Dance Reflecting Feminism, Empowerment And Diversity
admin@qs3 | February 9, 2019
I want to take this opportunity to reflect on a few of the many multi-faceted aspects of dance in expressing women’s empowerment and feminism.
Gender equality is a global issue and movies, literature, sculpture, paintings and music have all been used to spread the feminist messages. However, dancing as a means of expressing women’s empowerment has had a hard journey and still has grounds to gain.
Dancing can portray strength, self-reliance, confidence and power, all elements of female empowerment. Dance is a fantastic medium for feminism as it touches everyone in a much deeply emotional place than dialogues or discussions. Sneaking a powerful message into a stage performance or into a dance class is a great tool and outlet to express empowerment.
Much too often society tries to tell women how they should look and behave. But the reality is, that women should be happy the way that they are. There is no doubt that dance is liberating, it advocates self-expression, it frees women from constraint in their physical movement and it encourages them to put themselves at center stage. The burgeoning dance classes everywhere dares women to live life with fierce authenticity and enhances self-discovery through movements and music to create conscious community of women all around.
2500 years ago, dance in India was temple based, female classical dancers aspired to evoke a spiritual consciousness rather than simply flaunt the female figure. But they were still judged and confronted with conventions of how women were supposed to dress and behave.
From temples dancing flowed into royal court of the kings and the purpose slowly became more exhibitionistic and intended primarily for men. Even if the dance was meant for a sense of joyfulness and togetherness, society was still locked into their limited expectations of seeing it as tease, a diminishment of the very respect for women.
Colonial India saw dancers and dancing as a complete violation of society’s norms, a public voice, which was speaking through the body rather than hiding it.
But there were several brave women not only in India but also in the West who were committed to changing audience focus from objectifying female performance to instead admiring the strength and ability exhibited in the dance. Says, Sneha Sachin whose family forbade her to dance during her school years, “ I was not allowed to dance or perform as dancing was viewed as being too liberal and fearing that it create free will in me and I will began to take my own decisions. But now I am a successful dance teacher and encourage love of dancing in my students. For me dance is not an art, it is way of life. “
In modern India, parents are proud to have their kids be accomplished in classical dance forms or Bollywood, but less than 100 years ago, it was deemed improper for daughters and wives to dance let alone learn the art form.
In the US dance is now valued as both an acknowledgement of and commitment to disciplined training and respect for traditional culture even though many of us still abruptly end our dance lives for better jobs prospects or marriage.
Now with the “me too “movement and equal opportunity everywhere, when we are pushing for more job opportunities, more personal freedom, and more sexual freedom for women, dancing gives us the freedom to exemplify these goals.
Empowerment through dance classes is a multi-dimensional personal and social process that helps women gain control over their own lives. In a positive social setting you are better aware of yourself, your true needs and goals, and the ways to fulfill
For me and so many other wives who come to US as migrants, moving here was such a lonely experience. You are lost, you don’t have family support; you don’t know many people. Your husband is on an H1B visa, which is granted to “highly skilled” workers, but spouses are on H4 visa, which makes us ineligible to work, drive or obtain a Social Security number in the United States. We are unemployed and sitting at home.
A dance classes provides us a place to go where you can find community based on shared passion for dancing. For these wives who are often reduced to childlike helplessness in a foreign country, completely dependent on their partners for everything, from their social to economic needs, these classes provide balance, strength, flexibility, self-esteem and confidence. Divya Bharal was new to Austin four years ago and she made a beeline for a dance class, she says.” It was the best way to meet new people and get information about schools, areas to live, things to do and more”.
Women who are stuck in life situation with no say, feel more comfortable expressing their emotions through movement. Dancing is a healthy self-esteem builder for them, regardless of their age and body type
Women going through trying times like divorce or work stress, eroded self-esteem or loss of a loved one find dance classes healing and a place that offers sisterhood. Through dance many women find a way to escape, for the class hour from societal bonds that restrict them from power, adventure, exploration and claiming a public voice. Says Jyoti Mistry .” It has empowered me to express to my family my battles, my trials and how I overcame all. Dancing is an emotional release and heals my emotional scars.”
Dancing has been proven to raise testosterone and lower cortisol levels, changing brain chemistry and resulting in strengthened confidence, self-perception, and chances for success. Recent studies have shown women feel chronically less powerful than men, and this can be tackled through joining dance classes that improves self-confidence, and positive relationships between women. This reconnects them with their own bodies, each other, and the outside world, promoting individual and communal peace among women.
Dance class creates a safe space self-identity, stress reduction, relaxation, and healing from painful experiences. This positive and inclusive experience is now being turned into something wonderful. Dancing is now a fun and effective way to raise money for charity and fundraisers. Raising money for social causes is a great way to strengthen ties between dance school, the community and your inner self. To give is to be healed. We should all share the gift and blessings of dance, including the deep belief that dance can free us from prejudices regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or religion and more importantly help bring about a more compassionate world.
We live in a highly globalized world today, and although we are more connected than ever, it is imperative especially in today’s times to promote cross-cultural understanding. Dancing is a common ground for diverse audiences to come together and let go. Bollywood dancing has especially become an effective method both of spreading the art of dance and of creating a sense of multiculturalism in the US. It is a great introduction to Indian culture and provides opportunities for everyone to learn more about Indian tradition and the country itself. As Bollywood films and dance become more popular, the dance form itself has taken on many forms and adaptations. Now, the dance style can be used as an element for musical films, taught in classes, performed in competitions, or used as a form of exercise, as shown by the recent popularity of Bollywood Zumba across the nation. Dancing together fosters better understanding and respect for other cultures. If dance helps us build social cohesion and trust, then it is probably one thing we should all do more.