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How Does Dance, Specifically Bharathanatyam Affect Brain Development?

Info: 13306 words (53 pages) Dissertation
Published: 22nd Nov 2023

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The overall purpose of this project is to discern the relationship between dancing and the brain, in particular what impact Bharathanatyam has on brain structure and health. This project targets what areas are stimulated within the brain and what they mean for the dancer.  It talks about the effect of visualising movements on muscle memory and how it influences a dancer’s performance. It also takes into account the way dance can be used as a therapeutic exercise, similar to yoga. One consequence of this, is the psychological effect practicing dance has on the mind of a dancer and what that means for treating mental health conditions. It defines what type of dance Bharathanatyam is and mentions in detail several aspects of the art form.

Bharathanatyam has been chosen as the main dance form in this research project, due to its amalgamation of strenuous physical activity, graceful facial expressions and peaceful philosophical mind-set. Although it mainly focuses on the effect of Bharathanatyam, the project also includes the impact of other dances styles on the brain, such as ballet and of other exercises, such as tai chi. The advantage of this, is that it enables comparison between Bharathanatyam and other dance forms. This project also draws in the effect of the musical aspect of dance, and hence portrays how dance is more beneficial for the brain than music. Furthermore, this project contains my personal experience with Bharathanatyam and how it has affected my way of life.




Personal experience

What is Bharathanatyam?

Physical benefits of dance

Dance Science Research

What parts of the brain are affected through dance?

How does visualising movements improve muscle memory?

Therapeutic value of Indian Classical Dances

How does dance therapy affect body health and the psychiatric population?

What effect does music have on the brain?

How does other forms of dance and exercise affect the body and the brain?

How is Bharathanatyam unique to other dances?





Dance is a form of exercise, which has a natural impact on the body’s physical health, however the way it affects the brain is a great deal more fascinating. It has the ability to stimulate various parts of the brain, and has even been shown to cause changes within brain structure over time. Deriving from this idea, arises the notion that dance can be used in a clinical way to improve brain health. To either treat mentally ill patients or patients suffering from certain diseases that affect motor balance within their bodies.

Bharathanatyam is a particularly interesting example to use, as it is a form of Indian classical dance, which are known for their therapeutic attributes and peaceful countenance. Although other dances and even other forms of exercise have also proven to have an effect within the brain, Bharathanatyam has been shown to be more unique and impressive.

Personal experience

Bharathanatyam has been a monumental part of my life, as I first started learning the art form when I was four years old. I personally believe that my dancing has positively impacted my brain, due to subtle differences I have noticed in my own behaviour and mannerisms. Due to the lengthy pieces of dance and the extensive amounts of theory I have learnt, I have discovered that my ability to memorise has improved dramatically. My long-term memory has also enhanced, which is useful for any content I need to learn for school.

Dancing has also allowed me to gain further strength in my body and improve my stamina, this has therefore helped me become physically fitter. Bharathanatyam has also helped me in releasing my emotions through dance, this is beneficial to me, as I can stop fixating on my worries and thoughts, and instead focus on carrying out the steps or the storyline within a dance piece. It has also helped me with my general coordination and spatial awareness, while improving my mental strength, convincing my body to push its limits, after persuading my mind.

This project’s aim is to discover if there is any tangible evidence backed by science that can explain the effects dance has on the mind and body.

(Shakthi, 2014)

What is Bharathanatyam?

Bharathanatyam is a classical South Indian dance that is considered to be the ‘traditional dance of Tamils.’ (Ravindran, 2009) This dance form has experienced changes in style and names throughout the two thousand years it has existed, however it was Bharatha Munivar that first helped create the word ‘Bharathanatyam.’ Bharatha Munivar was a creator of ancient Indian dance and music, he was even considered the ‘father of Indian theatrical art forms.’ (Bharata Muni Wikipedia, 2017) He fashioned the word ‘Bharatha’ by fusing the first three syllables of the critical, key aspects involved in Bharathanatyam, which are: Bha-vam, Ra-gam and Tha-lam.

(Yogharajah, 2011) states that ‘Bhavam corresponds to the expressional part of this art form, whereas Ragam represents the musical side and Thalam signifies the rhythmic aspect.’ The word Natyam links to the physical feature of this dance form. In the past, Bharathanatyam was called differently, it is only within the last 50 years that it has embraced the name Bharathanatyam.

Bharathanatyam consists of three main divisions, which are called Nirutham, Niruthiyam and Natyam. Nirutham is pure dance without any expression, Niruthiyam is dancing with emotions and expressions and Natyam is a combination of the two, with the addition of music in the background. This art form is made up of the ‘three art forms of vocals, instruments and dance’ (Yogharajah, 2011) and contains nine forms of human expressions.

(Yogharajah, 2011) insists that ‘besides the dancer, the main part of this art form is the Carnatic music’ performed by the various instruments, including the miruthangam (indian classical drum), the vocalist, the Carnatic violin, and the veena (similar to sita). The dance teacher, guru, plays the natuvangam, in order to set the rhythm of the piece as is therefore referred to as the Nattuvanar.

This art form is very spiritual and teaches the dancer ‘to strengthen their body, mind and soul.’ (Yogharajah, 2011) By learning this dance, the performer gets a sense of achievement and determination. Regular practice, creates and maintains a healthy and strong body and ‘deters you from contracting any illnesses.’ (Yogharajah, 2011)

Physical benefits of dance

In many ways Bharathanatyam can be considered an ‘artistic yoga’ (Afternoon Despatch & Courtier, 2013) as some of its movements are very similar to yogic poses and therefore the dancer in turn achieves the same benefits as yoga accomplishes. (Sajeev, 2017), a Bharathanatyam dance teacher, also comments that ‘dance is dynamic yoga’ and that essentially Bharathanatyam is yoga with added ‘movement’ (Sajeev, 2017). It is also a strenuous dance form, which unsurprisingly brings physical advantages to a dancer. Bharathanatyam can improve a dancer’s balancing ability, as it contains many poses that require the dancer to maintain balance.

