An Introspection on What Dance is to Me.
Ehsaas (Hindi): To Feel.
I close my eyes as I let the music sink into my body – the rhythm, the beat, and the lyrics combine to work as a mysterious phenomena, overtaking my sense of cognition and the reality of time and space. Regardless of the tedious choreography process and hours spent on perfecting every angle of each step, when the music plays, my surroundings become obsolete.
In contrast to my current feelings, when I was younger, dance was merely one of the many after school activities that my mother had enrolled me in to keep me connected with my culture as a South Asian-American child. It was a humdrum routine that took place every Tuesday for years- I used to come back from school, finish homework, attend dance practice, eat dinner, and then go to bed. What brought about the sudden shift in attitude,as you all might be wondering, was a deeper understanding of what exactly dance is. I came to realize that dance isn’t merely a set of steps strung together to complement the music, but rather, it is a feeling, and more importantly, the feeling behind each movement. Dancers strive to reach their audience and induce an emotional reaction in them, but they don’t realize that if they cannot feel it themselves, the audience will not be able to either.
While watching dance reality shows I would commonly hear the judges mention to the dancers that they needed to enjoy the performance, and I vividly remember thinking “how are you supposed to look calm and have fun when you are putting yourself out on stage and performing for thousands of people”? In retrospect, I realize that my mistake was thinking that I was performing for others instead of dancing for myself. The magic surfaces when everyone else leaves, and you merge with the music to create one entity.
Learning how to enjoy dance allowed me to express, to live, to love, and to breathe. It allowed me to take my emotions and translate them into a language that I can put into my own box and lock away. It is an experience that I can cherish and treasure for myself, something that I don’t do to please others. Each moment was for myself as I glided, turned, or fell on the glossy hardwood floor in front of the mirror that taught me how to love myself.
Letting your emotions flow into the open, and presenting them bare in the night chill that we call society is a daunting task, one that requires strength, courage, and openness with ones self but, like all other challenging tasks, it allows us to reap the rewards.It allows us to understand who we are, where we want to go, and what we value in life. Dance allows us to understand ourselves, it shows us how blood red your first love can be, or how irrational yet pure a mother’s feelings for her child is.
So when I am asked the question “What is dance?”, my response, in a single word, is