When there's music do your fingers start strumming, your feet start tapping, your body starts swaying and you feel a kind of euphoria or nostalgia?
Most of you would surely nod in agreement. Dance and rhythm seem to be embedded in us; we just need to let go of ourselves. We, humans, simply love dance.
If music is the food of the soul, dance is the drink that replenishes your soul.
American dancer Ted Shawn said, "It is quite possible to develop dance without music and… music is perfectly capable of standing on its own feet without any assistance from the dance", nevertheless the "two arts will always be related and the relationship can be profitable both to the dance and to music."
Dance is an art form which arises from powerful impulses and excites us. It's intensely expressive and involves different kinds of movements of the body. It can be freeform or may involve choreography by purposefully creating selected sequences of motion. Unlike the movements performed in everyday living, the movements are normally organised into a rhythmic pattern following some order of steps. It also involves emotions, aesthetic pleasure and entertainment. It's one of the most expressive forms of communication.
Apr 29 is International Dance Day created by the dance committee of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO. It's a global celebration of dance to promote and highlight its value and share the amazing diversity and talent of dancers all over the globe.
This date marks the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the creator of modern ballet. It's celebrated on Noverre's birthday because in 1760, he published a paper which outlined a stylistic vision and method for teaching dance. This paper has greatly impacted dance and is being translated into innumerable languages and has influenced dance teachers worldwide.
The first International Dance Day was celebrated in 1982 and celebrated every year since then. It aims to bring together people of different cultures and helps the dance community to promote their work on a wider scale. The Day, sometimes referred to as 'World Dance Day,' is a global event that celebrates all genres of dance.
From the very beginning of known human history, dance has been an integral part of different ancient rituals, spiritual gatherings and social events. Archaeological evidence traces dance from prehistoric times such as the 10,000-year-old Bhimbetka rock shelter paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings with dancing figures from 3300 BC.
The history of dance closely follows the development of the human race. Dance served as an irreplaceable way of expressing human thoughts and emotions, far before the creation of the first modern civilisation. As civilisations transformed through the ages, dance was modified in accordance with the times and places to popularise it.
Different cultures have unique traditional dances for different reasons and occasions. It plays a number of important social roles in all cultures, notably in matters of celebrations of festivals like crop harvests, weddings, births, courtships, recreation and entertainment.
Humans and certain animals often dance as a way of releasing powerful feelings of joy, sadness, love, hatred or anger.
Animals like a fleet-footed blue booby, sea horse, peacock spiders, sharp-tailed grouse, honeybees and flamingo are some of the dancing animals which dance for the purpose of courtship. The flamingo flashes its wings and bows its head to impress a mate. There are more than 100 moves which take many years to learn and master for them. Interesting -isn't it?
Dance involves our bodies and hearts with an emotional element to it and is intrinsically linked to music and rhythm. Whether you sway on the dance floor, in the car or on a rooftop it instils a sense of happiness and fulfilment. Research suggests that dancing is something that not only brings joy, but it's a unique form of exercise that helps improve your physical, emotional and mental health.
A 2017 study, "The Dancing Brain: Structural and Functional Signatures of Expert Dance Training" published on Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that long term combined use of motor function and coordination with varied skills like dancing might alter the brain in a beneficial way by increasing the brain size in the areas that control motor function. This could be an effective natural alternative to prevent the early onset of dementia and Parkinson's disease. Another study found that dance can increase the amount of white matter in the brain which may contribute to deterring cognitive decline.
Dancing exercises the whole body. It can be an enjoyable way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. The long term physical, mental and emotional health benefits of dancing are innumerable.
Benefits of dance:
– Improves agility, and flexibility and increases stamina; develops muscles and tones the body.
– Helps strengthen bones leading to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.
– Prevents illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
– Improves cardiovascular health and lungs with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
– Boosts memory and cognition as the levels of chemicals in the brain increase encouraging nerve cells to grow.
– Increases neural activity as dancing incorporates several brain functions at once like kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional and helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It further assists in recovery after brain injury.
– Improved mental functioning helps calm the brain, and improves focus and mood; thereby, reducing stress levels and depression.
– Provides oxygen to the brain which helps produce a neurochemical called endorphins which induce a feeling of energy and make the brain more conducive to learning.
– Aids in weight loss.
– Improves posture, balance and coordination.
– Enhances general and psychological well-being.
– Provides an opportunity to socialise and boosts self-esteem.
– Awakens the sense of aesthetic beauty bringing new meaning and happiness in life.
iFit (Icon Health & Fitness -fitness platform which offers virtual training ) trainer Kelsey Sheahan says, "In my opinion, there is no better workout than dance. You have to use every essence of your body to do it. Dancing is a full-body workout in the truest sense."
"It helps improve coordination, memorization, endurance, flexibility, and most importantly, it makes your heart happy," continues Sheahan. "I guarantee you will see a huge difference in your overall mood, decrease stress levels, and have an extra pep in your step."
Isn't it worth giving a try?
Some forms of dance can add variety to your routine exercise and motivate you to exercise, as dancing generates mental happiness. You can have fun with high energy aerobic dance workouts like Zumba or leisurely partner dances like Rumba or waltz to have fun and be fit at the same time.
Dancing has become a popular recreational choice to be active and fit because of its flexibility to cater to any age group and doesn't limit you to a single place. Nowadays, most fitness clubs offer dance classes in their group exercise programs.
You can select to learn from a wide variety of dances, each with its own attractions, available (even online). Popular styles of dancing include:
Ballet, ballroom, belly, classical, contemporary, flamenco, hip-hop, jazz, modern, salsa, tango, tap dancing and many more.
It's your choice whether to dance solo, with a partner or in a group; join a dance school or enjoy it in the luxury of your own home.
If you have a medical condition, are overweight or are over 40 years of age, take precautions. Before you plan to start dancing consult your doctor for advice.
Do warm-up stretches before dancing. Drink plenty of water before, during and after dancing. Take rest between dance sessions.
If you're a beginner, start with low-impact dances in brief sessions. Gradually, as your body gets accustomed, move to high impact and increased duration. Wear shoes appropriate to your style of dance. Cool down after dance sessions.
These days of the pandemic have negatively impacted almost all. Dance is a way which can pull you through these hard times giving you a sense of well-being, whatever your age.
So, what are you waiting for?
Immerse yourselves in the wonderful world of dance today and forever.
Play the tune, get on your feet, let the music sway your body and let the rhythm of your soul transcend time in eternity.