Sep 04, 2016

Dance for Yourself

Aditi Divatia

Dance, I believe, is the most beautiful and lucid form of self-expression. Dance has the power to be therapeutic. Dance has the ability to relieve, relax and restore! I have myself experienced a changing state of mind and body whenever I have broken into spontaneous and free dancing in response to some great music which touches me. It is almost spiritual – I connect with my inner self, my mind and body in tandem, flowing gently with beautiful music.

Dance performed in groups is rewarding as well. The dance connects the entire group of dancers. The choreography, synchronisation, the beats, the eye contact and the thrill of performing together as a team, bonds the dancers differently. Here each dancer matters and has to contribute to make the dance a pleasure to perform and watch – very similar to a team sport:

Dance has to be made a part of our daily life. For students in management schools, it can prove to be effective in personality development, communication with peers and enhancing self confidence. It can help deal with depression and can be a huge stress buster. Management schools would do well by introducing dance in some way to the students, through weekly dance workshops, dance clubs or dance workouts. Dance may enable each student to break out of the shell of shyness and learn to communicate without inhibitions.

Dancing for your self does not need to be as structured as a choreographed dance – it is for yourself- as an expression of your freedom, your strength and your state of mind. Dancing for yourself is connecting and listening to your body – letting it respond to the beats of the music- letting your mind be carefree and just letting yourself go! It could simply start with tapping your feet to some good music, swinging your arms or nodding your head with the beats, letting the music seep in slowly into your system.

In the rat race of competitive existence today, we have forgotten to dance for fun, to dance for ourselves. Dance has essentially become a fashion – it is choreographed and designed only to be presented before an audience. Today there is dancing at most weddings in the “Sangeet” function- beautifully choreographed and put together with love and affection by the family and friends of the bride and groom. This function is remembered by all for years to come. Dance has become a chore – little girls from the age of 6-7 are encouraged to join dance classes. They undergo 7 to 10 years of formal classical training. Once done, that is put aside as an accomplishment, a laurel to be showcased in matrimonial considerations. Dance has been relegated to occasions and celebrations.

India has a rich culture and tradition of dance in celebrations – whether it is on occasions like marriages and child birth or festivals like Navratri, Lohri, Ganesh Utsav, Durga Puja, Holi, and also seasonal dances celebrating good rains and harvesting in rural India. The many states of India boast of their own unique traditional dances like the Raas-garba from Gujarat, Lavani and Koli from Maharashtra, Kuchipudi from Andra Pradesh, Kathakali from Kerala, Odissi and Dhap from Odisha, Ghoomar and Bhavai from Rajasthan, Kathak from Uttar Pradesh and so many others. Indian aesthetics mention the “Navarasa” – the nine moods. The beauty is that most of our Indian classical dances can depict all of these moods in different forms.

The good news is – all is not lost! Some of us still have dance in our daily lives – elite urban couples and ladies in metros of India are learning different dances from across the globe- Salsa, Hip-Hop, Zumba, Ballroom dancing, Tap Dancing etc. Indian Bollywood dancing has come a long way from being snubbed to an acceptance where there are stage performances in several places and it has been elevated to a “dance type” – also much sought after today!

There is adequate research from the western world suggesting that dance can be therapeutic. There are multiple stories about individuals benefitting from dance, one such story being about a lady detected with breast cancer where dance therapy not only helped her to feel better physically but also improved her emotional state of mind. Dance therapy has also helped with eating disorders, state of depression and boosting self-esteem. Beneficial for both physical and mental health, dance therapy can be used for stress reduction, disease prevention, and mood management, along with increased agility and flexibility in the body muscles and overall movement. Dancing generates the “happiness hormones” in our body making it a very effective mood lifter – similar to what research says exercise can do!

There is a phenomenological study which explores the experiences of dance therapy for 5 women who had been sexually abused as children. Using in-depth, largely unstructured interviews, the women reflect on their dance therapy experiences and on their perceptions of the role of these experiences in their psychological healing. Analysis of these data revealed 6 common themes related to the women’s sense of spontaneity, permission to play, struggle, freedom, intimate connection, and bodily reconnection. The implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the therapeutic nature of dance therapy and how this therapeutic modality facilitates change and healing. (Mills & Daniluk, 2002)

I truly believe dance can bring in a perfect balance in our physical and emotional health. We need to kindle the expression of joy and happiness through carefree and spontaneous dance in our daily lives.

So, when are you going to set your inner dancer free?

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