I often like browsing the net in search of inspirational quotes before I step out of my bed and get ready to kick-start my day. “Put music to our troubles and we’ll dance them away” is one such quote by Aaron Weiss that I happened to read on a dance page on Instagram. It has been my go-to quote every time I’m not feeling alright. There is a magical connect I have with this quote. Being a Bharatanatyam dancer since the age of four, it gives me a sudden plunge of energy and passion that nothing else does. For me, dance is an amalgam of asymmetric motions that are projected in an undefined manner. Myth, dream and art are the power to the passion within me. My dreams crave to reach the god and dance takes me to the lord.
Psychology has been a subject of my interest ever since I was exposed to it in school. Dance, on the other hand, has been my innate passion. It is one of the purest forms of self-expression, creativity and ingenuity. I often felt a different sort of connect between the two. It started as a hobby but, as time passed, it became an answer to all the emotions my body and mind felt. It often surprised me how I resorted to dance minutes before going to write an examination or even after having a bad day at work. It had become a stress buster that helped me be physically, mentally and emotionally balanced. Mental health in India is often sidelined and not openly talked about. As the generations get more broad-minded, it is essential that we’re explored to some coping mechanisms that are not widely known yet hold a deep impact on our mind and body. I started researching fondly on the impact of dance on our mental health. This five-letter word had been the solution to every ounce of negativity I ever experienced. On all the days I’ve ever felt demotivated, discouraged, unworthy or anxious – I’ve danced. It has helped me connect with my soul and be calm and peaceful from within. It has helped my exposure from the outer as well as the inner world and has given me a sense of liberation. I feel so overwhelmed as to how it can express even a shy girls’ emotions so beautifully that one can flow with it even without having learned the art. Away from all the stress, judgments and negative energies that we often land up getting trapped into – dance has made me feel profusely relieved and confident about myself.
The feeling of peace between the inner and outer self is one which can be expressed freely by expressions, movements and unsaid communication with the self as well as the audience. Mental stimulation and a feeling of freshness gives newer dimensions to one’s mind. The effects of dance on our body and mind is immense – from improving your heart rate, muscle strength, balance and coordination, reducing depression to instantly boosting one’s mood, it does it all!
Aside from the benefits of music and movement, it allows us to become more connected and social. Making new friends or reconnecting in an old relationship can be a wonderful side effect of dance. These social interactions are a supreme factor in improving one’s mood and mental health, which contributes majorly to the overall sense of happiness. Now, of course, all kinds of exercise release endorphins, but dancing has an increased effect in this realm because it is not only the physical activity that we’re performing – but it is also the soothing music that affects our mind, which provides one with a sense of utmost satisfaction. Apart from the numerous benefits that classical dance has imparted in me, it has also molded me into an independent, self-disciplined, self- motivated and a carefree soul. To watch me dance is to hear my heart speak. I have now been accustomed to working in a structured manner and these are the disciplines that I carry on with me in all my other aspects of life.
Non-dancers- don’t worry about how you beautiful you look while dancing. The body is our instrument, we must learn to transcend our body to experience the art we express. We must be aware of our body, our soul and yet detached from it for our dance to shine through and for us to become the dance!
Lastly, if you are struggling- I, as a positively-benefited dancer, eagerly suggest you try dance as form of therapy. It could be anything and, in any form, – from a fun dance class to a professionally- trained classical dance, Zumba or even dancing alone in your room could be enough to make a difference. None of us can choose the music that life gives us, but we always have the option to choose how to dance to it. And remember, if you stumble, make it a part of dance. Twirl your way out of the cage. I have found my coping mechanism and that for me, is as inevitable as breathing.
Oh, and of course, my tryst with Bharatanatyam will continue…
(Saanya Jain is currently in her second year, studying at O.P Jindal Global University. An alumni of Delhi Public School, R.K Puram, she is pursuing B.A (Hons) in Liberal Arts and Humanities).