelapuri now known as Kuchupudi in Andhra Pradesh where it originated as a form of dance drama with religious themes.

It is a dance that is also drama, for the performers act and speak as well. Originally these dance dramas were performed only by men, but in recent years women too have taken to it.

It is erotic but glazed with touch of the sublime. According to tradition, Kuchupudi dance was originally performed by men of the Brahmin community. These Brahmin families were known popularly as Bhagavathulu of Kuchupudi.

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Mohiniyattam Dance

The dance of the enchantress, Mohiniyattam is a female classical dance form of Kerala. It was mainly performed in the Temple precincts of Kerala.

It is also the heir to devadasi dance heritage like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. The word Mohini means a maiden who enacts desire or steals the heart of the on lookers.

There is a well known story of Lord Vishnu taking on the guise of a Mohini to enthrall people, both in connection with the churning of the milk ocean and with the episode of slaying of Bhasmasura.

Mohiniyattam is based on the themes of love and devotion and more often the hero: Vishnu or Krishna. The audience can feel his invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through the circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. The movements are graceful like Odissi and the costumes sober and attractive.

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