Dancing in general improves flexibility, due to the various steps and positions which stretch and loosens the muscles within a performer’s body. This results in less risk of injury and increases a dancer’s range of motion.

Dance improves stamina and endurance due to the long hours of practice, this is important for dance as it is a strenuous activity and increased stamina extends the dancer’s capability to perform. Endurance also helps to increase the supply of oxygen in the body, therefore strengthening the dancer’s body.

Furthermore, dancing helps control weight, which is important for the overall health of a dancer and can help prevent contraction of many diseases and conditions. If you are overweight or obese, there is an increased likelihood of you developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers.

Dance involves all parts of the body, including the brain, this therefore boosts blood circulation, which leads to a healthy heart. Dancing causes blood vessels to dilate, causing an increase in blood flow. Blood circulation is one of the most important bodily functions as it is responsible for suppling oxygen to the brain and other organs.

Dance Science Research

Dance science research studies the links between dance and various scientific fields e.g. ‘general medicine, sports science, somatics, body therapies, physical therapy, dance education, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, movement analysis, psychology, and diet and nutrition’  (Minton, 2000). From this we can tell that dance must affect the brain in some way as it affects the body in such a significant way.

This research shows us that variances in ‘body structure can actual effect a dancer’s movements’ (Minton, 2000), therefore the way you perform a step is directly related to the way your body is structured. (Minton, 2000) also states that ‘certain injury patterns can be associated with particular dance forms’, conveying that different types of dances target contrasting parts of the body, therefore placing strain on a variety of muscles. From this we can learn that according to your body structure, you are more prone to certain injuries.

This information means that a number of specific ‘rehabilitation techniques can return an injured dancer back to performing’ (Minton, 2000). These techniques link to the use of therapeutic exercises for the body which (Minton, 2000) claims can ‘reduce stress, correct potentially harmful movement patterns and improve other dance skills.’ As well as impacting the body, such body therapies can benefit the brain and cause further development. This research presents clear evidence that a dancer’s ability to perform is affected by their own body structure and that there is a strong link between dance and scientific studies.

What parts of the brain are affected through dance?

The motor cortex is an essential part of the brain, which is stimulated through dance, as it is the area of the brain responsible for our ability to learn and ‘train new patterns of movement.’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016) It is understandable that the motor cortex is impacted, as learning new movements and perfecting them through training is a key part to dance. At the same time, other ‘cortical regions that interpret sensory information’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016) are also stimulated. Therefore new patterns of movement cause unusual sensations in the brain resulting in a more advanced body consciousness. This advancement within the brain, can lead to a further developed brain.

The cerebellum’s function is to ‘facilitate coordination and refinement of motoric control’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016) and is consequently responsible for a person’s balance and posture. The cerebellum is stimulated by complex and unique movements that can be associated with dance, specifically Bharathanatyam.

Another part of the brain affected is the hippocampus, which is activated by the ‘habituation process’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016), which is where each newly learned pattern is moved from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. A study, performed by the University of Hertfordshire, looked at how dance psychologically affects people with Parkinson’s disease, by taking ‘120 people and asking half of them to do dancing three times a week for a year and the other half to do stretching’ (Lovatt, 2012). They discovered that the dancing group hippocampus’ ‘actually grew by 1%-2% over the year’ (Lovatt, 2012) therefore helping to improve memory. This shows that dance does affect the hippocampus and therefore improves your ability to memorise and recall information, a trait which is helpful for learning long, complicated dance routines or lengthy amounts of theory. The process of memorising dance sequences, also improves the functioning ability of the hippocampus, due to the regular usage.

In addition, the pituitary gland, also known as the hypophysis is stimulated by the vigorous body movements. The hypophysis is in control of ‘the secretion of several hormones, including endorphins, endocannabinoids, adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016). These hormones are constantly being formed and dispersed throughout the body. The energetic dance movements can be physically exertive on the body, resulting in the increase of released hormones such as adrenaline.

(Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016) claims that dopamine is the “happiness” hormone and that serotonin is the “mood” hormone, a release of these hormones would affect the mentality of the dancer, leading to a better performance. When I interviewed (Sajeev, 2017), a Bharathanatyam dance teacher, who has obtain a mastery in science, she stated that the continuing release of these “happy hormones” results ‘in a smaller likelihood of mental illness and deterioration’ (Sajeev, 2017).

A surprising revelation is that in the process of dancing, the frontal lobe shuts down. The frontal lobe is the ‘part of our brain responsible for thinking’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016), therefore this implies that while dancing, other parts of our brain become more active resulting in the frontal lobe taking ‘a break’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016). This is fascinating as indicates that when a dancer is purely dancing, they not directly thinking about the steps, but their body and their mind remembers instinctively for them. This suggest a unique insight into how the brain functions and such a discovery can be used to psychologically treat medical patients.

When interviewed (Sajeev, 2017), also claimed that ‘learning dance at a young age stimulates more neurotransmitter connections within the brain’, implying that learning a form of dance alters the structure of your brain.

A consequence of improving the responsiveness of the brain, is improvements in a dancer’s concentration and perseverance. This is advantageous as it advances a dancer’s ability to train harder and for longer periods of time. (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016) comments that when the regions of the brain responsible for ‘associative learning and imaginative faculties’ are stimulated, there is a direct improvement of sensory awareness within a dancer. Further to these benefits, a dancer’s ‘spatial orientation and cognitive capacity’ (Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016) similarly increases due to the changes and developments made within the brain.

bharatanatyam and brain

(Dr. Reinhold Keuler, 2016)

Another approach considers how the brain recognises artistic movements, one particular researcher, Dr Emily Cross, focuses ‘on the relatively new field of science called neuroaesthetics.’ (BBC health news, 2012) She believes that dancers have slightly varied structural brain features compared to non-dancers. Dr Cross goes on to demonstrate this using a contemporary dancer named Riley Watts as a test subject. Dr Cross and her fellow researchers filmed Watts dancing in numerous different surroundings, one setting being a 3D motion-capture studio. According to (BBC health news, 2012) after dancing several times, Watt ‘underwent a functional MRI brain scan while simultaneously watching videos of himself dancing.’ Which in turn provided some evidence towards Dr Cross’ idea that a long time dancer has a differently structured brain compared to non-dancers.

A similar case study is that of London’s black cab drivers, whose widespread geographical knowledge of London’s streets causes their brain’s hippocampus to be larger than others. This is directly due to the fact that the hippocampus is the region of the brain where long-term memories are formed. This can be linked to dance as a dancer’s hippocampus is also enhanced due to the need to memorise and recall steps.

How does visualising movements improve muscle memory?

(Bergland, 2013) believes that dancers can improve their capability of performing complex moves by ‘marking’ which is the process of walking through the steps slowly. Several findings published in Psychological Science suggest that ‘marking may alleviate the conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance practice.’ (Bergland, 2013) Implying that marking allows the body and mind to instinctively learn steps so the dancer would not have to think about the steps while performing. This therefore allows dancers to memorise and repeat steps more gracefully, or as (Bergland, 2013) states “superfluidity.”

Learning dance steps can be demanding, both physically and mentally so perfecting dance routines can place a strain on a dancer’s body and mind. New research suggests that dance marking, ‘loosely practicing a routine by going through the motions’ (Bergland, 2013) can actually improve the quality of a dance performance as it ‘reduces the mental strain needed to perfect the movements’ (Bergland, 2013). This is due to the fact that the brain has adapted and knows not to exert itself when the dancer is performing. This eventually leads to a dancer being able to perform without consciously thinking about the steps.

(Bergland, 2013) contains a statement from Edward Warburton, a former professional ballet dancer and current professor of dance at the University of California, explaining that “it is widely assumed that the purpose of marking is to conserve energy, but elite-level dance is not only physically demanding, it’s cognitively demanding as well.” This is shown through the fact that when learning and rehearsing a dance piece, a large amount of concentration is focused on remembering the upcoming steps. ‘Marking essentially involves a run-through of the dance routine, but with a focus on the routine itself, rather than making the perfect movements’ (Bergland, 2013).

The ways that marking is helpful to a dancer, is that often the dancer can remain in one place, while substituting hand gestures in place of physical movements. Warburton gives one example as “using a finger rotation to represent a turn while not actually turning the whole body” (Bergland, 2013).

Warburton and a group of fellow researchers decided to investigate how marking affects a dancer’s performance, so they asked a group of dance students to learn two routines. They were asked to practice one routine by marking, while practicing the other one without marking. When both routines were performed, the dancers’ steps and techniques were judged more highly in the routine they had practiced through marking, due to the fact that their movements ‘appeared to be more seamless and their sequences more fluid’ (Bergland, 2013).

The researchers came to the conclusion that practicing the routine without marking, meant that the dancers could not memorise and join the steps as a sequence, therefore hindering their dance performance. Further inference suggests that this type of marking and visualization can be used to maximise performance across other areas in life. Warburton concludes that “by reducing the demands on complex control of the body, marking may reduce the multi-layered cognitive load used” (Bergland, 2013). Therefore marking is one method that can be used to enhance memory facilities within the brain. This enhancement leads to further developments within the brain.

Therapeutic value of Indian Classical Dances

Dance can be considered an active form of non-competitive exercise, which has shown to improve physical health as well mental. Therefore it is not surprising that some forms of dance can be used as therapy. ‘Dance therapy is based on the idea that body and mind are co-relational’ (Arpita Chatterjee, 2013). Indian dances can be particularly therapeutic due to the fact that they embrace Indian philosophy, which itself encourages mental health along with body health.

Several powerful dance forms promote good health and body strength, for example, (Arpita Chatterjee, 2013) suggests that ‘the fast footwork of Kathak dance helps to release anger and tension.’ The connotations we can make from this are that some dances can be used as a stress relievement as they cause you to focus your attention purely on the dance, meaning you forget about any issues that you have. Another example is Manipuri dancers, who tend to ‘make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines’ (Arpita Chatterjee, 2013), this gives Manipuri dancers a softer presence, proper body control and a relatively more peaceful mind.

All these physical movements, balancing postures, facial expressions and muscle contractions and relaxations have a strong effect on therapeutic effect of dance in the human body. Hence why Indian dance therapists try to incorporate different dance movements within their therapeutic sessions. The histories of several Indian classical dances suggest that said dances were ‘aimed at the betterment of health of dancers’ (Arpita Chatterjee, 2013). To an extent, they can even be compared with yoga as a form of physical and mental exercise.

Overall, the Indian classical dance styles can be grouped into seven major types, named:

  • Kathak – ‘Originated from northern India’ (Yogharajah, 2011). (Yogharajah, 2011) also comments that ‘the technique of Kathak today is characterized by fast rhythmic footwork.’
  • Bharathanatyam –‘Most celebrated art form in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu’ (Yogharajah, 2011). There is a mythical background often associated with Bharathanatyam that claims that Lord Brahma ‘bestowed this esteemed dance on Bharatha Munivar’ (Ravindran, 2009) who then taught it to Lord Shiva, who then passed on the knowledge to his wife, Parvathi, where she taught the art form to other women and ‘in this manner, this art was traditionally handed down’ (Yogharajah, 2011)
  • Manipuri – This dance comes from the region of ‘Manipur, the north-eastern state of India’ (Yogharajah, 2011).
  • Kathakali – ‘Originated from Kerala’ (Yogharajah, 2011) and ‘is traditionally performed by males and involves strenuous physical movements’ (Yogharajah, 2011).
  • Odissi –‘Originates from the state of Orissa, in Eastern India’ (Yogharajah, 2011).
  • Kuchipudi – ‘This dance comes from Andhra Pradesh’ (Yogharajah, 2011).
  • Mohiniattam – ‘Traditional South Indian dance from Kerala’ (Yogharajah, 2011) with the main theme of the dance being ‘love and devotion to God’ (Yogharajah, 2011).

