5 Benefits of Indian Dance for Health and Wellbeing

Keep Dancing Moseley - 5 benefits of Indian dance for health and wellbeing
Keep Dancing Moseley – 5 benefits of Indian dance for health and wellbeing

Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world, producing between 1,500 – 2,000 films every year. One of the most iconic aspects of the films is their cinematically captivating and upbeat dance numbers. 

The roots of Bollywood dancing can be traced back to the 1930s, drawing inspiration from classical Indian dance. Throughout the decades, the dance became more modernised, utilising elements from folk, disco and hip-hop, to name a few. Currently, Bollywood dancing is known and performed all around the globe, and though the dancing has evolved over time, the core elements remain the same. 

Some of the iconic aspects of Bollywood dancing include the symbolic hand movements called hastas or mudras. These are used to tell a story or demonstrate themes such as location or weather. 

Facial expressions, or abhinaya, are crucial to the storytelling aspect of the dance. The emphasis is on the dancer’s eyes and eyebrows, with the eyes following the hand movements. The head and neck movements are also key to emphasising the facial expressions and emotion behind the story. 

Indian dancing is complex, requiring high energy and vivid narrative. Beyond the technical aspects, it is great for your physical and mental health. Most importantly – it’s heaps of fun! 

Listed below are 5 benefits of Indian dance for health and wellbeing.  

Great for coordination  

There are so many styles of Indian dancing, but they all place significant emphasis on the musical beats and aids in developing your body’s natural rhythm.  Often the limbs are moving bi laterally, with each hand performing a variety of gestures whilst the feet stomp on the floor, following the beat of the music. Your head and neck must also compliment your hand and feet movements, helping you move your whole body independently, yet collectively. 

The benefits of coordination are endless, including helping to prevent injuries by practising having control over your body. Balance is also achieved through good co-ordination, and practising these skills will make learning and performing dances much more straight-forward.  

High energy 

Bollywood puts so much emphasis on glamour, spectacles, and stunning visuals. The energy helps bring this vision to life, with spirit and vigour being a key element of the dance style.  

Putting this much energy into dancing releases a lot of serotonin, which can help fix sleep cycles, relieve stress and boost your mood significantly. You can literally dance your troubles away!  

The rigorous movement also helps to lubricate your joints, keeping them healthy and aiding with aches and pains. The energetic movements help boost the oxygen supply through your body, making it a great form of aerobic exercise.  

Encourage your body to explore a big kinesphere   

As noted by Rudolf Laban, an established dance artist and theorist, your kinesphere refers to ‘the spherical space around the body that can be reached by the limbs without stepping away from the point of support’. Laban’s movement analysis has been used by dancers, actors, athletes and health professionals for decades. His findings have been contemporarily categorised into Body, Effort, Shape and Space.  

Body describes which body parts are moving, how they are connected to each other, and which body parts are influenced by others. It’s all about how the physical form is moving.  

Effort represents the subtle characteristics of each movement to display the intention and emotion behind the action. For example, walking and stomping both involve putting your foot on the ground, but represent very different motives. 

Shape shows how the body changes during movement. It is divided into four categories; 

  • ‘Shape forms’ – your body’s shape whilst in a fixed position.  
  • ‘Modes of Shape Change’ – the way your body interacts with the environment.  
  • ‘Shape Qualities’ – how your body is changing, is it opening or closing?  
  • ‘Shape Flow Support’ – how your torso (primarily) changes to support the rest of your body. 

Space is all about moving in your environment in a harmonious way – using aspects such as your body’s kinesphere, spatial intention, and geometrical observations. This category is one of Laban’s primary contributions to the theory.  

Using your body to explore a big kinesphere involves plenty of extended movements and requires keen body awareness, helping you become more in touch with yourself. The awareness will allow you to show more expression in your movements, helping communicate story and emotions which is an integral part of Bollywood dancing. It will also increase spatial awareness which can lead to less injuries and falls. 

Encourage you to exude confidence  

The movements and gestures in Bollywood dance must be clear and energetic – they are relied upon to communicate narrative and performance. This means they must be performed with confidence, which is easier once you are familiar with the moves.  

Bollywood bhangra dances can often encourage you to use a lot of space with your body, as your one hand reaches one way and the other in the opposite direction. The more space your body takes, the more confident you may feel as you experience a greater sense of self.  Laban describes your body’s maximum reach space as your ‘super-zone’, which includes the movement of the limb plus movement of the torso. 

Confidence builds through practise, and the confidence shown during dancing can translate well to your social and personal life, allowing you to get out of your comfort zone and try new experiences. The relief of stress and production of serotonin naturally aids with confidence, as you can forget your worries and dance with a clear mind.  

Encourage of precision of movements  

As previously stated, hand movements are an integral part of Bollywood dancing. There are over 100 hand gestures, so to accurately portray the correct meaning behind the gestures, they must be done accurately and expressively. Remembering these movements will help keep your mind sharp and improve your memory and focus. 

While performing the hand gestures, your feet, arms and head while also be executing quite intricate movements. The feet perform small stamping movements, while the neck bounces from side to side. Every detail matters – even your eyes, which will glance to certain spots around the room.  

Coordination is a big factor in ensuring a successful Indian dance. Working different body parts in unison and noticing how they complement each other as they perform certain movements will lead to greater body-awareness and dexterity. 

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”

Maya Angelou

Xpress-Yourself Dance CIC run weekly Keep Dancing classes, suitable for older adults across, Birmingham, Solihull, Walsall, Sandwell and online. Keep Dancing will teach you dances from around the world with no need to have a dance partner. Find your nearest Keep Dancing class here.

If you enjoyed reading 5 benefits of Indian Dancing you might want to consider reading 5 benefits of Freestyle Dancing

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