118 years of Trust F i t n e s s THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, August 16, 1998
modern classics
Bollywood Bhelpuri


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This fortnightly feature was published on August 9
Have fun and get fit
By Anup Deb Nath

IF you are looking for a great way to lose weight, tone up your body, or just get into shape but find exercise boring, then read on for the perfect way to fitness. Dance has existed in India for years now but surprisingly it has never been really looked at as a form of exercise.

Always viewed either as a profession or a hobby, dance has never been given its due as a way to get fit. It doesn’t really matter what type of dance you might choose. The traditional forms — Kathak and Bharatnatyam — or the western styles of jazz and modern dancing — are all just as good. They can give you the results you want while you have fun.

Dancing is a great way to keep fit. It keeps your muscles in prime condition, gets rid of tension and aggression and at the same time gives you the added bonus of looking young.

Modern dance is an art form of the 20th century. It can be best defined as a symbol of departure from all traditional dance forms where the emphasis is on unique and spontaneous expression. It is in fact neither a form nor a system that emphasises technique. It is a point of view that stresses creative individuality in choreography and dance execution. Since modern dance is so personal in its approach, its history is that of the dancer-choreographers and their respective influences in pioneering this art form.

In the early stages modern dance gained popularity more with the women who wanted to break away from the more formal and rigid dance forms prevalent at the time. They were often dancers with no training who began to devise ways of using the body in a more natural way and in this process they evolved their own style and language, and that paved the way for modern dance as we see it today.

This style of dancing is often associated with freestyle dancing in which the dancers are barefoot. It gives the impression of being a more casual and easy dance form though that is really not true as it masks a very highly developed dance technique. "Modern dance may be characterised as the most intellectual of all dance forms, despite its emphasis on spontaneity. The dancer deals with abstract concepts of emotions, space, time, and movement. The dance then becomes not an interpretation, but a statement of the dancer’s intellectual as well as emotional perceptions.’’

There are many benefits in selecting modern dance. Firstly it is a dance form that is widely accessible. Age and sex are no bar. Also it is not as restrictive as the more classical dance forms or rigid and therefore gives you a lot of scope of individual expression. Modern dance is a great way to strengthen and tone up the entire body but it particularly targets the areas like the abdomen, lower back and hips.

Jazz is another western dance form that has reached great heights of popularity in India today. Based on a mixture of African and European dances, jazz became popular in the USA in the 60s. Popular due to the individuality that the dance has, jazz varies from teacher to teacher and choreographer to choreographer. With distinctly modern and carefree movements incorporated in it, jazz surprisingly has a background of ballet.

Many ballet dancers who were keen to try something new took up jazz and that gave jazz it’s unique blend of ballet as well as jazz movements. A jazz dancer, it is said, can dance to any music and sometimes (if necessary) to no music at all. Free from rules and restrictions, jazz gives you the freedom of expression as well as creativity.

Selecting jazz has some benefits. Firstly it is a dance form that is easily learnt by anyone who likes to dance and does not need years of training like some other dance forms. The trendy, lively music that accompanies this dance form is also an added incentive. Jazz dancing strengthens the body, increases speed and co-ordination, and increases suppleness.

While selecting a dance form for yourself keep the following points in mind.’

See the different dance forms and carefully study their pro’s and cons:

  • Keep your body, age, health and fitness level in mind as well as the demands placed by the different dance forms before you select one.
  • Ensure that there is an instructor who can help you attain a reachable goal.
  • Lots of people can dance but few can teach. Ensure that you select an instructor who can do both.
  • Instructors should be able to inspire the class by their own grace, rhythm and co-ordination.

Like, with any other form of exercise, dancing also has to have the warm-up and cool-down segments as well as stretches added to the daily regimen. These are essential as they prepare the body for the work-out to follow, and then bring it back to its resting state gradually while the stretches increase the suppleness and flexibility of the muscles making movements easier and freer.

Dancing as a form of exercise has a two-fold benefit. You can learn while you have fun and all the while help your body become more fit. Remember that dancing, like any other project you undertake, should be given your full attention to make it worthwhile.

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