Out of these seven types, Bharathanatyam is still considered to be the ‘most sublime’ (Arpita Chatterjee, 2013). Within this dance form, the dancers use hand and eye movements to express various emotions, which in turn allows them to express their inner feelings. This sort of expression is beneficial to mental health as it causes the mind to be at peace. Hence why many use the practice of Indian classical dance for ‘emotional wellbeing and psycho-therapy’ (Arpita Chatterjee, 2013).

How does dance therapy affect body health and the psychiatric population?

Dancing is considered to be ‘one of the earliest forms of therapeutic practice and experience known to humanity’ (Margariti & Economou, 2012). The combination of music and movement is enhanced by the expression of feelings. ‘Dance therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance through which the individual participates creatively in a process that furthers his cognitive, emotional, physical and social integration’ (Margariti & Economou, 2012)

There is a growing interest in how dance can benefit brain functions, particularly in the elderly, as they are more susceptible to illness. Although the link between ‘exercise and healthy cognitive function’ (Hassan, 2015) is unclear, it is still an area of great interest to scientists and researchers. However dance is not purely fitness, it also involves a combination of other advantageous features, including ‘social interaction, musical stimulation and cognitive reasoning’ (Hassan, 2015).

In one experiment, an elderly group of 35 took part in a dance programme over the span of six months. At the end, they displayed a ‘range of cognitive improvements, including improved working memory and reaction times’ (Hassan, 2015). Interestingly, the cardio-respiratory levels within the group did not change, suggesting that although dance can improve brain functions, it is not as helpful to the rest of the body’s internal processes.

In another study, 400 older adults were tracked over a number of years and it was discovered that ‘dancing was the only physical ability linked with lower risk of dementia’ (Hassan, 2015). Further inference suggests that the physical exercise attribute within dance is not alone in protecting the ‘cognitive and perceptual’ capacities of a dancer.

Therefore researchers have also explored the therapeutic effects of dance for treating clinical conditions. ‘The findings of several small-scale studies indicate that dancing may be beneficial for people with certain neurodegenerative disorders, like dementia’ (Hassan, 2015). It is suggested that weekly dancing sessions can improve visual functions and ‘planning ability’ (Hassan, 2015) for dementia patients.

One of these studies was presented in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They came to the conclusion that dance can improve brain health through investigating the ‘effect leisure activities had on the risk of dementia in the elderly’ (Edwards, 2016). They tried eleven different types of physical activities, but discovered that only dance ‘lowed participants’ risk of dementia’ (Edwards, 2016). This is due to the fact that dance involves both mental strength and social interaction, therefore ‘this type of stimulation can help reduce the risk of dementia’ (Edwards, 2016).

Dance therapy has also been able to help people with mental illness. This is particularly shown in one study involving psychiatric ward patients, where it was revealed that ‘just 30 minutes of dancing to lively music was sufficient to reduce their symptoms of depression and improve vitality’ (Hassan, 2015).

The most fascinating idea that this study unearthed, was that when the same group of researchers involved a second group of patients who only ‘listened to the same music, without dancing’, was that they did not benefit as much from the experience as the dancing patients did. Therefore providing connotations that ‘music alone wasn’t enough’ (Hassan, 2015).

Alexia Margariti and Nicolas-Tiberio Economou’s paper refers to the application of ‘Primitive Expression therapy’ (PE) (Margariti & Economou, 2012), which is a form of dance therapy that was created by Katherine Dunham, a dancer, choreographer and educator in the fifties. This study observed the positive changes in patient ‘psychological behaviour as well as physiological state’ (Margariti & Economou, 2012), when they applied PE therapy to psychiatric patients. According to this concept, we can understand that PE therapy can be used to assess psychological behaviour as well as the ‘neurophysiological changes’ (Margariti & Economou, 2012) in the psychiatric patients undergoing treatment.

(Edwards, 2016) claims that dance ‘has such beneficial effects on the brain that it is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease’ (Edwards, 2016). Over ‘one million people in this country are living with Parkinson’s disease’ (Edwards, 2016) and according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, ‘each year another 60,000 are diagnosed’ (Edwards, 2016). Parkinson’s disease is a ‘progressive neurological movement disorder’ (Edwards, 2016) where the brain cells that produce dopamine are lost. The loss of this particular chemical means that the region of the brain responsible for ‘controlling movement and coordination’ (Edwards, 2016) is affected. As the disease progresses, an increasing number of these cells die, therefore reducing the amount of dopamine within the brain.

According to the foundation, ‘the primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include bradykinesia (slowed movement), stiffness of the limbs, tremors and impaired balance and coordination’ (Edwards, 2016). Therefore it can be considered that dance may lessen these symptoms, however this is not completely scientifically proven and for the moment is merely ‘observational research’ (Edwards, 2016). The University of Hertfordshire conducted a study looking at ‘what happens psychologically to people with Parkinson’s disease’ (Lovatt, 2012) and looked particularly at the physical, cognitive and emotional issues. They came to the conclusion that there are ‘three elements in dancing that are vital to improving health and distinguishes dance from other forms of exercise’ (Lovatt, 2012). These elements are social interaction, the physical aspect and cognitive learning. Lovatt comments that in turn these elements can help improve memory, reduce the risk of dementia and help your cognitive abilities (Lovatt, 2012).

What effect does music have on the brain?

Music is a critical aspect within dance, and is already known for having a unique effect on the brain. Therefore it is not a far-fetched idea to believe that dance also has an effect on the brain. Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Centre at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC) says “There is no question that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity, and I think that applies to dance, as well” (Edwards, 2016).

