Voulez Vous Danser?

Posted on March 25, 2010 in Culture-Vulture

Vidisha Nandi:

It might take two to tango, or three to make a crew, but dancing is awesome when dance is alone, on one’s own. I am not going to use this space to espouse the health benefits of dancing because that is something common sense can figure out or alternatively, Google. But having recently re-discovered the ecstasy of dancing, a new, previously unknown form of dance, with a bunch of twenty-something’s, in Indian summer conditions, in a tiny dance studio with dedicated practicing artists, I have felt what it is, to be really alive. This piece of philosophical musing coming from a twenty-something like me sounds rich. But you better believe that the Duracell-charged energy that characterises the atmosphere of a great dance class definitely qualifies as the best remedy to the quarter life crisis that inevitably seems to hit the typical urban Indian youth. Apart from that, it could just be that I love this art form so much.

Dance has always been the most natural expression for man, irrespective of its form. Its origins are lost in antiquity. Ever noticed how kids learn to dance before they learn that there is something that is not music? Therefore, whether alone, or in a group, make sure to invest some time of your life into dancing. Use it as a sport, or therapy, or as competition or religious expression, and practice anything from the Polka (a vivacious Czech peasant dance) to Poi Kal Kudirai (a form from South India which involves dancing like a horse for some reason). B-boy (from the New York, Brooklyn streets) or do the Bachata, (sensuality personified from the Dominican Republic) both excellent outlets for frustration.

Here I would like to put forth some excellent arguments for the sake of art which were originally proposed by philosopher-writer-extraordinaire Ms. Ayn Rand (in her essays on Art and Cognition in the ‘Romantic Manifesto’) and which I believe are important for people to be reminded of today. We seem to have forgotten and abandoned the need and reason for art. “A work of art is a specific entity which possesses a specific nature”. It is an end in itself, and far from being purposeless, serves a very specific human need. Only it is more of a subconscious than a material need.

We are highly advanced in the sciences but art, which is so passionately personal, is, till date, an unexplored and mysterious territory. We haven’t been able to pinpoint why we feel the way we do about a certain sculpture, or why a piece of music makes us feel like dancing in the moonlight. Ayn asserts that while it is true that art is not necessary for the physical survival of man, fact is, that, art is what shapes and sanctifies the consciousness of man and thus forms the bedrock on which the survival of his physical being depends.

About music, Ayn expostulates that, it is in terms of his pre-existing, fundamental emotions and judgements that a person responds to music. It is almost as though music reaches out to our emotions directly, bypassing all sense and intelligence! And the other half of the concept is dance. Dance is the use of a man’s body to express his sense of life. Sense of life is a complex concept for an explanation of which, it is advisable to delve into the writer’s essays. However, in my opinion, she deals with dance as a performing art in a less-than-satisfactory manner. She mentions ‘Hindu’ dance and ballet as examples and is most appreciative of tap dancing as it compels the dancer to keep up to the rhythm of the music and expresses the gaiety and sheer joy of living. But there is more to dancing than just the expression of what you feel for the music to that particular dance. The histories of the various forms of dance bear testimony to the same.

Dance as a performing art combines the three senses of sight, touch and hearing. We dance to express what we cannot through words. Dancing can convey, can speak, can suggest, can articulate what is felt about feelings. Now what do I mean by that? To elucidate with an example, wouldn’t you like to demonstrate if you got caught in the first rain of the season, if you saw the one you love? Apart from this, throughout the entire glorious struggle of life, it is necessary for man to take a moment, an hour, any period of time, to experience a sense of contentment, which gives him the fuel to move on ahead. Art helps. It provides a sense of fulfilment for the time that a person needs to believe that he has finally gained all that he would have in an ideal universe.

Now that I am done with the heavy-duty reasons to pursue the calling of dance, I simply suggest you “shake it till the moon becomes the sun” like Rihanna said, so you can “feel the rain on your skin; no one else can feel it for you” as Natasha Bedingfield croons and because, as Edward Denby said, “there is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.”

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz