As long as there is a beating heart, there is a certain rhythm that courses through every body. Dance is a part of the human coding, a defining quality of any culture. Though it is a form of art, this mode of expression is also considered a sport. Internationally, dancers are considered athletes, and if lobbying efforts pay off, dance as a sport could well squeeze its way into the 2020 Olympics.
Is it time now to take dance out of the art closet and advocate it as a form of fitness and a subject of study? ParentCircle talks to Bangalore-based salsa maestro and instructor Lourd Vijay to find out.
Dance - an instinct
At a TEDX talk recently, Vijay, who is the founder of the Lourd Vijay Dance Studios (popularly known as LVDS), spoke about how Indians have culturally danced to mark almost every occasion “You shouldn’t curb this instinct. If you can walk, you can dance,” he says adding that parents can play a crucial role in helping their children take the first step.
Having said that, Vijay urges parents not to enrol their wards into dance classes the moment they start walking! “Four years is a good time to start. Most children younger than that age cannot concentrate or be as disciplined. At that age, they need childcare experts and not dance instructors.”
Best dance forms for children
Ask Vijay what the best dance forms for children are and he replies, “As a foundation, I would always recommend Indian classical or western classical forms. After that, jazz, ballet, hip hop, Bollywood and something called Creative Movement can be considered. The last one is something I am personally a big fan of. There is no specific dance style to it. It’s more about self, special and general awareness. In this, we use props and music to build creative movements.”
One of world’s leading promoters of healthy living, Livestrong Foundation recommends dance classes as an important alternative to team sports. The organisation directly links dance with improved socialisation and self-esteem in children. Dance has been associated with several health and fitness benefits in children including:
• Stronger bones
• Improved heart and lung health
• Increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
• Increased aerobic fitness
• Weight management
Lourd Vijay points out, “Dance cleans the mind. While dancing, the brain tends to go blank because one can’t think of anything else. Your child will be able to absorb a lot more information after a session.
"It’s a form of meditation. Moreover, it is a proven fact that art education is a great complement to academic pursuits.”
Studies have also proved that dance can help children tackle hyperactivity disorders. Children involved in dance activities are are seen picking up self-confidence in a competitive environment and that is believed to help in cognitive and emotional development.
Take necessary precautions
Dance comes with its share of injuries - muscle and ligament injuries being the most rampant, and these take a long time to heal. So, when it comes to rehearsing at home, parents should ensure their children do proper warm-ups and cool-downs. “These comprise loosening up, stretching and isolation workouts - head rolls, neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, chest rolls and leg rolls,” Vijay adds.
However, the artiste does have his share of grouses when it comes to dance in India. “In the West, there is a lot of impetus on safety. In India, forget dance, even the way we drive our cars is so unsafe” Vijay vents. “I see martial arts instructors teaching children in unsafe parks and often bullying them. Zumba instructors these days are certified after attending just a two-day course. These things have to change. Dance teachers have a huge social responsibility.”
Dance is slowly being viewed by urban Indians as a plausible profession. And while this certainly is good news, most people aren’t aware of the kind of fitness level and dedication that is required to excel. “If dance is their passion, encourage them. If not, they will still find something else that is more up their alley. Trust their instinct!” concludes Vijay, on an optimistic note.
So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and take the first step now.