Monday, May 9, 2011

Khatak Dance

Bells tinkled on the ankles as the Khatak dancers made their way to the stage. It is one of the most beautiful sounds to hear, especially when one is waiting with great expectancy. The sounds  produced from it  are rhythmic. Even before the percussion instruments start to play and the dance gets under way, the ankle bells or  ghungroos as they are called , already makes music to tingle our senses.

Khatak, derived from 'katha', a Sanskrit word means 'story'.Witnessing this classical dance which originates  from North India, was a real treat. The interactive lecture /demo by accomplished teacher, Geetanjali Singh and her troupe of dancers mesmerised  the MCG ( Malaysian Culture Group) members who filled the auditorium of the ICC ( Indian Cultural Centre). I am familiar with the the other classical dances like the  Bharatanyatam and the Odissi  dances. But it was a first witnessing the Khatak which is derived from the dance dramas  of ancient India. This dance form developed over the years and by the end of the Mogul rule, it was a popular entertainment. There are 8 classical dances in India : Bharatanyatam, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Manipuri and Khatak.

The structure of a conventional  Khatak performance  tends to follow  a progression in tempo - from slow - fast and ending in a dramatic climax. Geetanjali  put us through the paces of clapping the tempo. Counting and timing is of utmost importance. And she demonstrated the steps as the beat was clapped. The sounds of the bells and feet harmonize with the percussion instruments. The main accompanying musical instruments are  the tabla, sitar, sarod, harmonium, sarangi etc.

Happy to express herself

One of the dance poses

In harmony - teacher and students

Geetanjali Singh has been  a disciplined dancer since  young. At a tender age of 3 she was already dancing!

The  skirt is cut  such that when a dancer pirouettes, the skirt  swirls and flares out during a spin .
The complex footwork  performed with dexterity.

Students  showing off their skills

Amazing talent and discipline among the dancers - we were told they had only  a few months of learning and they  were ready to perform before a live audience.

After the demanding dance routines, the dancers still looked fresh as daisies.

Besides the dance steps, Geetanjali  also showed her skill in the abhinayas - the art of expression. Not only does the body express itself, the sentiments are felt by the audience.  

A lovely attire with the embellishments makes it complete for  the dancer.

Ghungroos - tiny, brass bells - Geetanjali's numbers 100!  Students start with 25 and as they progress to a higher competency,- they wear 50 and finally 100. The bells are tied together to a cloth  and worn above the ankle during a dance performance.

Red was my lucky colour that morning. See, I got to have a photo taken with Geetanjali


  1. I did not know nothing about this dance! Thank You very much for this post!

  2. Keats, Next time the finale photo should be of you doing the dance in red.

  3. ethnic dance is always lovely to watch...

  4. I can hear the bells! :)
    Those costumes are beautiful...
    Nice picture of you!

  5. Oh Wow! Those are amazing costumes and jewelry. I feel a bit frumpy sitting at my computer. :)
    Thanks for stopping by.

  6. So gorgeous! Wouldn't it have been fun to learn to dance and tells stories with our movements?

  7. The costumes are beautiful! Great pics, Keats!

  8. For a moment thought it was katak dance..haha. Love to see them dance with the ghungroos *learn new word here* nice sound. tQ

  9. Wonderful that you got to watch a Khatak performance, Keats! I've always wanted to as well. Geethanjali is a beautiful name. Rabindranath Tagore's collection of poems is called Gitanjali, too.

  10. I've seen this dance. These girls are extremely skilled in dance and expression. I don't think there's another kind of dance that's so precise and challenging.

  11. Lovely! Takes much patience to learn, they are really talented!

  12. I like to watch such cultural dances. I too like the sound of the bells as they sync with the music. I hope more young people get to learn it. When I was a kid, I was very intrique with the way they move their heads and I practised everyday trying to learn it in front of a mirror. Unfortunately, still can't do it.

  13. love the last pic..very smiley and happy!!

  14. I can't imagine the time that goes into preparing for a dance like this. I wish I was there so I could see it all in motion. Gorgeous pictures and lovely blog!


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