Art & Culture

LET'S KNOW DANCE BETTER

By Pranaame Bhagawati
Dance is an ancient expressional art form. It is one of the most powerful forms of self expression. From time immemorial it has been attached to not only humans

but also animals and birds. It has revealed the innate feelings and manifested extraordinarily beautiful physical gestures of a being from ages. It is a way to feel life by releasing emotion and physical blocks and unleashing creativity. Dance is itself a threshold of an artistic path from where different art forms like music, singing, costumes, stage decoration, etc. flower with vividness.

In some cultures dance is worshipped. It is related to spiritual subjects and believed to be a creation of God. In ancient Indian scriptures, dance finds its place in a very high state. It is mentioned that dance was performed by celestial beings and nymphs in Heaven and later it was spread to earth. In earlier days people used to gather and dance around fire celebrating joy and happiness. In many monumental sites there are engraved pictures of dancing movements.

Dance is an expression of joy, wonder and happiness of a soul in any part of the world. It knows no religion and boundary. It is a universal language that binds everyone together with the expression of oneself and the entire mankind.

From varied point of view, dance is regarded as one of the best performing art. It is a very good blend of science and art. Dance as a subject alone deals with and is responsible to different types of developments in a person. Primarily it deals with both the physical and mental aspects of development.

Physical Development:

Dance as a performing art is completely based on physical movements. It enhances movement, flexibility and co-ordination. In other words, it brings awareness through movements and one become conscious about the habit they are into. 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. This method is intended to give a greater functional awareness of the self. The method uses body movement as the primary vehicle for learning. Through dance, the different gestures and body postures help one to stretch out their body parts whilst moving the muscles and the limbs to various directions. It relaxes the muscles and discards toxins. Dance is a result of happiness and joy.

Therefore, it enhances the facial expressions with glowing and healthy outlook. It always reminds the performer to maintain a healthy physic, alarming him/her to avoid oily and junk foods that tends to cause different diseases at a later age. Dancing helps one to burn around 200 calories. The person develops a good physic and natural bodily grace. It keeps the body upright and enhances one's personality. It also helps one to be body smart, leaving his body language to be displayed with confidence. Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence is one of the most important aspects that a dancer possesses by which he/she has a clear sense of timing and becomes goal oriented and can also find a high degree of fine motor control. Anyone can develop Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence through dance. The Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence controls one's bodily movements and makes one capable to deal objects skilfully. 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.

Mental Development:

In today's busy world we often suffer through mental fatigue and tensions. In this regard, dance is a very good therapy. As dance is an expression of inner self it leads out the stress and calms down the tensions, leaving the mind to be subtle and free. As a result it helps one to be a good decision maker. Dance reveals one's inner self and culminates infinite development in the mind that masters the brain to think in a better and positive way. It unifies emotional, psychological and intellectual energies to pave new ways to build innovative and creative thinking. It also helps one to overcome lack of self confidence and introvert ness.

Moreover, performing different postures make the performer extrovert, vigilant and a path finder. As dance helps the mind to guide the physic to be goal oriented; one is filled with confidence, vitality and urge to do something new and different. The performer can directly apprehend dynamic abilities of other people. Dance in itself is a very big subject. It also deals with the psychological aspects of a being. Through dance one can feel those nine emotions (Navarasa) that are embedded in each one of us. In our normal life we do not care to think about the emergence or existence of a feeling or emotion. We simply surrender ourselves to that particular state. But dance makes us aware of the nine emotions (Navarasa) that every being possesses and analyses its reason for existence and emergence.

Indian Classical Dance is believed to be one of the oldest dance forms. Right from its emergence, from the immortal spiritual beings to the mortals, Indian classical dance has deep rooted elements of a self, nature, Rasa and spiritualism. It is an amalgamation of different physical movements, emotions, feelings, sensory reaction, rhythm and melody. The dance gestures help to involve thinking, sensing, moving and imaging.

Hence every kinds of physical movement have an impact on the brain and the nervous system. Indian classical dance involves both the physical and the neurological halves of the body. The different body movements, facial expressions and hand gestures used in Indian classical dance deals with every organ and other systems like the Autonomous Nervous System, Respiratory System, Central Nervous System and the Digestive Tract in detail.

