Kathak is the most prominent classical dance style of Northern India. The word Kathak' is derived from Sanskrit and loosely translated means 'to tell a story'. This is done through dance and mime, the two main elements of this dance style. In traditional solo performances a dancer may represent all of the characters of a story through a rich repertoire of gestures, facial expressions and graceful movements of the limbs.
Kathak performances normally consist of two parts, nritta and nritya. Nritta, the first and the technical aspect, is a pure dance form focusing on technique, a tremendous sense of rhythm and joy of movement. The beauty of this part of Kathak lies in the exact rendering of rhythmic patterns provided by musical instruments, through graceful body movements and the mystery of the artist's footwork.
Nritya, the second element of Kathak performances, emphasises abhinaya, which is the recounting of a story or song through mime, gestures of the hands and symbolic postures of the body. In the Kathak style, this is not rigid and allows the artist to use a variety of free movements, thus leaving interpretation of a story or poem and rhythmic improvisation greatly to the artist's powers of imagination and creativity. The dramas performed in Kathak come from several different types of Indian literature, the oldest probably being the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Many stories and songs of medieval origin are in praise of Lord Krishna.