“Dance is the most immediate and accessible of the arts because it involves your own body. When you learn to move your body on a note of music, it’s exciting. You have taken control over your body, and by learning to do that, you discover that you can take charge of your own life.” An expression by Jacques D’ Amboise that is so poignant, that it sets you thinking. How true the above passage depicts the expression – dance. When one rejoices a happy moment or mourns some loss, the body shows it all. The body of any moving objects, whether a human being, an animal, a bird or even man made machines looks beautiful in movement because it has a sense of rhythm. The way we breathe, walk, everything we do unconsciously is set to rhythm.
Our culture is rich and unique and what other than dance to understand it. There is a saying That goes, to understand Indian Culture, study dance. It holds testimony to our culture because when you study Indian dance, you have to study everything from music to drama to sculpture to traditions to spirituality, nowhere will you get such a subject which covers such a vast geography of knowledge. To top it all, you get a healthy body and alert mind because dance is yoga, a complete health and mind retreat. Science is curiosity about life, Art is wonder at life, Philosophy is an attitude towards life and Religion is reverence for life. These four aspects reflect true culture and one has to acquire little of each one of them to enrich their lives apart from just slogging at work for food and other material requirements. A Chinese proverb says: “If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily,” implying that attention should not be paid only on acquisition of food, drink and health, but also on the development of your aesthetic nature.
Therefore it is only obvious that education in aesthetics is as essential if not more as mere intellectual or physical education. How can we forget something so important from our education system? The real object of education is to develop human personality in all its aspects. And man has his intellect, physical as well as emotional requirements. Indian classical dance has been unanimously considered as one of the most complete and comprehensive forms of dance in the world. Indian dance is an in-depth experience – physically, mentally and emotionally. Classical dance has been understood to stimulate several technical and non-technical skills that include the abilities to observe acutely, think spatially, to identify the essential components of a complex whole and to synthesize and communicate the results of one’s thinking – visually, verbally and mathematically.
But the question is how the classical dance with it traditional values, vigorous and austere technique can take place in today’s times with so much modernization and westernization in our so called fast-paced lives? How is Indian classical dance helpful in today’s education and its curriculum? Tradition is always changing and flowing, so one has to take the best from it and implement in our modern world, the right mix of the old with the new. Dance education in schools and colleges is important because it develops kinesthetic intelligence. When students receive dance education, they accumulate information and learn ways of thinking that complement other subjects. Some students with exposure to dance in their schools, go on to obtain pre-professional training needed to become successful dancers or to have dance related careers which is very happening in today’s times with lot of opportunities pouring in the form of many avenues – choreography, performing, teaching etc., Dance education can be offered in a variety of methods. Students can get a brief taste of the dance forms by way of lecture-demonstrations or small, simple workshops.
In the curricular context, classical dance may be a subject on its own or a component within other subjects like Music, History, Literature or Language. It would be interesting to see how we could interweave dance into Science and Mathematics too. Creating and performing dances is one critical component but a majority of students on to dance as a career. Therefore, a broad approach to dance instruction in schools allows students to absorb information according to their capabilities and levels of interest. This helps in generating a complete awareness about the dance forms and culture at the school level itself and when they represent our country at Universities abroad, an informed and intelligent representative is the ambassador of our country.
To end my article which I hope will inspire some atleast to take up dance or study dance, I would like to quote a phrase from the Natya Shastra, a treatise on Indian dance, music and drama that dates back to nearly two thousand years. The author Bharatha says:
Na Tath Gnaanam, Na Tath Shilpam, Na Saa Vidyaa, Na Saa Kalaa, Na Sow Yogo, Na Tath Karma, Natyesmin Yannadrushyathe
There is no wisdom or knowledge, no art, no craft, no device or action that is not found in Natya.