A dance is more than just movement to music. It is a wordless way to release our emotions, show cultural origins and belongings, express feelings of sadness or joy. That becomes extremely evident when one looks at a fairly unknown dance Pantsula.
Pantsula is a ghetto rough dance that emerged in South Africa in the 1950s-1960s as a response of frustrated civilians to the forced removals implemented by the apartheid government shortly after its ascent to power. At first it was mainly performed by older men who were gambling in the streets of Johannesburg townships while playing music and dancing. Later they formed into groups and engaged in informal competitions. Over the course of the years, Pantsula dance spread through the country. By the 1980s, Pantsula was all over the dusty streets of South Africa, practiced by people of all ages, and was no longer limited to men. It became a resisting form of art during the black movement struggle, a demonstration of unhappiness towards the Afrikaans government, a word of awareness about social issues, such as lack of education.
Pantsula stands for a freedom of expression that unlocks the inner anger and inner joy, an art of demonstrating that fear can be turned into joy as long as you believe in better.
Black South Africans grew up in poor areas where they danced through the pain of being oppressed. And so Pantsula emerged to help them get through their day-to-day struggle. The dance moves combine a demonstration of physical pain, black consciousness and the power of unity. It is very synchronized and united, with high jumps and sharp quick movements – which is how you had to be in order to survive the apartheid era’s police brutality. The dance shows how the people in black movement had to stand together in fighting the government, and be fast in jumping away from the gunshots.
Pantsula is a syncopated, quick-stepping form of dance with loose feet and arms. It has elements of South African cultural ceremonial dances and of modern-day hip-hop, and can be performed by a group of dancers or solo. One needs to countless hours to perfect the coordination of strong legs and body with soft feet and easy look. Expert dancers have an unmistakably powerful and stylized expression. The arms are quite loose, while the feet are extremely fast, performing shuffling and jumping movements as groups of dancers move in and out of geometric shapes.
There are three distinct styles of Pantsula: a very popular Kwasa Kwasa Style, Slow Poison, and Umxentso, which means stamping your feet constantly and creating sound effects in a syncopated pattern.
Originally, Pantsula was danced to drum music, accompanied by noise made by the street gamblers who whistled and shouted as they were winning and losing. This combination of drums, whistles and shouts with time formed a music genre called Kwaito. Today it is a popular style that mixes all eleven official South African languages and is frequently heard at parties, in houses and in the cars.
Interestingly, the Vuvuzela sound also comes from the Pantsula culture of whistling.
After the end of apartheid, Pantsula gained popularity also in the non-black communities of South Africa and begun to take on a new meaning as a dance form for all. It became very famous in the 1990s and mid-2000s, when, after watching American music TV, people started adding hip-hop movements to Pantsula. Popular dance groups emerged, such as Trompies, who combined Pantsula dance with old school Kwaito and 1980s disco.
Beyoncé Knowles is still a big fan of Pantsula; she had countless lessons and got Pantsula dancers to partake in some of her music videos.
South African kids of today still dance on the streets, but it is no longer Pantsula. It developed into other dance styles, such as Gwara Gwara or Mnike. The modern way of dancing continues to make more use of legs than upper body, but it is more relaxed and easy-going. The urban street dance culture reflects the improved life conditions.
Dancing is a popular form of physical exercise. Studies have shown that it can decrease anxiety, increase self-esteem, and improve psychological wellbeing. A team of psychology researchers has recently published a test that can help identify the reasons why people attend dance classes. They found eight main motivational factors for dancing:
- Mood enhancement: Dancing as the mood improving and energising activity.
- Self-confidence: Feeling of sexiness and improved self-esteem.
- Trance: experiences of trance, ecstasy, floating, and dancing as a way to reach altered state of mind.
- Intimacy: Attractiveness of outfits, searching for relationships and sexual partners, and physical closeness to another person.
- Socialising: Being in good company and being with like-minded people.
- Mastery: Improvement of coordination, and body movements, as well as increasing control of one’s own body.
- Fitness: Dancing in order to keep fit and healthy.
- Escapism: Avoidance of emptiness, bad mood, and everyday problems.
You can take the test here. Do you agree with your results? Let us know in the comments below.
Most of these motives can also be applied to other sport acitivites – with the exception of intimacy. It appears that the physical closeness of dance partners is a strong determinant of dance motivation compared to other forms of exercise.
When the researchers ran the test on several hundred dancers, they discovered that the Mood Enhancement was by far the strongest motivational factor for both men and women, although exact motives differed according to gender.
Dancing is a recreational activity which is often pursued to improve one’s mood and has a powerful stress-reducing capability. Programs that have the aim of increasing participation in dancing should therefore focus on the mood-enhancing and self-confidence improving nature of dancing.
The intensity of dancing, i.e. number of lessons per week, was predicted by three factors: Intimacy, Socialising, and Mastery. The opportunity for social and physical contact appears to be just as important as improving one’s skills when it comes to the frequency of dancing.
