Rashmi Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA)


Kathak and Maths

Posted by rapaindia on August 18, 2009 at 4:44 AM Comments comments (0)

Kathak and Maths




What am I talking about here?! Is itreally about Kathak, so how come Maths be a part of it'!  Both are two different subjects, how canthese two be clubbed together?  After allKathak is a visual art form where as Maths is based on several calculations.Still confused?  OK so let me elaborate on this.


Kathak is a dance form but it too hasown set of rules which are strictly governed by calculation of Maths. There aredifferent 'Taals' in Kathak within which we are suppose to perform. Each 'Taal'has certain 'Maatras' (which are basically numbers) and are predefined for theset. The 'Taal' having minimum 'Maatra' is 'Dadra Taal' having six 'Maatras'but most commonly used 'Taal' is 'Teen Taal' consists of sixteen 'Maatras'(mind you 16 and not 3 as the name suggests). We use calculation from Maths ineach and every 'Bol' that we do. If we are performing 'Teen Taal' then every'Bol' or 'Tukda' has to be a multiple of sixteen plus one (the last one is tocome at the original position from where we started which is known as 'Sam'),even half 'Maatra' here or there can lead us out of 'Taal'.


This can be written as n x 16 + 1,where n is 1, 2, 3?


Let me illustrate this with a simple'Tukda', where n = 2 in the above equation. The following a 2-dimentionalmatrix of size 8 x 4 = 16 x 2 (+ 1)



Let's move on to some differentcalculation, we use simple footwork or basic 'Tatkar' in 'Teen Taal' is 'TaThei Thei Tat, Aa Thei Thei Tat'. It repeats two times to fit into the 'Taal' (as8 x 2 = 16). We do different 'Laykari' or in general terms speed of motion. Ifwe are doing two times or four times faster than the original speed, that iscalled 'Dogun' and 'Chogun' respectively, then we have to take care that thetwo 'Maatra' and four 'Maatra' should come in one 'Maatra' i.e. the time takenfor each of these 'Maatras' should be the same and hence the speed varies.


In Kathak, we do some complicated'Laykaris', for e.g. The 3/4 (or 'Paun Gun'), in which we have to count onlytill 3 in the four 'Matras' or in 5/4 (or 'Sava Gun'), in which we have tocount till 5 in the same four 'Matras'. There are even more complicated'Laykari' like 3/2, 7/4, 9/4 but I am not going into the details. A littleconfusing but I guess you got the idea.


Now, let's come to 'Tihai', in thisthe whole 'Bol' has to repeat three times and come to the original position -'Sam'.  So you have to calculate, like insimple 'Tihai' of 'Teen Taal', we have 16+1 = 17 'Maatras' so if we are givinggap of one 'Maatra' after every 'Bol' (except the last as it is coming on the'Sam') then 17 ' 2 = 15 then divide 15 into three equal part, 15/3 = 5.  So every 'Bol' has to be of 5 'Maatras' thengap of one 'Maatra' and then again 'Bol' of 5 'Maatra' and gap and again 5'Maatra', the fifth will come on 'Sam'. This we call 'Damdar Tihai' because we are taking a gap then we have'Bedam Tihai' or without gap, so you can imagine that the calculations will bea bit difficult.


Coming back to 'Teen Taal', which isa basic 'Taal' of even numbers and divided into four equal parts. If the 'Taal'is of odd number then the calculation becomes slightly tedious, and this is thereason learning of Kathak starts with 'Teen Taal'.  Sometimes all parts of 'Taal' are ofdifferent numbers, for e.g. in 'Dhamar Taal' which is of 14 'Maatras' (notethat it is even number) but it is divided in to four parts of 5,2,3,4 each (which is combination of odd and even numbers).


So every time you perform, you haveto prepare and recite before-hand that your calculations are proper. Maths isan integral and important part of Kathak where you cannot afford to go wrong inyour calculations otherwise you will go 'Betaala' (or out of 'Taal') and you certainly wouldn't want that.


Rashmi Mishra is an accomplished Kathak dancer based in Powai. Sheis a disciple of Pt. Birju Maharaj ji and having 18 yrs of teaching experience.She is also Saraswati Samman recipient and examiner of Prayag Sangeet Samiti. Youcan reach her at 9920038054 or email your comments at [email protected]




Kathak and Bollywood

Posted by rapaindia on August 18, 2009 at 4:42 AM Comments comments (0)

Kathak and Bollywood



Therelationship between Kathak and Bollywood dance goes long way back and despitebeing two all-together different dance forms still we can say that theassociation has benefited each-other in some way.


