Shake, Rattle and Roll – Dance until you drop

Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, as if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the Middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.

– Rumi

I have now come to the point in life where wisdom makes me see and appreciate the more important and finer things in humanity and life – Dance is one of them. Those of you who have known me since a child would recall that I have always loved dancing. We have danced together in our homes, schools, at parties, clubs, on the street and even in our kitchens. My parents were keen dancers and even my mother showed us the steps to calypso and meringue dancing. Apparently, my paternal grandmother was a dancer, which explains a lot of my family’s enjoyment in dancing – it must be in our DNA. My only regret is that when asked by parents on whether I wanted to take classical Indian Dance lessons…I said no. Recently my mother reminded me of this to my horror and deep regret. However, it seems like every week this month I have been to a musical event or dance show at the theatre. That is exactly the way I like my social life – with some form of dance or music.

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In this post I would like to cover some of my thoughts and activities on dancing. As an art form, we should support the performing arts, venues and persons who facilitate and teach dancing for its real cultural, financial and emotional value. Dancing also helps us lead healthy lives, feel happy, keep us entertained and improve our general well-being regardless of age, background, geographic locations, ethnicity etc.

Dance is like time itself. Just like our solar system – dancing has been around for as long as humanity as an art form of performance, expression, social interaction, connection, rituals, entertainment, spirituality and a reflection of life. According to Dancefacts, the oldest evidence of dancing comes from the UNESCO listed 9000 year old cave painting that are found in Bhimbetka, India. The rock painting depicts scenes from hunting, childbirth, religious rites, burials and most importantly, communal drinking and dancing.

Bhimbetka Cave Drawing, India

Fast forward to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks also showed proof of the development of dance in their culture – most notably at the start if the ancient Olympic Games. Dance integrated with drama in theatre, music and other celebrations through to the western world with ballet in the 18th century. Other 20th century two-person classic dances such as the waltz, foxtrot, tango, Charleston, swing, hip hop, breakdancing etc may be more familiar to us. Dance is ever evolving with new trends, moves, beats and influences. There is a 21st century fascination with popular viewing of dance competitions in our living rooms with the television programmes like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK and ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in the USA. We still go to see dance in theatres that tell us stories, showcase professional talent, or simply, we participate in dance to celebrate life.

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My parents would take me to see dance live shows in Trinidad such as the ‘Mastana Bahar Pageant’ and touring Indian dancers. African dance traditions are also celebrated in the ‘Best Village’ competitions that I saw on Fridays on television and inspire Carnival moves like the Moko Jumbies. There was also a Latin dance tutorial television series on Monday nights, but I can’t remember the title of the show. Dance is still very much part of the social life in Trinidad and integral to the Trinidadian psyche. There are few people there who cannot move in time to the beat regardless of background or age.

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Let us read, and let us dance.

These two amusements will never do any harm to the world.

– Voltaire

Currently, Dance is an important part of our both our everyday sports and culture without us noticing it. It makes up a large amount of a theatre repertoire with music, acting and other stage production. According to Statista, 22% of the UK population went to a ballet, a dance performance or an opera annually. In 2016, 7.9% of adults participated in a form of dance other than for fitness. Dance has also evolved and morphed into some major fitness exercises such as Zumba, Body Step, Street Dance, Soca dance etc. According to Statista, “the most common reasons to choose a style of dance fitness is the music, of which Fitsteps and Zumba appear to be on the rise in popularity among dance fitness professionals”.

In terms of my own fitness goals – I should try to make time for dance fitness lessons and will try to be more proactive about this as a new Salsa class has started in my neighbourhood. I am certainly a freestyle dancer as I have little professional experience. However, I have immense admiration for professional dancers who have followed that dream and trained long and hard.

I took salsa lessons locally between 2001-2003 every week, and even went to some central London dance venue as I got to a fairly good level. However, I haven’t taken dance lessons since then…but may take up salsa lessons locally again with ‘The Salsaman’ dance trainer. There are also a few local community dance groups in my neighbourhood that use social media to effectively promote their classes. Zumba is another fitness-dance form that has taken over the world in the last decade.

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Big business also uses dance for capturing our attention with engaging adverts. Multivitamin brand Berocca introduced a new brand character, Roccy the Chameleon, in March 2017. Their effective use of the eye-catching Chameleon dancing and body popping moves to Punjabi music, communicated how the brands supplements can help to combat tiredness and fatigue, and ended with the tagline ‘Be more Berocca’. They also ran a marketing campaign that was supported with social media activity, and ran advertisements on the London Underground to target commuters who are a key audience, according to Mintel (Vitamin & Supplements 2017). There are other fabulous creative uses of dance in advertising, such as some of my favourites like Guinness, Adidas, Pepsi.

In my work-life, I have taken part in line dancing, loved the Big Dance initiative and attended a Georgian Dance talk and demonstration. Dance is serious stuff too!

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If you are in contact with me via social media, you would see that I am frequently out ‘socially’ at local events and Caribbean parties. All good for the the nighttime economy. In the last few weeks, I have attend the following events where I was able to have a little dance:

3 March – YSBD (You should be Dancing title inspired by Saturday Night Fever) which occurs regularly at the Walthamstow Trades Hall. It is usually for adults with cheap entry fee and drinks. I also don’t have very far to go for a fabulous little boogie.

10 March – Chutney in London at Funky Brown in North London was an opportunity to catch up with my West Indian friends and to enjoy some Chutney Indian Caribbean fusion music and dance.

16 March – Rose and Crown for a birthday party where the DJ were playing Northern Soul Music and general British Pop music. I can always judge a fab party when I stay later than I intended.

4 & 23 March – Mirth Marvel Maud theatre for live band Dennis Rollins and Funky Funk, which eventually got us all to our feet. And Jazzy B’s DJ set, the entrepreneur and musician behind Soul II Soul, who played some fabulous soul and neo-soul music. There was one track (I wasn’t aware off) which had the crowd buzzing.

17 March – ‘Tango after Dark’ show by Sadler’s Well at the Peacock Theatre. This was an Argentinian touring group with sizzling dance choreography accompanied by a live band and singers. It was a treat to see, and reminded me of other gorgeous Latin dance troupes ‘Brasil Basiliero’ and ‘Havana Rakathan’. I also have been to see Swan Lake by Walthamstow’s Sir Matthew Bourne a couple of years ago. So do keep an eye out for Sadler’s Well shows.

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And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. – Friedrich Nietzsche

These are just simple ways I can still enjoy my passion for dance with music, and it certainly won’t be the last I mention it. Again, I find that there is so much on dance that I can write about. I am sure to return to the topic again. Dance will continue to fulfil us with joy, entertainment, inspiration, enlightenment, togetherness and connectivity with other cultures, humans and music. We should seek to support dance companies, professionals and the art form itself. If like me, you just like to have a little boogie when you can – just do it! And be sure to dance until you drop.

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