This form of dance and was performed in temples. However during the period of the Mughals it came to the court of the Nawabs. Under the nawabs of Lucknow who were leisure loving it became a form of entertainment rather than being confined to the temples. Musical instruments like the tabla, harmonium, shehnai, sitar and sarod accompany the performance.
Kathak has its root in Katha, story. Wandering story tellers in North India, drew material for stories from the epics, dramatizing their recitation with mime and gesture. Lucknow is one centre where this dance form flourished. While Jaipur gave predominance to pure dance with emphasis on rhythm, the Lucknow version of the kathak drifted into erotics. The patron king of the Lucknowi style of kathak was Wajed Ali Shah who perfected the style in his court. The Kathak dance goes through a regular format mostly concentrating on rhythm, variously called Tatkar, Paltas, Thoras, Amad and Parans.
The dances are performed straight-legged and ankle bells worn by the dancers. It depends on intricate footwork and rapid pirouettes is the characterestic feature. The costumes and themes of these dances are
often similar to those in Mughal miniature paintings. Though not similar to the Natyasastra, the principles in Kathak are essentially the same. Here, the accent is more on footwork as against the emphasis on hasta mudras or hand formations in Bharatanatyam.
Apart from the musicians of the court, and courtiers - among them some of the Nawabs themselves - tawaifs(courtesans) were often the centre of cultural life of the city, becoming proficient as poets and in dance and song. While khyal and dhrupad remained the mainstay of classical music, thumri - love songs amalgamating classical ragas and folk melodies - reached a height of sophistication, and forms such as dadra, tappa and hori, influenced by folk traditions, also became widely popular.