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APARAJITA SEN

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 9/15/2016 |


“Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you're perfectly free.”
(Rumi)

Is there anything else in the world that is as old, as liberating, as primitive like dance? I am sure all the languages in the world have equivalent expressions for ‘dancing in joy’, ‘dancing in pleasure’, ‘dancing away time’ and a host of others that use the act of dancing to our different moods and feelings. Long before written language was invented, dance was an important part of daily life for communication and celebration as proved by ancient cave paintings in different continents. From time immemorial, humans have perceived the rhythms and joys of dancing in nature – leaves dancing in the wind, moonlight dancing on the river, sunshine dancing on the leaves, waves dancing in the wind. We feel the rhythmic beating of mothers’ heart while still in the womb and are born with this innate sense. We perceive unconsciously the primitive dancing beats and movements even before we are born. From the first kick of a baby's foot to the last movement of the hand, we dance to internal rhythms and external sounds.

Dancing is common to all human societies anywhere in the world – be it in the rainforests of Brazil, the arid deserts of Kalahari, the lush beaches of Tahiti or in the high mountains of the Himalayas. The ‘primitive’ and ancient cultures perceived dancing as a means of communication with their Gods and guiding spirits. They danced in joy, they danced in sorrow, they danced in war, and they danced in peace. They danced to entreat their Gods, to thank them for their bounties and they danced to celebrate – births, weddings, harvests, rains – almost every event in their lives were marked by dances – sometimes ritualistic, sometimes artistic, sometimes simple expressions of joy.

Ancient cultures like India understood the essence of dancing at the dawn of civilization. The ‘Natyashastra’ written by Bharat Muni categorized dance into four types - secular, ritual, abstract, and, interpretive. All the classical dance forms in India originate form ritualistic and interpretive dancing – the skilled dancers offered their devotion through these complex forms. In other countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, dancing was used to communicate with the other world, to obtain guidance and direction – the dancers often entered into trance-like states while the Gods and Spirits talked through them.

I would not even attempt to go into the history of dance and its evolution in today’s society – a vast body of literature exists on the subject. Suffice to say that dancing continued to be important to human societies. As societies evolved and became more complex, dance forms kept changing. The rigidly codified classical dances gave way to freer and more expressive dance forms as talented artists from all over the world, and particularly in the USA and Germany contributed to create what we call today postmodern dancing. At the same time, African American dance developed in everyday spaces, rather than in dance studios, schools or companies. Tap dance, disco, jazz, swing, hip hop, lindy hop with its relationship to rock and roll music and rock and roll dance are now household names and practiced by millions of people all over the world. There is perhaps nothing more universal than the drive to move our bodies in sync with music and now ordinary people from all walks of life could enjoy moments of pure bliss and bonding. It is not surprising that dancing is now widely used for different types of therapy, be it physical, mental or cognitive. A wide spectrum of scientific studies has demonstrated that dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels. Two recent studies show how different types of practice allow dancers to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and ‘proprioception’ - the sensory information that contributes to the sense of position of self and movement - held in the cerebellum. Ice skaters like Oksana Baiul, Sarah Hughes, Viktor Petrenko, Tonya Harding, Evan Lysacek, Michelle Kwan, Scott Hamilton or Katerina Witt have taken dancing to a different dimension altogether. The huge success of V-Day started by Eve Ensler to build awareness about Violence Against Women (VAW) can, to a certain extent be attributed to the inspiring choreography used by women to voice their protests.

I would like to end this Editorial with a very special thanks to Massimiliano Raso, a specialist in different forms of dance and a talent scout and we are honored to publish his interview in this issue. Thank you very much, Anca Mihaela Bruma, Educator, lecturer and performance poet, for your contribution. We would also like to extend our thanks to Rimi Pati for taking the interviews of Nilanjana Banerjee, Jayanthi Sen, Tilottama Bose and Dr. Sonali Pupu

A final word to all our readers; hope you all enjoy your dance of life.

“Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.”
(Shel Silverstein)

Aparajita Sen

Editor

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