Kathak which is a major classical dance forms of North India literally means a story-teller or Kathakar. In ancient India, there were Kathakars or bards who used to recite religious and mythological tales to the accompaniment music, mime and dance. These rahapsodists and minstrels were associated with temples and shrines. Their particular dance-forms, which had its origin in simple story-telling, later came to be known as Kathak.
Kathak is danced by both men and women.
Aside from the traditional expressive or abhinaya pieces performed to a bhajan, ghazal or thumri, Kathak also possesses a particular performance style of expressional pieces called bhaav bataanaa (lit. 'to show bhaav or 'feeling'). It is a mode where abhinaya dominates, and arose in the Mughal court. It is more suited to the mehfil or the darbar environment, because of the proximity of the performer to the audience, who can more easily see the nuances of the dancer's facial expression. Consequently, it translates to the modern proscenium stage with difficulty. A thumri is sung, and once the mood is set, a line from the thumri is interpreted with facial abhinaya and hand movements while seated. This continues for an indefinite period, limited only by the dancer's interpretative abilities. Shambhu Maharaj was known to interpret a single line in many many different ways for hours.