Inside a 2008 article within Scientific American magazine, a Columbia University neuroscientist stated ‘that synchronising music and movement…constitutes a pleasure double play’ (Edwards, 2016). Therefore implying that the musical aspect of dance stimulates the brain neurologically, while the movement aspect ‘activates the brain’s sensory and motor circuits’ (Edwards, 2016).

According to experts, ‘music can stimulate multiple regions within the brain, particularly the hippocampus’ (Examined Existence, 2015), which is the part of the brain that manages long-term memory. So by listening to the same music repeatedly, the feelings and emotions associated with each piece of music are revived within the hippocampus.

Piano music can be used to improve spatial reasoning skills, which can be defined as ‘the ability to reason depiction, measurement, navigation and shape accurately’ (Examined Existence, 2015). In other words, it is the ability to understand shapes and dimensions, which can also be linked towards dance.

Music has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, as shown in a study published in ‘Trends in Cognitive Sciences’ (Examined Existence, 2015). The study conveys that the patients that listened to music, experienced lower levels of cortisol (a stress causing hormone), compared to patients who took anti-anxiety drugs. Knowledge gained from research suggests that calming sounds, ‘especially the piano masterpieces of Mozart’ (Examined Existence, 2015) can actually reduce signals that are known to cause seizures. (Examined Existence, 2015) claims that ‘the song’s effect on the cerebral cortex is so profound, that it has made 23 of 29 significant seizure activity decrease’, this is particularly shown in the 1998 experiment called the “Mozart Effect on Epileptiform Activity.” The “Mozart Effect” is based on the theory that the famous composer’s ‘Piano Sonata in D major led to a decrease in epilepsy within patients’ (Rowley, 2016)


(Cooper, 2016)

As music and dance have been shown to help within therapy, it is not surprising that music can be thought to provide benefits to brain damaged patients. There is one such program called “Melodic Intonation” (Examined Existence, 2015), where the patient is encouraged to sing, until they can manage to talk once again. This is a result of music appealing to the ‘damaged parts of the brain associated with language’ (Examined Existence, 2015).

Within the journal, ‘News in Health’, Gottfried Schlaug, a Harvard Medical School neuroscientist even says that ‘the nerve makeup of musicians differs from non-musicians’ (Rowley, 2016). He draws his evidence from various studies, before claiming that ‘musicians’ minds have more bundles of nerves gathering on the left side of the brain compared to the right’ (Rowley, 2016). Therefore implying that music physically changes the structures within our brain and for that reason affects brain development.

How does other forms of dance and exercise affect the body and the brain?

A study presented by researchers from Imperial College London, in September 2013, claimed that ballet dancers had ‘specific differences in brain structure’ (Bergland, 2013) which prevented dizziness when they performed pirouettes. To obtain evidence for this idea, the researchers gathered a ‘group of 29 female ballet dancers and a group of 20 female rowers’ (Bergland, 2013), who were of similar age and fitness levels as the dancers. In the experiment, both groups were subjected to spin around on a chair in a darkened room. They were told to turn a handle in time with how quickly they felt like they were still spinning after the chair had stopped. The researchers at Imperial also ‘measured eye reflexes triggered by input from the vestibular organs’ (Bergland, 2013). In order to understand how these exercises effected the brain, the researchers also examined the dancers and rowers’ brain structure with MRI scans.

Normally, the vestibular organs in the inner ear are responsible for the feeling of dizziness. ‘These fluid-filled chambers sense rotation of the head through tiny hairs that sense the fluid moving’ (Bergland, 2013) so after spinning so rapidly, the fluid continues to move, making a person feel like they are still spinning. The dancers experience faster eye reflexes and their feeling of spinning decreases at a faster rate than it does within the rowers. This is due to dancers having a sensory response that that induces ‘low-order reflexes of the cerebellum and higher-order perceptual responses of the cerebrum’ (Bergland, 2013). The MIR scans revealed that each groups’ brains differed in two ways, the first being the way the cerebellum processes sensory response from the vestibular organs and the other being the way the cerebral cortex functions, as it is responsible for the sensation of being dizzy. From this we can learn that dancers’ brains can adapt over the years, making them more resistant to feeling of dizziness.

A 2012 study by researchers from North Dakota’s Minot State University discovered that Zumba, a type of Latin-style dance, improved ‘mood and cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making’ (Edwards, 2016). Therefore showing that other dances also have a positive effect on the brain. Various other studies illustrate how dance reduces stress, increase levels of serotonin and helps develop new neural connections.

Dance is not the only form of exercise that impacts the brain, often other ways of keeping fit such as yoga and self-defence are also beneficial. Peter Wayne, AM ’89, PhD’ 92, an HMS assistant professor of medicine at the Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is interested in helping chronically ill patients by using unconventional methods. ‘He has conducted clinical trials designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of tai chi for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other balance disorders’ (Edwards, 2016). Tai chi is a type of Chinese martial art that was originally used for self-defence, however now it is more commonly used as a fitness exercise. Tai chi can be in some ways similar to dance, in fact Wayne ‘considers tai chi to be a more ritualized, structured form of dance’ (Edwards, 2016).

Within the 2012 edition of New England Journal of Medicine, a study was published by a scientist from the Oregon Research Institute, containing research that discovered that tai chi ‘helped improve balance and prevented falls among people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease’ (Edwards, 2016). This conclusion was brought about through an experiment using results from a group of patients suffering from the disease, who practiced tai chi twice a week for a six month span and another group of patients who practiced weight training or stretching for the same length of time instead. Overall, the patients who did tai chi, were physically stronger, had better balance and experienced ‘slower rates of decline in motor control’ (Edwards, 2016).

How is Bharathanatyam unique to other dances?

