Dance, The Body Music

The following is the prepared text of my Project 2 Speech at Mumbai ToastMasters:

Dance, The Body Music, Music Makes You Happy. These lyrics from the song Dance, The Body Music, by the famous Afro rock band of the seventies, Osibisa, ring so true and make so much sense!

Fellow Toastmaster, Members and Guests, if music be the food of life, play on / dance on/ sing on. Dance is the expression of our souls through our feet, our hands, our whole body. And the best way to dance is like no one’s watching. Are you watching me? Look , I close my eyes and I dance.(waltz step)

Yes, I love to rock. And why not? Life may not be the party I hoped for , but while I’m here, I ,sure as hell, will dance.

So what is it about dancing, makes us suddenly enter a different world, and exhibit a completely different dimension of our personalities? How is it that suddenly that overweight gentleman glides around on his toes oblivious to the stupefaction engendered in the people around? And the shaking of his belly adds to the poetry of the moment? And that quiet mousy girl, who wouldn’t speak to a fly, suddenly floats around like a professional ballerina with the most dazzling smile lighting her face?

Love, poetry, music and dance, o how intertwined are these? What beauty would a song have if you could not tap your feet to it? If love is about first sight, why is it that most life contracts are sealed on the dance floor? And to paraphrase a French proverb, Love teaches even asses to dance!

I learned to jive, (jive is a type of swing dance) because there was this girl I wanted to ask out to the college prom but I couldn’t dance ; oh yes, I could shake a leg or two, but waltz and jive were beyond me. I remember begging and cajoling a friend to teach me a few steps, and I still remember my elation when I was able to reproduce my form at a party. So yes, love or infatuation taught this ass to dance too!

What do we know about the history of dance? Dance doesn’t leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts such as stone tools, hunting implements or cave paintings. It is not possible to say when dance became part of human culture. Dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as the 9,000 year old Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka paintings in MP, India and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from circa 3300 BC. One of the most famous dance rituals , and this seems to be common across many cultures, is the famous rain dance. The rain dance is a ceremonial dance that is performed in order to invoke rain and protect the harvest. The most famous culture that performs the rain dance is the Native American one. Interestingly , the rain dance there got its name because the Sun Dance along with the war dance , was banned by the government. The Native American Indians fobbed off the authorities by renaming it the Rain Dance. Our Indian movies have their own modern version of the rain dance where the main protagonists prance in the rain trying to look as love-lorn as possible.

Now that I have mentioned movies, how many of us have been enthralled by a dance movie or musical we have watched either on the silver screen or from the comfort of our arm-chairs? I still remember being thrilled by Footloose the eighties dance hit about a small American town where dancing was banned. The movie was based on Elmore City, Oklahoma where dancing was prohibited for over 100 years until 1980. Imagine that! Footloose got me moving to the rhythms of life. And how many of our generation and the next can ever forget Michael Jackson and his fantastic break moves in Thriller? And more recently the melodramatic Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge? And then there are our very own Hindi movies with their innumerable dance sequences that either entertain or drive you up the wall!

Another very entertaining dance form is figure skating. Have any of you ever watched a figure skating competition? The pairs event is sheer poetry in motion. It is rightly called ballet on ice. Two people moving in unison, floating on ice ; the sheer difficulty and the awesome talent overwhelms the viewer. And to watch them interpret their chosen music is awe-inspiring. You cannot help but doff your caps to these masters of dance,music and the rink. If you have the opportunity to catch a figure skating competition, I suggest you do so as soon as possible and you will be truly amazed and delighted.

So you think you can dance? There are several types of dance that might interest you, ranging from the classical ballet style , the exotic belly dance, the Spanish flamenco, hip-hop, swing and even tap. You can pick the type and style that suits you and your sensibilities best. Or if you are one of those macho types that feel real men don’t dance, you could choose the Punjabi ‘bhangra’ , where ‘men dance like men’. Or if you wish to go ethnic, you could explore the traditional forms like the Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Bharat Natyam, and Odissi. The choice is yours; unleash the poetry in your soul.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Yoko Ono, the wife of John Lennon, You can’t dance if you got too much muck in your head. So my friends, lets twist again, like we did last summer, lets twist again, like we did last year.After all, life may not be the party we all hoped for, but while we’re here let’s all dance.

Can you all stand up please? We’ll do the boogie-woogie. Put your right hand in, put your right hand out, put your right hand in, and shake it all about. Do the hoogie-boogie, turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about. Put your left hand in, put your left hand out, put your left hand in, and shake it all about. Do the hoogie-boogie, turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about.