Dance, is to move rhythmically. It fascinates all and is a subject that is dear to many of us, having its bit alive in everybody’s life. Its emergence could be dated back from a very early time; when seasonal change stimulated the feelings of the beings, when the beings realized the beauty in nature and in them, when they felt that they are into this world with a mission – a mission to glorify and beautify their thoughts and feelings through movements, sounds, symbols and gestures. They tried to beautify their surroundings including themselves. And from there, dance took its form. It is a universal art form that is an embodiment of movements, joy, romance, beauty, intellect, feelings, concept and message.
Dance not only enhances the physical grace and beauty of an individual, but also delivers one with adequate confidence, public speaking ability and communication skills.It is a medium considered by many researchers and scientists to be a potential element to develop body smartness and Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence. Dance reacts to the body, mind and soul as a medicine does to an ill.
Dance has been related to the human race from a very ancient time, probably from the time of their communication. Wilhelm Wundt, a German physician and founder of experimental psychology mentioned that, in early days dance was the only such medium and identification for the humans that helped them to express themselves completely. Human feelings and communications were identified through the movement of limbs and different facial expressions. Many sociologists believe dance to be an important tool for making a civilised society. In earlier days, people used to gather and dance around fire celebrating joy and happiness. The early men used different gestures to express themselves and used to make groups with synchronised identical movements to hunt their prey.
During the archaeological survey of Mohenjodaro – Harappan civilization, a metal statue of a dancing girl was found. Some drawings of performing ‘Chalit’ dance are also found in the caves of the Ajanta. The sculpturous art of Deogarh and the cave paintings in the Bagh caves of Ajanta displays the Stick dances. Sculptures at temples like Belur, Konark, Hazara Rama, etc. and in Rig Veda, indications of collective dancing could be found. In the Harivamsa Purana, description about the ‘Hallisaka’ (circular formation) and clapping of hands could be found. The Yajur Veda acquaints that, dance was an important element during the process of rituals like the propitiation of spirits, etc.
In ancient Indian scriptures, dance finds its place in a very high state. The classical dances are a practice of solemnity and devotion, especially for those who learn, practice and perform it. Dance was believed to be performed by celestial beings and nymphs in Heaven and then it was spread to earth. Later, such dances were meant to perform in the temple shrine as an offering to the Lord. It would be wrong to consider it just as an entertainment only. Even though there were phases in our history, when the temple dance art tradition was brought to the royal courts involving essence of pleasure and entertainment, but, its strong relation with spiritualism and traditional myths has made it able to retain its core value and dignity besides all sorts of external influences. This is the reason why till today, dance practitioners worship their Lord to bless them with knowledge and ability and they generally start their performance by invoking a Lord through compositions like ‘Vandana’ or ‘Stuti’ to seek blessings for a flawless performance.
Dance is a subject that deals with and is responsible for different types of developments in a person. It as a performing art is completely based on physical movements that simultaneously enhances flexibility and co-ordination. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli scientist believes that, body and mind are not just mere parts but an objective reality. According to him, a brain without a body could not think. He also developed a therapeutic method called Feldenkrais Method which is intended to give a greater functional awareness of the self. The method uses body movement as the primary vehicle for learning. Similarly, through dance while moving the muscles and the limbs to various directions, the dancer develops a good physic and natural bodily grace. Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence is an important aspect that a dancer possesses by which the individual has a clear sense of timing and becomes goal oriented and can also find a high degree of fine motor control. Gardner defines that, Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence makes a person body smart whilst using different parts of the body (hands, fingers, arms) to solve a problem or to make or produce something through activity.
There are three central cognitive skills in Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence: Motor Logic, Kinesthetic Memory and Kinesthetic Awareness that are important components of dance. Motor Logic comprises the learner’s neuro-muscular skill with regard to the articulation and ordering of movement. Kinesthetic Memory, enables the learner to think in terms of movement by mentally reconstructing muscular effort, movement, and position in space. This component also shares the “procedural knowledge” i.e. knowledge of how to do something. The Kinesthetic Awareness provides the learner with information on the extent, direction, and weight of movement. The kinesthetic sense operates through the body that relay information to the brain with regard to pressure, position and stretch of muscles. This information provides conscious appreciation of posture, movement and changes in bodily equilibrium, as well as knowledge of resistance, position, and weight of objects.
Dance culminates infinite development in the mind that masters the brain to think in a better way. A dancer while performing displays kinesthetic skills in coordination of movements, balance, synchronization, dexterity, strength, speed, and flexibility, interpersonal intelligence in communicating with an audience; intra-personal intelligence in feeling the emotions of the performance; logical-mathematical skills in analyzing musical structure upon which he/she is performing and creating an imaginary object that practically does not exist. The individual develops an ability to manipulate objects skillfully, using both fine and gross motor movements.
The beauty of dance could only be purely felt, when one is into dancing. It has a lot more to contribute if pursued with sincerity and proper training. No dance form can be fully accumulated within a period of few years. I would like to encourage the young developing minds and beginners to sincerely learn their dance art form and with enthusiasm and devotion make their presence available in various mass participatory dance programs and feel the difference that takes place in them.
Pranaame is an accomplished danseuse,choreographer,writer,cultural activist who toured her skills in various places of India & abroad. She founded theAMRAPALI (Society for ARTS).