Bharathanatyam involves several aspects of dance, including the physical steps, the intricate movements and the facial expressions. While some dances, like ballet or ballroom, mainly focus on the physical aspect of the art form, Bharathanatyam is divided into three main types of dance, as previously mentioned; Nirutham, Niruthiyam and Natyam. Therefore Bharathanatyam contains pieces which are only made up of steps, pieces which are purely expression and also pieces which are a combination of the two. The intricate movements that are performed within Bharathanatyam are similar to contemporary dance, but are executed more gently by the dancer.

Bharathanatyam also passes on ‘transferable skills’ (Sajeev, 2017), which encourage students to withstand high amounts of pressure and be able to present to large crowds. These abilities can be beneficial for students working towards higher education and professional careers.

What really makes Bharathanatyam stand out, is its use of facial expressions, as this art form places emphasis on portraying your passion towards the audience. Within Bharathanatyam there is ‘nine human emotions, which are love, anger, fear, disgust, surprise, compassion, bravery, laughter and peace’ (Sajeev, 2017). These emotions can be portrayed through head, neck and eye movements, along with various hand gestures. (Sajeev, 2017) claims that ‘when you express these emotions as a dancer, you try to psychologically experience the emotion and in turn push out your real emotions.’ (Sajeev, 2017) backs up her point using a typical story of Rama and Sita, where the dancer has to display tangible emotion to be able to accurately portray Rama’s love for Sita.

However physical movements are also an important feature for Bharathanatyam, as they make it distinctive from softer types of dances. Further to this idea, it can be said that Bharathanatyam is ‘similar to karate, in terms of its hard, forceful steps’ (Sajeev, 2017).

Bharathanatyam combines four main aspects of expression, portrayed through vibrant costumes, intricate hand and leg movements, expression through music and ‘the last expression is the expression through your inner soul, your spirituality’ (Sajeev, 2017). These qualities combined creates a unique art form that stands out from other dance styles.


Having considered the research and various case studies, it is clear that dance has a significant impact on the brain and the two are undoubtedly interlinked. Dance has always shown physical benefits on the body, however more recent research appears to show the mental benefits for partaking in this art form. Dance has been shown to stimulate various regions of the brain, which has had an essential effect on how dancers’ perform and how they function in everyday life. Research has shown that visualising movements can improve muscle memory within the brain and the frontal lobe shuts down when dancing. Further research has depicted how dance can be used as a therapeutic method to improve brain health. Therefore benefiting mentally ill patients and patients suffering from illnesses that effect motor control. Many forms of exercise have an influence on the brain however, dance is more advantageous as it embraces aspects of music, physical exercise and mental health. Bharathanatyam is a good example of a dance form that has a unique impact on the brain, as it embraces the idea of mental fitness through storytelling and facial expressions, while also including a vigorous physical element. This affects more areas of the brain and in turn results in additional brain development.

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Interview transcript:

Dance teacher

Owner of Sakthi Fine Arts


Amara: Do you think there is a link between brain development and dance in general?

Anusha: Yes. I actually do think there is a link, as dance, obviously involves movement but it also involves movement in a specific sequence and that information, first of all, has to be processed by the brain so that you can carry out that instruction. So yes.

Amara: Okay. So, do you think that this dance specifically affects the brain differently to other dances?

Anusha: What is special about Bharathanatyam is that it involves several aspects of dance, as well as general emotions that, you and I will experience and so any expressions, for example, this will have, we’ll say have a psychological effect on the brain. Whereas, the steps or the intricate movements and stuff, will have more of an affect, in terms of the…

Amara: The structure?

Anusha: The structure, okay?

Amara: So, do you think it has an effect on the psychology of the brain?

Anusha: Yeah, so, yeah definitely.

Amara: And is there any benefits?

Anusha: So, with Bharathanatyam we’ve got, we express the nine human emotions, which are love, anger, fear, disgust, compassion, bravery and…

Amara: Laughter?

Anusha: Anger, laughter. What else have I missed out? Peace.

Amara: Oh yeah!

Anusha: Okay. And so all these emotions, when you express it as a dancer, for example, let’s take love for an example. One, we always take a typical story of Rama falling in love with Sita. Then you as a person, you sometimes, emphasise with that character and so therefore, you psychologically believe that maybe you are Sita and you’ll find your Rama someday. (Laughter) Okay, so that’s an example. Another could be when you’re portraying anger, when, I don’t know, when Ravana kills Rama for example, the emotion could be portrayed when the dancer truly tries to feel what the character should be feeling and that’s what been portrayed in the dance.

Amara: To push your frustration.

Anusha: Absolutely. So even if you’re annoyed about something, then you come and dance, your emotions can be portrayed through dance. So your own personal feelings, your personal psychological thoughts are then portrayed in the dance there. Well, especially in Bharathanatyam.

Amara: So does it benefit the brain in anyway?

Anusha: Oh, absolutely. There’s so much benefit there because communication is the main, well I think is vital for any human development and so with Bharathanatyam, what children learn is that aspect of communication using the face and, which a lot of people, are, tend to nowadays everyone’s texting and sending their communications through emails and WhatsApp and stuff like that.

Amara: So is it true that if you learn dance at a young age you have more neurotransmitter connections in the brain. So does it develop the brain differently?

Anusha: Well, I’ve learnt that even, forget when you’re a young age, if you know you’re pregnant and you’re playing classical music and why classical music over any other conventional music, I don’t know, but I know that classical music stimulates these connections between neurons. Okay, I know at a young age, by the time your aged three, most of your neuronal developments, I believe are in place and it’s about making connections. And so when you learn something as complex as Bharathanatyam, then those connections are triggered at a lot, well they’re triggered and there are more of these connections taking place compared to a child that does not learn Bharathanatyam, for example.

Amara: Are you comparing a student who doesn’t learn dance at all or just learns a different type of dance?

