Ehsaas: (Hindi): Feeling.
I close my eyes as I let the music sink into my body - the rhythm, the beat and the lyrics combine to work as a mysterious phenomena overtaking my sense of cognition and the reality of time and space. Regardless of the tedious choreography process and hours spent on perfecting every angle of every step, when the music plays, my surroundings become obsolete.
In contrast to my current feelings, when I was younger, dance was merely one of the many after school activities that my mother had enrolled me in to keep me connected with my culture as a South Asian American child. It was a humdrum routine that took place every Tuesday for years- get back from school, do my homework, go to dance, eat dinner, and then go to bed. What brought about the sudden shift in attitude,as you all might be wondering, was a deeper understanding of what exactly dance is. Contrary to popular belief, dance isn't merely a set of steps looped together to fit the music, but rather, it is a feeling. This feeling is what separates dance from aerobics, and what makes it an art. Dancers strive to reach their audience and induce an emotional reaction in them, but they forget that if they cannot feel it themselves, the audience will not be able to either.
While watching dance reality shows I would commonly hear the judges mention to the dancers that they needed to enjoy the performance, and I vividly remember thinking "how are you supposed to look calm and enjoy when you are putting yourself out on stage and performing for thousands of people"? In retrospect, I realize that my mistake was thinking that I was performing for others instead of dancing for myself. The magic surfaces when everyone else leaves, and you become one with yourself and the music. We need to become one entity and move so that we become the music instead of detaching yourself.
Learning how to enjoy dance allowed me to express, to live, to love, and to breathe. It allowed me to take my emotions and translate them into a language that I can lock up into my own box and lock away. It is an experience that I can cherish and treasure for myself, something that I didn't do to please others. Each moment was for myself, onstage or off, as I glided, turned, or fell on the tan, glossy hardwood floor in front of the mirror that taught me how to love myself.
Letting your emotions flow into the open, and presenting them naked in the night chill that we call society is a daunting task, one that requires strength, courage, and openness with ones self but, like all daunting tasks, allows you to reap the rewards.It allows you to understand who you are, where you want to go, and what you value in life. Dance allows us to understand ourselves, it shows us how blood red your first love can be, or how irrational yet pure a mothers feelings for her child is.
So when I am asked "what is dance", my response, in a single word, is