Kathak has its own history. Itstarted in an era when nobody even imagined about the concept of a movie andthe Bollywood was not even in existence. The word Kathak is derived from the word Katha,meaning story “katha kahe so kathak kahave”. The ancient Kathakars, or the story-tellers, were the first to employ thisdance in order to better communicate their tales to the masses. Temple audiences used Kathak as a part of the daily traditionof religious worship, where the crowds commonly enjoyed performances of storiesfrom the Puranas, including the epicsof the Mahabharata andthe Ramayana.During the Mughal period, when the patronage shifted from the temples to theroyal court, there was a change in the overall emphasis.  The emphasisshifted from the telling of religious stories to one of entertainment. Insteadof pleasing the God, it was used to please the King and here it changed itsentire getup. There was also a time when nobody from a good family wantedtheir child to learn Kathak. AfterIndependence the things improved drastically and Kathak regained it’s age-oldgrace and purity.


I would feel that it is safe toassume that everybody is aware of Bollywood. It is a general term given toHindi cinema, derived from Hollywood, some people don’t like this but it isvery popular and accepted. Dance in early Bollywood films, was primarilymodeled on classical Indian dance styles and particularly Kathak. Even they have used some pure tukre, tode, paran and laykariin many of the songs, like “Dha takka thunga, dhage deeng ta” is a Paran used in the song “murali manoharkrishna kanhaiyya” in the movie Jhanak-jhanak Paayal Baaje. This composition isstill used in the performances of almost everyone trained in Kathak. As I havesaid earlier that there was a time when nobody from a decent family wanted tosend their kids to learn Kathak but the situation has changed today, you see thatparents proudly say that their child is learning Kathak and you see the hugecrowd in the Kathak classes. We got to give some credit to Bollywood as well fordepicting semi-classical dances in the movies and reform the entire scenario.However the films before 1960 tended to draw heavily on classicaland folk danceand this influence is still continuing today however this fusion has become mixof many more dance styles. Modern films often blend this earlier style withWestern dance styles. Watch any Bollywood movie and you will see forms ofclassical dance blended beautifully and rhythmically with modern dance steps.


Some of us might say that the moviescorrupted the pure form of dances and the numbers that we watch currently inmovies are full of nudity and vulgar movements but I, being an optimist lookfor a positive side that Bollywood has helped a lot to popularize the dance tothe general audience. Some may also think that it is the age of Hip-Hop orSalsa or any other Western influenced dance forms but I am sure that we willnever forget our roots and Kathakwill always reflect in the movies in some form or other.


The first step towards learning isto appreciate the art form as an audience and many of us enjoy the semi-classicalnumbers without understanding the intricacies behind it, it’s the grandeur andgrace of the dance that appeals to the general audience. Who knows by watching actressSandhya on “Aadha hai Chandrama raat aadhi” or Gopikrishna ji on “Murli manoharKrishna Kanahiya” or Madhubala on “mohe panghat pe nandlal ched gayo re” oreven recently watching Madhuri Dixit dance on “Dhai shyam gher layi” in Dev Dasmight have turned so many people into Kathak lovers and inspire them to learnthis traditional Indian classical dance form. This in itself is a greatcontribution of Bollywood for the propagation of Kathak as dance form andpopularizing it.


The actors and actresses ofBollywood movies are not only expected to act, but also to dance in manydifferent styles with amazing grace. Many Bollywood actresses who are good dancershave learned Kathak. I met Sonam Kapoor along with her father Anil Kapoorduring the Dance Ballet of “Romeo-Juliet” choreographed by Pt. Birju Maharaj atNehru Centre around 4-5 years back. She is a great dancer and her dedicationand inclination towards the dance reflects in her performance. The Dancingqueen Madhuri Dixit is a trained Kathak dancer and has brought joy to millionsof hearts by her distinguished and charming performances. Aishwarya Rai, one ofBollywood's well-known stars, is a classically trained dancer who always looks gracepersonified on screen.


The list of actresses from the oldBollywood era is endless. There are so many dance numbers based on kathak, veryold yet still continue to fascinate us like “jhanak jhanak payal baje”, “aisetadpoo jaise jal bin machli”, “gori tori paijaniya, madhuban mein radhika nachere”, “hoton pe aisi baat”, “piya tose naina lage re”, “natkhat bansi wale gokulke raja”, “dha shyam gher layi” to name a few. And I just can not end this article without mentioning Meena Kumari andRekha who immortalized Kathak on the celluloid screen in movies “Paakeeza” and“Umrao Jaan”.