Anusha: Doesn’t learn dance at all. Now if they’re learning something like ballet, well I think ballet and Bharathanatyam are very similar, except the emotional aspect is not as obvious in ballet. They do still have one, but it’s shown through their movement rather than through their actual facial expressions. So yes, definitely more neurotransmitter connections in the brain.

Amara: So, in your opinion, how do you think dance, specifically Bharathanatyam affects the brain? Or benefits it?

Anusha: I think dance makes the brain happy. It’s simple because when you are exercising or when you are doing any form of activity, it releases special hormones like endorphins. You know that’s what we call happy hormones, right? And again, those happy hormones affect your body and brain, for example your heart beat. Everything is at a faster rate, right. Your heart beats faster and I think that’s good for the brain. It means that the brain is continually functioning and…

Amara: Stimulated?

Anusha: And stimulated, definitely. I think more than anything it will keep you away from mental illnesses and deterioration. It improves memory like anything and the intricacy of learning something within dance I believe will help. Bharathanatyam especially will help in that.

Amara: So, there is various, geometric positions within Bharathanatyam, with all the poses and positions. So do you think it’s linked with the poses in yoga?

Anusha: Oh yeah. Dance is dynamic yoga. So Bharathanatyam is dynamic yoga, so whatever you’re doing in yoga, we’re just doing a movement to it. That’s all it is. So yes, there is definitely, links.

Amara: So, because yoga is linked to relaxation, does it mean, that there are some parts of Bharathanatyam linked to relaxation?

Anusha: Yeah, of course. You forget that in Bharathanatyam we’ve got four divisions, where you are expressing with your costumes, you’re expressing with your hands and your legs, you’re expressing into music and words that are being sung and the last expression is the expression through your inner soul, your spirituality, where you’re touching yourself. Now that’s in fact your relaxation mode. So yeah definitely.

Amara: So, is that linked to mindfulness, similar to the way you perceive everything?

Anusha: I think well, dancers are generally more imaginative and more creative and so are they are probably happier as well, if you can say that.

Amara: So, what’s the general age range between students that you currently teach?

Anusha: So the youngest is just about 3 years old and the oldest, that is currently learning is probably about 15, 16.

Amara: Alright. Yeah, so have you witnessed any changes in behaviour or ways that they act at a certain age?

Anusha: So, young children, I find they will pick and follow you very quickly and they will remember very quickly. Then there is an age where the children are, maybe it is because they are growing up, becoming teenagers, whatever it is where they are…

Amara: Becoming rebellious?

Anusha: They are probably reluctant to share that experience of what they have with the audience. So they kind of like, almost like become introverts.

Amara: They close off

Anusha: Yeah, they do close off. But then after they’ve finished a certain like point in dance, say for example when they get to about grade 6 or grade 7, then they start understanding the in-depth of dance and then they, you actually find that there is a sudden leap in, how they perform where you actually see them dance and not just copy things. But they actually feel it themselves.

Amara: Alright. So, do you think that, that somehow links to the way that the brain perceives everything, the way that they have acted and changed?

Anusha: Well it’s a bit like when you are doing an exam, when you’re learning a content for an exam, you just learn it because your teacher teaches it, you memorise certain concepts but you don’t actually understand that concept until you are revising it in your own way, until you have a proper understanding of it and that’s when you then begin to enjoy that topic for example, so it’s the same thing.

Amara: So, um, a lot of your students go on to do higher education and various degrees and things, so do you think that it is a coincidence or that somehow doing dance affected their mentality, so their memory and…

Anusha: Oh yeah, okay so, no it’s not a coincidence at all, um, about 95% of my students have all gone onto, not just normal higher education but we’re talking about professionals, so either they’ve entered medicine or dentistry or accountancy  or some professional course. And to be able to withstand this kind of pressure on the academic side, is the fact that they have mental stability and that mental stability was created through I think the fact that they were involved in as complex as Bharathanatyam. So, with Bharathanatyam what they have shown is not something that they have been doing just for a term, they’ve done Bharathanatyam from a young age of 5 and they will still continue even if they are at 20 or 21, at least they will understand it.

Amara: Any benefits?

Anusha: All of this will build transferable skills, which has made them successful at interviews or at presentations or you know, getting and standing in front of a, two people. To do an interview can be nerve-racking and standing in front of a thousand people is just as nerve-racking but all of this just helps them cope and maybe have taught them a strategy where they can cope with that kind of stress.

Amara: Because what I feel, is with the theory exams there is a lot of content, so I feel like the way we learn all that theory has helped me learn any revision I need to do for school tests.

Anusha: Yeah, absolutely. Again your learning, it’s a bit like rout learning, which is unfortunate. Most of your GCSEs can be done like that but it’s only until you get to A-levels where you do your own research and how does that tie with dance, is when you start choreographing your own dances. So, that’s how it, both works in parallel. Until then rout learning and memorising will be fine until GCSE but it’s not until you are going to university that you then develop as a dancer.

Amara: So with your personal experience as a dancer did you witness any changes about yourself, how you acted or maybe something with your brain?

Anusha: As dancer I always remembered and picked up concepts very, very quickly. I picked up intricate step movements very quickly and I executed them very quickly. And this made me as an academic, as I picked up concepts very quickly, I remembered things quickly and I was able to use it in exams. So, dance I think, the reason why I’m in my current position is largely due to the fact that I learnt dance but I didn’t just learn it, as a Sunday class, I utilised it. I utilised every single skill that I gained into the professional environment, for my academic research. For when I was a scientist, everything would be based on how would I do a dance program, how would I do this research project.

Amara: So they were all linked…

Anusha: Everything was tied up together and I never separated the two, which is still with my teaching now. When I teach science I always think about how I can make this easier for them to understand and encourage the students to go and develop themselves. You know, some sort of research project that they can do, some creativity so that they can remember.

Amara: Well that’s it really. Thank you for your time.

Anusha: You’re welcome.


