When one wants to take off all the embellishments of self-image, one must dance like the Africans – who know how to dance away in gay abandon with all the power and stamina they have.
The Afro Ubuntu philosophy of ‘I am because we are‘ also reflects the way these high-spirited individuals express themselves. Apparently traditional African dances focus on expressing the zeitgeist of the community rather than an individual.
The Africans celebrate, criticize, conduct religious ceremonies, as well as use the dance as a barometer to determine the vitality, physical fitness and aliveness for attracting a mate for themselves. The energetic twisting of the hips and waist is the special charm of a typical Afro dance. The kids start inculcating a sense of rhythm from a very early age – it’s their form of play and frolic.
Everything has a rhythm at the end of the day – the primordial sound of the universe, the bio-rhythm of the heart, the rhythm of the dynamics between people and so on – which is why it is said that having a good sense of rhythm can very empowering . Djembes and drums are instruments that are predominant in African music. The consistent beats of the drums and djembes teach us how to harmonize, help us attune to the energy within us and with other people. It also helps us coordinate the left and right hemispheres of our brain, which makes us mindful and involved, and we respond to the world without any apprehensions, ready to face all sorts of wrecking balls. Hence one could call African dancing highly meditative – inculcating a sense of ‘Letting go‘ of the monkey mind and ‘being in the moment’ at the same time .
In contemporary times, this dancing is blended and combined with more and more urban and varied dance styles, which gives it an interesting twist. One such person whose spreading cheers with her energetic gyrating in Mumbai, and creating awareness about this form is Shreya Shetty… Let’s get to know this artist a little more – what motivates her, what does her art mean to her, what’s her idea of matching her rhythm with the rhythm of the world and so on…
Tell us something about yourself…
I had clearly decided to quit dancing, but one random opportunity walked my way which brought me back, and made me realize that ‘It’s not me who got myself hooked to dance, instead dancing got hooked onto me.’ I try to seek wisdom in the most random situations and I am a true believer in following and listening to your own gut feeling – your inner voice.
I read somewhere that Afro-fusion represents the heart of the African diaspora, but what is Afro-fusion according to you, what does it mean to you, what is your learning so far, how does this particular form represent the culture, is it the movements, the spirit,the beats etc…what’s the story?
Well as a child, for some strange reason, I have always been extremely connected to African music and people. The raw culture and the music has the power to move anyone and everyone and that is the magic that charms me. I believe it’s a form not just meant for African hearts but hearts that believes in Love and Harmony, Unity & Equality, and the sheer Power of Freedom.
Have you ever entered a realm while dancing which is transcendental in nature, if yes, then are your movements voluntary or involuntary when you reach such a state?
Yes I have surely experienced some very extraordinary times… It would start with voluntary and then gradually slip into involuntary movements where letting go is all I could do. It would transition back to a set of voluntary movements again if there’s a lot of light .
The kind of music used in Afro-fusion is interspersed with heavy use of Djembes – have you ever found Djembe beats meditative? If yes, what’s the experience been like?
When I hear the Djembe, it starts with more like a festival/carnival kind of a feeling for me and then the way it flows, it certainly gets more meditative … the repetitive percussion always allows me to just flow.
Does one need to possess a very energetic demeanor while trying Afro, as it’s a very high energy dance form.
I believe it’s all about feeling, and we all have a strong and a calm side to us . While listening to Afro music if you love what you listen to, you’ll know exactly what to put out, and that might totally differ from my movements. Most of the songs are so energetic that you want to go all out with it, but then one doesn’t have to possess an energetic demeanor… It’s all about what you naturally feel and what the music invokes within you.
A lot of people say ‘Dance’ is ‘therapy’ and Movement is the new medicine… how do you think dance can be used as a tool to understand the self?
It is… I feel dance can help a lot of youngsters and even adults fight anxiety issues. People who find it difficult to express through words, it’s proven that dancing has helped them release their pain. In fact I am myself working on understanding body movements wherein I train students to find their way of movement to understand their personality better. I feel knowing yourself better helps one accept their insecurities and inhibitions and work towards fixing it, gradually leading on to taking actions which gets them closer to self-love .
If you had to promote a cause through dancing,what cause would it be and how would you do it?
My cause would be Right to ‘ Right education’… I don’t really know how would I do it, but the possibilities are infinite right!
Improvise or Well-prepared??? ( Context- dancing)
Improv mostly, but 50-50 of both has worked the best for me!
An anecdote wherein you have formed an intimate bond with someone through dancing? How does dancing help create a community of Interconnectedness?
I have had beautiful moments with my peers, relatives on different occasions, be it in a class or a party, or a wedding sangeet, or even a Visarjan. Dancing generates a feeling of joy and love, and the flow of music and rhythm allows us to surrender and let go and what we are left with is a purely magnetic connection.
Have you contemplated on a serious issue while dancing?
Innumerable times ! Haha…
Your favourite artists…?
Michael Jackson and Beyoncé
Last but not the least, your thoughts on this quote – A world without Art is just ‘Meh…’
‘A Body without emotions’ would sum it up perfectly.