Indian classical dance has been divided into two main parts. First the technical part that includes pure dance (Shuddha Nritya) and second the expressional part (Abhinaya Pradhan Nritya) that deals with emotions and acting.

The Technical Part:

The technical part includes strong, sharp and quick body movements, pirouettes, vigorous limb actions and foot works. The part is based upon calculation with regard to speed (Laya) and a definite beat (Taal). The learner develops tremendous sense of timing, rhythm, speed, a high degree of fine motor control and becomes goal oriented. It enables one to manipulate objects skilfully, using both fine and gross motor movements. The technical part includes the movement of body parts known as Anga-Pratyanga-Upanga into different alignments thus developing coordination, balance, dexterity, strength, speed, and flexibility.

The three central cognitive skills in Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence i.e. Motor Logic, Kinesthetic Memory, and Kinesthetic Awareness come into use. Motor Logic comprises the learner's neuromuscular skill with regard to the articulation and ordering of movement. The second component, 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 last component, 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 and tendons. This information provides conscious appreciation of posture, movement, and changes in bodily equilibrium, as well as knowledge of resistance, position, and weight of objects.

The Expressional Part:

The Natya Shashtra is an ancient text on dance, written by Saint Bharata (Bharata muni) around 300 B.C. - 500 B.C. This text deals with each and every detail of Indian Classical dances; on the contrary the very base of the Indian Classical dances is the Bharata's Natya Shashtra. This part especially emphasizes on the nine emotions known as Navarasa and the permanent and temporary feelings associated with it. The nine emotions that a human being possesses are-

1. Shringaar Rasa (love)

2. Hashya Rasa (laugh)

3. Karun Rasa (pity)

4. Raudra Rasa (anger)

5. Veer Rasa (strong/courageous)

6. Bhayanak Rasa (Terrifying)

7. Bibhatsya Rasa (Ugly)

8. Adbhut Rasa (Surprising)

9. Shaant Rasa (Peaceful)

The nine emotions mentioned above involve a number of expressions during performing like the facial expression (Mukhaja Abhinaya), eye movements (Netra Abhinaya) & eyebrow movements (Bhru Sanchalan). These various expressions make the facial muscles flexible and energize the blood circulation.

It is a kind of exercise in itself that is responsible for the movements of lips, chin, forehead, cheeks, eyes, eyebrows and nose. This part also deals with the four different types of acting (abhinaya) -

Aangika Abhinaya

Aharya Abhinaya

Vaachika Abhinaya

Saatvika Abhinaya

These four abhinayas provide immense help and support to the dancer regarding acting, stage presentation, stage settings and props, how to develop a theme into a musical dance-drama, etc. Such performance builds confidence, courage, leadership qualities, a sense of timing, team spirit in the performer who can ultimately move the entire audience into his/her imagination. He/She can also acquire knowledge about lights, music, costumes, props, etc. that is to be used in the play.

Most of the gestures of body and hands have a close relation with Yoga. The body postures have a fine alignment and grace. The different body movements, facial expressions and hand gestures used in Indian classical dance deals with every organ and other systems like the Autonomous Nervous System, Respiratory System, Central Nervous System and the Digestive Tract in detail.

There is an adjustment of the fine neuro muscles and the co-operating nerve fibres through a connection of the Autonomous Nervous System and the involuntary organs like heart muscles, blood vessels of the respiratory system and the muscles of the digestive tract. As dance creates a connection between the Autonomous and the Central Nervous System, the exercises of the skeletal muscles influences both these nervous systems thus heightening the balance between the reciprocal nerve fibres regulating the heart muscles, blood vessels and the intestinal tract.

The dancer while performing displays kinesthetic skills in coordination of movements, balance, synchronization, dexterity, strength, speed, and flexibility, interpersonal intelligence in communicating with an audience; intrapersonal 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 expertly uses the entire body to relate thoughts and feelings.

Movement plays a vital role in human activity and it is a central feature of early learning. The individual develops an ability to manipulate objects skilfully, using both Fine and Gross Motor Movements. In the learning process or in the classroom, as the learners use their body to answer the trainer's gestured questions, they develop quick mental action, good coordination and balance in physical movements. February 2010