England

Kathak dance proves to be popular in the capital

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Media captionTraditional Indian dance catches on

The classical Indian dance of Kathak originated in Northern India but its popularity is thriving in and around London with hundreds of young British Asians - and even many students from other communities - learning the traditional dance every year.

Instead of popular forms of western dance, like ballet, many second and third generation British Asians are choosing to learn Kathak.

It is a popular dance form, often seen in Bollywood movies, and this has made it accessible for the younger generation.

"One, two, three, four, tha, thei, tat, ta," These are the loud chants that fill the spacious dance studio in Slough, Berkshire.

''Tha, the, thee, dhak'', recites the dance teacher to the students in front of her.

The group of women are wearing bells around their ankles, called Ghungroo, while moving their feet in rhythm to their teacher's chanting.

'Inspirational'

Nikita Thakrar, 27, has been teaching Kathak for nearly 10 years.

"I started giving Kathak lessons eight years ago in my living room and at that time I only had three or four students.

''I quickly outgrew my house and needed to find someone bigger to teach,'' said Nikita.

She eventually opened up her own academy, the Dancing Nikita Company Ltd (DNC) in 2011 to cope with the growing demand from students wanting to learn the classical Indian dance.

Image caption The dance is becoming increasing popular in the capital

The dance can take years of intense training to master and teachers say there is a significant demand to learn it in the UK. Nikita's academy has seen a surge in students since she opened it two years ago.

''I have lessons seven days-a-week and teach more than 150 students every week,'' she said.

There are now schools and academies like Nikita's across the country teaching young people the classical Indian dance.

''I think Kathak is being used more in Bollywood films, and when youngsters see their favourite actresses performing Kathak they feel inspired to learn it,'' explained Nikita.

Nikita, herself went to Mumbai at the age of 18 to learn to perfect the dance.

She had intense one-to-one training before coming to the UK to teach and she continues to travel back to India every year to continue learning.

One of Nikita's students who attends her weekly lessons is Jasvinder Atwal.

''I love the idea of the fast spins and the fast footwork'', she said.

''Bollywood has played a huge role in me learning to dance, ever since my teenage days, I would watched the actresses perform Kathak and that has really inspired me.

''I think for me Kathak is part of my culture, so I think it's very important to learn about my culture and keep the tradition going,'' she added.''

Another student in the class is Tonya Sheenson: I just really like how fluid Kathak is and the natural movement of it, she said.

''It really just helps me to express myself.''

Many Kathak students eventually go on to become teachers and professional dancers themselves, while others have opened their own academies, thus passing the legacy and tradition of Kathak onto the next generation.

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