Institutions of Change: Kathak dance from Courts to Classrooms

Suman Bhagchandani

Ph.D. scholar of English at Jamia Milia University, Delhi. Orcid: 0000-0001-9525-2697. Email:

  Volume 2, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/cjad.21.v2n104


This paper is a study of the progress of Kathak from the erstwhile courtesan culture to the contemporary classroom, structured practice. It aims to highlight the works of contributors like Nirmala Joshi and Sumitra Charat Ram as the pioneers of institutional Kathak that completely divorced its cultural past in the Mughal courts. Amidst all this cleansisng of Kathak history, Madame Menaka, one of the first female Kathak dancers to perform on the proscenium stage and to legitimise her presence by her association with insitutions of Kathak stands out. Madame Menaka truly deserves more attention in dance history and this paper aims to celebrate her life and works in Kathak. These artists and art entrepreneurs have never come together on the same platform for their contributions in the field of art and culture as they do in this paper. Their works lie scattered in biographies and articles that perform a discrete study on each of them. This paper is therefore an attempt to draw a linear development of Kathak through the works of female art contributors.

Keywords: Kathak, Madame Menaka, Mughal courts, courtesan culture