Universally speaking, Dance has been looked up to as a prayer. Dance is a connect between the body and the soul, the mind and the intellect. Dance is conceptualised around positive movements, gestures and posture, which often make the dancer swirl in exhilaration. It also helps dispel negative traits like anger, frustration, ill feelings, stress and dissatisfaction. Dance is a collective pursuit as well as an individual passion; though the spirit of Dance lives within the individual, it helps connect various communities through a cultural oneness. Keeping in mind these intricate qualities of Dance, it is little wonder that a need was felt to celebrate Dance across the globe. Thus came about International Dance Day, which is celebrated on April 29 each year. The run-up to this Day normally begins a week in advance and continues for the subsequent two weeks. The special day, April 29, is the birthday of the French Ballet legend Jean Georges Noverre, the 18th Century dancer-producer. Noverre performed all over France, and by the time he had composed his great work’ ‘Les Fetes Chinoises’, he had already become the favourite of the French royals. Noverre brought emotional and physical aspects to ballet, which had earlier concentrated only on the elaborate use of costumes. Noverre was appointed ‘Maitre des Ballets’ (Master of Ballets) by the French Queen Marie Antoinette. Noverre was respected for his contribution to bringing tragic narratives into ballet. However, after the beheading of the royals during the French Revolution, Noverre was reduced to penury. He lived in neighbouring England for a few years before returning to France after the Revolution. He fought for the dignity of ballet during the post-Revolution years. He died in Saint Germain in 1810. The International Dance Day is a tribute to this dancing legend. In 1982, the Committee of International Theatre, in association with UNESCO, decided to solemnise Navarre’s birth anniversary by observing April 29 as International Dance Day. The International Dance Council (CID - the acronym for Conseil International de la Danse) is an NGO that is associated with UNESCO. Established in 1973, the Council has made untiring efforts for promoting Dance all over the world. CID is associated with organisations in more than 155 countries of the world. It was only a matter of time before CID was chosen to be the custodian of the International Dance Day, and from 1982 it has become the umbrella body for international Dance organisations. Every year CID brings out a theme related to Dance on International Dance Day. An eminent dancer-choreographer also delivers a message. CID helps countries promote dance. It also strives to popularise dance in primary schools. Calling for the world to unite and celebrate Dance, CID came up with a unique idea in 2007. The International Dance Day of that year was dedicated to children. The vision was that every child, irrespective of race, colour, sex and creed, should dance freely. Dance, according to CID, is the ideal platform for bringing people of different cultures together. During the International Dance Day ‘fortnight’, conferences, seminars, congresses, recitals, performances, lectures and workshops are organised all over the world, and various organisations do their bit for promoting a Dance culture among their people. Extraordinarily talented dancers (even among those ‘challenged’), teachers, connoisseurs and critics participate wholeheartedly during these two weeks - without any monetary consideration.
India is a country that has varied forms of Dance, be it Pung Cholam in the North East, Gidda in the North West, Karagattam down South or Lavani in the West - not to forget the thousands of indigenous Dance forms that are today unfortunately crying for attention. The run-up to the celebrations of International Dance Day this year has been impressive. There have already been numerous performances and all auditoria have been booked in advance for April 29. Thereafter, connoisseurs of Dance will attend seminars and group discussions, to help devise ways of making Dance more popular among the general public, especially the youth. The vision is to make Dance a way of life, so that every person may dance without inhibition, without the fear of being judged. Dance can of course help keep our bodies healthy. The new Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has proposed a universal vision, which she has called the ‘new humanism’ - a vision open to the entire human community, providing a humanist response to globalisation and crisis, aiming at the safeguarding of social cohesion and the preservation of peace.
The writer is a renowned Kuchipudi danseuse and choreographer