Kathak has contributed to Bollywoodby giving it such immensely talented dancers/choreographers and so many dancemovements and expressions and the later has helped the first by spreading it tothe masses and compel people to dance to its tunes. In a way get them one stepcloser to the Indian classical dance form and enjoy it in a simplified format.  It has been a mutually beneficial associationso far and I am sure we shall continue to see it evolve over the years.


Rashmi Mishra is an accomplished Kathak dancer based in Powai. You can reach her at 9920038054 or [email protected]


Kathak and Nature

Posted by rapaindia on August 18, 2009 at 4:39 AM Comments comments (0)

Kathak and Nature ? The majestic relationship

Although this happened 16 years back but that day is still fresh in my mind (some memories never fade andyou always feel like it was yesterday). It was a sunny afternoon and aftercompleting my 12th exams my mother took me to the Kathak Kendra (NewDelhi). I was very excited as it was a big day in my life considering that Iwas going to meet Maharaj Ji in person. He used to teach there back then (nowhe has retired) and we went inside his room, some conversation was already goingon and we were asked to join the group. I was truly mesmerized by Maharaj Ji's talk and that conversation mademe ponder over the things that are very close to us but we don't really noticethem. We encounter them daily but we never pause and give it a thought. Thediscussion was about the impact of nature on dance. Now you must be wondering whatis the relation between Kathak (or any dance for that matter) and Nature. Letme share some of my thoughts on this and let's see if we can reach anyconclusion.

The utmost thing is that, Nature is in rhythm. There is rhythm in everything, even in our body too. Our heart beats in a particular fashion dhak dhak dhak.., every beat isperfect and on time. You miss a beat and you are dead, it means till you are alivethe particular rhythm is flowing through your body. There are so many things inour dance that we have adapted from nature. If you follow the nature, you cancertainly improve your dance movements. Let me explain in brief because therecould be endless examples. 

Have you ever noticed howbirds fly high and deep into the sky? Yes, they got wings. They go up &down but there is certain rhythmic movement in that. They are very flexible,very soft but at the same time use a slight rigidness to soar in the sky, nowit is in the same manner that we move our hands in Kathak where all the fingersare altogether moving up & down, but when we open the palm there is somegrip in it. When we open our hands it has softness in it but yet with somefirmness. The neck movements are also a gift from the bird family. Peacock,which is famous for his dance, has inspired us to use several body partsmovements be it hands, neck, leg or torso.

Everybody has seen a cat.Did you ever observe the motion in its body. All the animals in the cat familycan fold and stretch their body with such grace and flexibility. You canpractice all these actions for a better flexibility in your body. Even they canwalk fast yet softly, without making noise that also we use to perform somebols.

Now let's come to snake, it has Zig-Zag movement going right and left, this is very common step used evenin western dance numbers. Then we have also adapted the movement from the deer likethey jump and hop. How can we forget the walk of an Elephant. This is a phrase " Walking like an elephant" or GajGamini, which reflects the walk with poise andconstancy.

 There is are certainhand gestures or ?Hast-Mudras?, which are clear adaptation from nature, depictby the name itself like Mayura, Shuktunda, Sarpa-shirsh, Mrig-shirsh,Singh-mukh, Padma-kosh, Bhramar, Hansasya, Hans-paksh, Vyagrah, Garuna etc.

 Now observe how riverflows, what sound leaves make, when wind blows, a flower blossoms, chirping ofbirds or when we throw a stone in quiet water. Everything has rhythm in it. See,listen, observe and feel it deep inside in you.

Maharajji said this in one of his interviews and it explains this relationship sobeautifully

"Kathakis a dance form where its elements are all derived from nature. Nature is myguru. We are all story-tellers. We learn our dance from nature. The cat is myguru as I observe it?s gliding movements when it fondles her master.The deer with its headalways held high is my guru. A child's mannerism is my guru as I believe Krishna musthave also done nakhras when he was achild. When nature itself is your guru, what can be purer than that?"


Rashmi Mishra is an accomplished Kathak dancer basedin Powai. She is a disciple of Pt. Birju Maharaj ji and having 18 yrs ofteaching experience. She is also Saraswati Samman recipient and examiner ofPrayag Sangeet Samiti. You can reach her at 9920038054 or email your commentsat [email protected]