KATHAK DANCE - Jaipur Tradition

Kathak Dance is a classical dance of North India. Its history goes back to vedic times when bands of story tellers roamed the countryside narrating stories from the great Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Kathak is a dance of communication reflecting the total philosophy of life. It adheres to tradition yet, at the same time, it develops in new directions. Kathak is a vehicle for all emotions. It is universal in concept; unlike other Indian classical dances, it absorbs other cultures. With its wide range of rhythmic patterns, hand gestures and emotions, Kathak not only gives us insight into Indian thought and idealism, but also realizations within ourselves.

The coping stone of the Kathak edifice is the brilliant footwork in which lightning pirouettes are executed by the dancers and complex variations on the rhythm patterns by the dancer compete with the rhythm instruments.

Kathak's special attributes are its blend of the divine androgyne-the intellectual, the suggestive, and the abstract.


Late Nrityacharya Kundan Lalji Gangani

Guru Kundan Lal Gangani, one of the leading exponent and gurus of Jaipur Gharana of Kathak, was born in Sujangarh, Dist. Churu, Rajasthan in the year of 1926. Son of Shri Ganeshi Lalji, he was trained by his maternal uncle the celebrated Kathak Guru Shri Narayan Prasad.

He started public performance at an early age of merely 8 years old. At the age of eleven, he has performed in the royal court of Raigarh. He also danced in Khairagarh, Allahabad, Mumbai, Pune, Baroda, Kanpur and Jaipur. His last public performance was at Jodhpur in 1960. From then on, he started teaching exclusively.

Guru Kundan Lal gave equal importance to the lasya and the tandava ang of dance and, therefore, he also gave emphasis on abhinaya. He introduced new gats in vilambit laya and joined them into parans to create new and unique compositions. He also created numerous new bols, tihais, parans etc. He innovated in performing ‘chalan’ and ‘qayada’ as footwork and introduced ‘chhanda’ at the onset of every thumri. He firmly believed in Kathak as a solo dance and always strived in his training to produce, above all, solo performers. He was a brilliant tabla player as well.

He joined Kathak Kendra in 1970 as a Guru and taught here his death on 16th July 198

He is survived by his sons Rajendra Kumar Gangani, who carries on the tradition of his father at the Kathak Kendra in New Delhi. Also, Haraish Gangani, Govind Gangani are teaching and performing throughout the world.

His sons Fateh Singh Gangani and Yogendra Gangani carry on the tradition through accompaniment on the tabla and passing on the tradition worldwide.

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COSMIC DANCE OF SHIVA Nataraja - the lord of dancers showing his five fold activity, the expression of his divine totality. His dancing limbs convey through their movements and symbols of the fivefold action of creation, maintainance, dissolution, veiling-unveiling and liberation. Shiva dances the cosmos into existence, upholds its existence and dances it out of existence.

From the dawn of creation, the wild god, whose name is Rudra is Consciousness. He is the great yogi, the guardian of the absolute. The androgen god. Shiva says of himself " I am the originator, the god abiding in the supreme bliss. I, the yogi, dance eternally." The celestial dance of Shiva, the cosmic dace, and the dance of destruction-creation have the universe for their stage.

BANJARA OR GYPSY STYLE DANCE - When you witness Gypsy dance, you will be moved by the overwhelming depth of expression drawn from real life experiences. The strong presence of Gypsies reflects their flexibility to adapt to the changing world. Here, attention to line and form are not the emphasis but rather ability to draw from ones soul and communicate passion.

One of the most common dances performed in India today is the Cobra Dance. Performed at fairs and festivals throughout India, the dancer both reflects the snake charmer and the cobra expressing the sensuous gyrations of the union between the cobra and snake charmer.

Duffali Dance - The duffali or (tambourine) is used and a percussive instrument together with ghungaroos (ankle bells) gypsyto express explosive rhythmic patterns and graceful body movements generating a lot of excitement and stimulation of the senses with fast spinning turns. Improvisation is at it's best here.

Wedding Dances are held through India and Europe. Gypsies are usually hired as the entertainment. There are various songs and dances depicting the presentation of the bride's' ornaments and how she wears them one by one.

Gypsies are also called upon to perform for funerals and memorials where the dancer takes on the physical characteristics of the dead and acts as a medium of communication.

KALIYA DEMON Reflects Lord Krishna as a child defeating the evil serpent Kaliya, the seven headed serpent inhabitating the Jumuna River, destroying all life with his poison. One day, Kirshnia was playing ball on the banks of the Jumuna River, and the ball bounced in to the river, and Kirshna decided once and for all to drive this evil serpent away.


NRITTA A solo presentation wherein the dancers performs the traditional form in the time cycle of 16 beats (tintaal). A unique feature will be the spontaneous improvisations that she will show in the rhythmic phrases. Accompanied by tabla, and sarangi, the dancer creates new passages of footwork and movements. It displays the technical aspects of Kathak, including elaborate footwork, hand gestures and body movements.




NAJMA AYASHAH, Kathak Dancer • Choreographer • teacherpose

Najma Ayashah, Kathak Dance exponent of the Jaipur Tradition of Kathak Dance, is known to have enriched and integrated the great Jaipur tradition of Kathak with elements of folk and Gypsy dances with an unusual sense of aesthetic adventure and free form. Her creative repertoire finds expression in integrated compositions with cross-culture fusion pieces performing to music and rhythms of Flamenco, Sufi, and the Middle East

Najma has been a faculty member at NYU since 2002 where she teaches the Jaipur tradition of Kathak Dance and Yoga correlating the dynamic interplay of energies and consciousness through chakra awareness and the cosmic movement of the universe.

She originally studied Kathak Dance, Sanskrit, yoga and tabla at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra, and Kathak Kendra, New Delhi under the guidance of the illustrious Guru Kundan Lal Gangani and his son, Guru Rajendra Gangani. Founder of the Gangani Kathak Dance Company since 1989, Najma has performed both classical Kathak and fusion throughout the United States at venues including Asia Society, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Modern Art, Garden State Arts Center, Lincoln Center in New York city and has toured extensively performing and presenting workshops in England, Brazil, Russia and India. Najma has performed widely with “Espirito Gitana” and Flamenco artists, composer/musicians ,Carmen Salou and tabla virtuoso, Badal Roy at Lincoln Center, Damrosch Park, in August 2011 and her most recent collaborations at La MaMa Theatre and Faison Firehouse Theatre in New York.

Being very active in Multi-Cultural Education throughout the tri-state area, Najma assimilates poetry and music from all backgrounds by incorporating Indian dance movements and sounds—shaping artistic communication with her students. Most recent venues include Baruch College, Juilliard School of the Arts, Brooklyn Council of the Arts, Queens Library and Bronx Library. Early only in her career, 1989, Najma was awarded a Letter of Commendation from the Board of Education in New York City for her work with learning disabled children. And in 2003, she was awarded for her work reflecting the global influence of Asian cultures by the Asian Heritage Committee at New York University.


"comparable in grace and scope to Plisetkaya"...the effect was mesmerizing..." Dance Magazine

"Najma is the embodiment and living proof of the universality of Indian Dance- the totality of art and oneness with the world" Wind & Spirit Dance Magazine

"Renewing and inspiring performance..working from a strong center, she flashes out expertly to complete each design with rhythmic perfection." New York Times