Kathak is the major classical dance form of northern India. The word kathak means “to tell a story”. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It is derived from the dance dramas of ancient India. When the patronage shifted from the temples to the royal court, there was a change in the overall emphasis. The emphasis shifted from the telling of religious stories to one of entertainment. Today, the story-telling aspect has been downgraded and the dance is primarily an abstract exploration of rhythm and movement.
There are three main gharanas, of kathak. These gharanas are named according to the geographical area in which they developed. These are the Jaipur, Lucknow, and the Benares gharanas. Each has a slight difference in interpretation and repertoire.
A Kathak dancer is not required strictly to stick to fixed steps and stages in. He or she can change the sequence of steps to suit his or her skill and style of dancing.