See for yourself: Take the test to find out what motivates you to dance.
Full text publication: Maraz, A., Király, O., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). Why do you dance? Development of the Dance Motivation Inventory (DMI). PloS one, 10(3), e0122866.
Dancing is a popular form of physical exercise. Studies have shown that it can decrease anxiety, increase self-esteem, and improve psychological wellbeing.
There are quite a few reasons why people choose to dance. Some reasons are listed here. Why do you dance?
The length of the blue bar in your results shows how much you are motivated by each of the eight factors.
«I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance»
«On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined»
«Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room»
«Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music»
«Dance till the stars come down from the rafters. Dance, Dance, Dance till you drop»
«I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance»
«Shake it til the moon becomes the sun»
«We ought to dance with rapture that we might be alive… And part of the living, incarnate cosmos»
«Dance for yourself. If someone understands, good. If not, no matter. Go right on doing what interests you, and do it until it stops interesting you»
«Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order »
«When I dance, I forget everything else and just feel completely happy»
«Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor»
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
«Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance»
«When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way»
«If you can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution»
«We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once»
«Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free»
«The universe lies before you on the floor, in the air, in the mysterious bodies of your dancers, in your mind. From this voyage no one returns poor or weary»
Agnes de Mille
«The dance goes on forever. So shall I. So shall we»
«While I dance I can not judge, I can not hate, I can not separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. This is why I dance»
«I have discovered the dance. I have discovered the art which has been lost for two thousand years»
«Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor»
«Any problem in the world can be solved by dancing»
«You get obsessed by dancing because there seems to be no choice. Sometimes you are miserable, sometimes you are floating in elation. But you can’t leave it alone until the passion is spun out. If you are lucky you try not to hate it when you leave»
«You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive»
«I love the whole world of dance, because dancing is really the emotions through bodily movement. And however you feel, you just bring out the inner feeling through your mood»
«Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance»
«The main thing is dancing, and before it withers away from my body, I will keep dancing till the last moment, the last drop»
«It is not a question of who dances but of who or what does not dance»
Ruth St. Denis
«God respects you when you work, but he loves you when you dance»
«As soon as I hear music, something in me starts to vibrate»
«How can we know the dancer from the dance?»
William Butler Yeats
Dancing is healthy and highly beneficial for most of us. Yet, as any other rewarding activity, too much dancing can have negative effects on the dancer’s life – and it’s not just foot blisters. Similar to exercise dependence, dance addiction can be described as a craving that results in uncontrollable excessive dancing.
Several research studies suggest that psychopathology – in other words, mental health issues – may be present in dance addiction. The distorted body image and a never-ending quest for a thinner waistline are pretty obvious. In addition, dancers often continue to dance despite discomfort, “because of the embedded subculture in dance that embraces injury, pain, and tolerance.” A team of researchers from Hungary and the UK tested 447 ballroom and salsa dancers to see whether excessive dancing is associated with damage to the mental health. The dancers took several tests, the main one being the Dance Addiction Inventory test (see below how you score). Plus, the researchers assessed dancers’ motivation and mental health, including symptoms of an eating disorder.
The results revealed five classes of dancers: Classes 1, 2 and 3 encompassed low to moderate risk dancers. About one-quarter of the study participants reported high values on seven criteria of addiction but no conflict with the social environment (Class 4). Finally, 11% of dancers belonged to the most problematic Class 5, scoring high on all addiction symptoms. Members of this last group also had eating disorders twice as often as of any other group. It is hard to say what’s the cause and what’s the effect: Whether the purpose of excessive dancing is weight-control, or the motivation to perform leads to disturbances in eating patterns. We are sure future research will find it out.
Escapism as a motivational factor was an especially strong indicator of dance addiction. Escapism in this context means dancing in order to avoid feeling empty or to deal with everyday problems. The authors deduce that to some, dance addiction may be a maladaptive mechanism of coping with life issues. Luckily, the number of such people is low.
Mind you, the authors warn against over-pathologising the behavior. Most of us will relate to frequently feeling an urge to dance, or being moody if we have to skip a class. It does not necessarily make us junkies; often it just means we love what we do.
Full publication: Maraz, A., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). An empirical investigation of dance addiction. PloS one, 10(5), e0125988
See for yourself: Scoring high on all criteria might be a reason for concern
|Criteria||Rate on a scale 1 to 5, where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree|
|Salience||Dance is the most important thing in my life|
|Conflict with social environment||Conflicts have arisen between me and my family and/or my partner about the amount of dancing I do|
|Mood enhancement||I use dancing as a way of changing my mood|
|Tolerance||Over time I have increased the amount of dancing I do in a day|
|Withdrawal symptoms||If I have to miss a dance session I feel moody and irritable|
|Relapse||If I cut down the amount of dancing I do, and then start again, I always end up exercising as often as I did before|
|Craving||I feel a constant urge to dance|