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The Nataraj

Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting.

Dance may also be regarded as a form of nonverbal communication between humans, and is also performed by other animals (bee dancepatterns of behaviour such as a mating dance). Gymnastics, figure skating and synchronized swimming are sports that incorporate dance, while martial arts karate often compared to dances. Motion in ordinarily inanimate objects may also be described as dances (the leaves danced in the wind).

Definitions of what constitutes dance are dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic and moral constraints and range from functional movement (such as folk dance) to virtuoso techniques such as ballet. Dance can be participatorysocial or performed for an audience. It can also be ceremonial,competitive or erotic. Dance movements may be without significance in themselves, such as in ballet or European folk dance, or have a gesturalvocabulary/symbolic system as in many Asian dances. Dance can embody or express ideas, emotions or tell a story.

Group dancing

Dancing has evolved many styles. Breakdancing and Krumping are related to the hip hop culture. African dance is interpretative. Ballet, Ballroom, Waltz, and Tango are classical styles of dance while Square Dance and the Electric Slide are forms of step dances.

India has a rich culture with various dance forms being integral part of it. For lack of any better equivalents in the European culture, the British colonial authorities called any performing art forms found in India as “Indian dance“. Even though the art of Natya includes nritta, or dance proper, Natya has never been limited to dancing and includes singing, abhinaya (mime acting). These features are common to all the Indian classical styles. In the margi form Nritta is composed of karanas, while the desi nritta consists mainly of adavus.

The term “classical” (Sanskr. “Shastriya“) was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles. A very important feature of Indian classical dances is the use of the mudra or hand gestures by the artists as a short-hand sign language to narrate a story and to demonstrate certain concepts such as objects, weather, nature and emotion. Many classical dances include facial expressions as an integral part of the dance form.

Sangeet Natak Akademi currently confers classical status on eight Indian dance styles (see table below), while the Encyclopædia Britannica mentions six recognized school.
Dance form State(s) of origin
Bharatanatyam Tamil Nadu
Kathak RajasthanPunjabDelhiUttar Pradesh
Kathakali Kerala
Kuchipudi Andhra Pradesh
Manipuri Manipur
Mohiniyattam Kerala
Odissi Orissa
Sattriya Assam

Every dance, no matter what style, has something in common. It not only involves flexibility and body movement, but also physics. If the proper physics are not taken into consideration, injuries may occur.

Dance has spiritual and cosmic aspects also. According to Hindu mythology, this world is the manifestation of the Cosmic Dance of Supreme Spirit (Paramatama) and the Nataraj (Lord Shiva in dancing pose) is symbolic emblem of this all pervasive Dance.

The two most common forms of Shiva’s dance are the Lasya (the gentle form of dance), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance), associated with the destruction of weary worldviews – weary perspectives & lifestyles. In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are just two aspects of Shiva’s nature; for he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again.

Dancing helps….

  1. Rhythmic movements ease muscular rigidity, diminish anxiety and boost energy.
  2. Spontaneous movement helps people people actually recognize and trust their impulses, and decide whether to act on or contain them.
  3. Moving creatively encourages self-expression and opens up new ways of thinking and doing.
  4. On a purely physical level, dance is exercise. It improves health, well-being, coordination and muscle tone.
  5. On a mental level, dance hones cognitive skills, motivation and memory. It also lowers stress levels.
  6. On an emotional level, dance helps people feel more joyful and confident, and allows them to deal with anger, frustration and loss : emotions that are  too difficult to explore verbally.
  7. Group dancing brings people out of isolation, creates social bonds and generate good vibes.

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