Put on your dancing shoes

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By Classical western dance is finding more and more takers among fitness freaks in Calcutta, reports Aparna Harish
  • Published 26.12.05

The UK-based band Blue’s Born love blares in the 1,200 sq. ft dance floor at Dance World, a Padatik venture on Theatre Road in central Calcutta. Teacher Shruti Mishra, 20, demonstrates the ‘bus stop’ and cass? steps as 10-year-olds look on intently. These are just the basic steps of modern jazz and the kids are watching each move carefully. At the Calcutta School of Music (CSM) in Ballygunge, south Calcutta, the students are no less engrossed. And with every new session, their number is on the rise. That isn’t because dance enthusiasts in the city are growing in number, but because dance helps achieve remarkable levels of fitness and grace.

Says 16-year-old Sneha Prasad, who studies at the La Martinere School for Girls, “I had learnt professional dancing for two years. However, I feel classical western dance will improve my posture and technique.” For 39-year-old Sumedha Sarogi, it means getting to know an authentic dance form and staying fit as well.

Body basics

A few weeks back, Ronnie Shambit Ghosh started his dance school, Rhythmosaic. Explains Ghosh, “The aim is to impart a vision to students of the classical western dance form and provide a platform for concert dancers and fitness freaks alike.” Ghosh has undergone training at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. Padatik, on the other hand, has been conducting classes in contemporary dance since 1999. Sachetan Jalan, executive director, Dance World, says the institute has trained 7,000 students over the past six years. At CSM, the number varies between 15 and 30 students per batch of juniors and seniors.

The western classical dance forms include ballet and jazz. But gradually, even dances such as salsa and tango are climbing the popularity charts, especially because they demand a high level of fitness and have been made popular through Bollywood blockbusters. Western classical dance exponents state that the dance form needs a disciplined body and so the initial months are spent helping students control some of their body movements. Ghosh, for instance, has included modules such as body strengthening, anatomical principles and basic positions in classical western dance for a beginner. “The initial rigour makes students aware of postural benefits, teaches them the use of muscles and helps them to understand their body,” says Ghosh. Dance World offers three levels of training ? the beginner’s level is followed by the intermediate and advanced levels.

All that jazz

Sachetan Jalan informs that Dance World teaches more than five types of jazz styles including rock jazz, Afro jazz, lyrical jazz and punk jazz. The school also holds a separate session on pilates and gyrotonics. Pilates is a training method where the primary focus is on awareness of the spine, proper breathing, core strength and flexibility, while gyrotonics facilitates the strengthening of the muscles.

Ghosh points out that the outcome of pilates training is a balanced body which is strong and supple, with a flat abdomen and a strong back. In fact, it is for this reason that a majority of students in this class are women who are in their 30s and want to keep fit.

Of course, there are those who, in the long run, opt for a career in western classical dance but most today, points out Jalan, “perceive western dance as a stress reliever and so treat it as a hobby. But in course of that, they succeed in acquiring a supple body.” However, if you plan to enrol, make sure you follow a balanced diet and a proper exercise routine.

Dance to be fit

Dance is a great way to reduce weight. While all dances require you to be fit, certain western dances demand higher levels of fitness. Here are dances classified on the basis of ascending levels of fitness: Ballroom dance, Salsa, Jazz, classical western dance.

One step away

You can enrol at:

• Calcutta School of Music: 68, Ballygunge Place, Calcutta-19 Phone: 24615375 Classes are held twice a week for seniors and juniors. Fees: Rs 500 and Rs 200 a month, respectively

• Dance World, Padatik: 6/7, AJC Bose Road, Calcutta-17 Phone: 9830024927 Branches at Alipore, Salt Lake, Lake Town and Prince Anwar Shah Road. Fees range between Rs 400 and Rs 600 a month

• Rhythmosaic: Currently housed at Padatik. Fees: Rs 500 a month