The classical art form is being re-interpreted. On International Dance Day, SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO tracks the changing moves of dance
They dance, and so they are. Dance is a way of life for those trained in the classical art form. The gurukul system, an understanding of the history and philosophy of dance, and years of practice makes dancers wear their art on their sleeves. Once considered as an identity of Indian culture and a spiritual process has changed with the times. It’s a means to fitness for some, a stress buster for a few and the best way to get some ‘me time’ for others. On International Dance Day, we try to explore the changing phase of dance.
Actress Shriya, trained in Kathak, tries to take time off and practice kathak purely for the discipline it brings in her. She tried to juggle her film schedules with her dance classes while in Hyderabad and recently, in Delhi, she didn’t miss the function hosted for her Kathak guru, Shovana Narayan. “If you look at the philosophy of dance, you will know that Bharat Muni talks about the discipline dance induces in you. This stays with you for a lifetime. It teaches you the laws of life subtly. Most South Indian homes insist that the children get introduced to dance. Today, even when people use dance for exercise, they are subconsciously getting in touch with their creative side,” she says.
Salsa, jive and meringue have moved out of the niche segment and part of the must-do list for summer vacations. Choreographers are flown down from Mumbai for special summer sessions and students make a beeline. Mind you, not every youngster is out to prove a point on television reality shows. This year, the city has a new addition –– dance aerobics, combining fluid dance movements to the otherwise mind-numbing aerobics.
“Aerobics, simply put, is a 32-count routine. In dance, the beats are erratic and you count 4, 16, 32 or sometimes 42 for certain moves. It challenges your fitness routine. I’ve seen people enjoy the music and the moves and appreciate when something so beautiful like dance is combined with fitness. It’s a mind-body programme that gets you the best of two worlds – fitness and art,” says dance aerobics trainer Dinaz Vervatwala. The fluid moves of dance can be used to warm up and cool down in a fitness session. How? “I’ve tried choreographing fluid moves to the melodious Jashne-e-bahar song in Jodhaa Akbar where each move is held for a few seconds. And the class enjoyed it,” says Dinaz.
Purva Dhanashree, who has been practicing Bharatanatyam for 15 years and Vilasini Natyam for seven years, says, “I have no issues about people using dance for fitness or to beat stress. But you need to understand why you are choosing dance instead of joining a gym. There’s a philosophy that backs dance as an art form. The culture of India is related to our performing arts. You need to connect with the art to get a holistic approach. I have no problems if someone approaches me to just learn one dance item because she likes it. But then, she needs to understand what it signifies.” For Purva, dance is a way of life. “It’s the way I connect to my culture. It’s a spiritual journey and there’s no life for me without dance,” she says.