Afternoon Despatch & Courtier. (2013, October 16th). Bharatnatyam – an artistic Yoga . Retrieved from Afternoon Despatch & Courtier website: http://www.afternoondc.in/education-careers/bharatnatyam-an-artistic-yoga/article_93778
I used this source to find information about the link between yoga and dance. I also used it to gather evidence for the physical benefits of dance. As this article was posted by a Bharathanatyam dancer, named Sowgandhika Krishnan, it is not completely reliable. However its content matches my own knowledge and various other research, therefore showing that the information within, is consistent. It is fairly up to date as it was posted in 2013 and is relevant to my project due to its emphasis on the spirituality of dance. There is a general low level of complexity and the content can be understood by non-scientists. This source can be considered to be reliable as it was published on the site of a newspaper, the Afternoon Despatch & Courtier.
Arpita Chatterjee, B. C. (2013). The Therapeutic Value of Indian Classical, Folk and Innovative Dance Forms. The Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities (ISSN 0975 – 2935).
I used this source to find evidence for the therapeutic value of classical Indian dances, including Bharathanatyam. The author is qualified to write this source as Dr. Arpita Chatterjee is an Advisory Board Member of Performing Arts Therapy Centre within Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata and for the past six years has being doing research on the relationship between dance and health science. The author provided detailed information on the mental affect dance has on the body, linking other forms of Indian classical dances as well as Bharathanatyam. This source is fairly up to date as it was published in 2013 and is relevant to my project as highlights how unique Bharathanatyam is and how Indian classical dances differ from other dance forms. There is a general low level of complexity and the content can be understood by non-scientists. This source can be considered reliable as it is a journal article, published by The Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, which means in order for it to be issued it had to be unbiased and accurate.
BBC health news. (2012, February 28th). Understanding the brain on dance . Retrieved from BBC news website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17120495
I used this source to find out how the brain perceives and interprets movement and to also find scientific evidence that changes occur within the brain due to dance. The name of the author is not stated, but the source continually refers to Dr Emily Cross’ research, who is qualified to contribute to the source as she is a member of the Perception, Action, & Memory and Social Neuroscience research groups. Two of her main interests in research are also action perception and neuroaesthetics. The source content contained a brief plan of a burgeoning experiment into how brains process movement and mentioned future research into the structural differences between the brains of dancers and non-dancers. This source is reasonably up to date (2012) and although it talks about the effects on brain, it is merely speculation rather than hard scientific evidence. Even though this source was not directly useful for my project, it was still relevant as it focused on how brain structure changes when dancing. This source had a low level of complexity and could be easily understood by non-scientists. This source can be considered reliable as it was published on a respected news site, BBC news, and does not contain biased language.
Bergland, C. (2013, October 1st). Why Is Dancing So Good For The Brain. Retrieved from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/why-is-dancing-so-good-your-brain
I used this source as I needed evidence about why dance is so unique when impacting the brain and how it differs from the effect of normal exercise or sports. The author of this source, Christopher Bergland, can be considered reliable as although he is not a scientist, he has written a book called ‘The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss’ which incorporates brain science and positive psychology. This source provides evidence that over the years dancers’ brains adapt and process sensory responses differently to other forms of exercise and even provides a case study to prove it. This source is fairly up to date as it was published in 2013 and is very relevant to my project as it looks at the ways dancers’ brains are structured and how practicing routines can cause the brain the adapt therefore leading to the body remembering the steps unconsciously. There is a general low level of complexity and the content can be understood by non-scientists. This source can be considered reliable as it is not biased and contains scientific information rather than personal views.
Bharata Muni Wikipedia. (2017, February 8th). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharata_Muni
I used this source to discover information on Bharatha Munivar and find out the link between his background and the formation of Bharathanatyam. This source was not biased as it did not provide an opinion on Bharatha Munivar but instead stated facts which I briefly used to provide context of his character. The name of the author is not stated, however the source was up to date and marginally relevant to my project as it provided information about a man who helped form Bharathanatyam dance. There is a low level of complexity and the content could be easily understood. This source can be considered reliable as its content matched my own knowledge and alternative research, therefore showing that it was not biased and did not contain altered fact.
Cooper, B. B. (2016, August 26). 8 Surprising Ways Music Affects and Benefits our Brains. Retrieved from Buffer website: https://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain
I used this source to illustrate how the various areas of the brain react to listening to music. This source provided me with a diagram that was found on Buffer in an article by Belle Beth Cooper conveying the ways music affects and benefits our brains. I was unable to find the original creator of the diagram and therefore have to rely on Cooper’s credibility. Although she is not qualified to write this source, she is still a respected writer, therefore giving her work integrity. The diagram conveys which areas of the brain are stimulated and what aspects of music stimulate them. This source is very up to date as it was posted in 2016, it also is relevant to my project as it links to the musical aspect of dance and therefore links to the idea that dance is unique as it combines how music affects the brain as well as physical exercise. There is a low level of complexity and the diagram and source can be easily understood by non-scientists. This source can be considered reliable as its content matches other research and contains unbiased opinions.
Dr. Reinhold Keuler, M. s. (2016, October 14th). Bharathanatyam and Brain. Retrieved from Global Culture and Science website: http://www.global-culture-and-science.de/htmlE/medicine/bh_brain.html
I used this source to decipher which areas of the brain are stimulated by dance and how they affect the body. The author, Dr. Reinhold Keuler is qualified to write this source as he is a MD specialist for Neurology, Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, this means that he has a good understanding on how the brain functions and what can affect it. This source provides evidence regions of brain that are directly affected through dance and how they impact the dancer. It also provided me with a diagram of the brain, focusing on the areas that are affected through dance. This source also gave detailed information about the regions of the brain and what they are responsible for. This source is up to date (2016) and is definitely relevant to my project as it gives through scientific information on the impact of dance on the brain and it even specifically mentions Bharathanatyam. There is a reasonable level of complexity but it may be confusing for some non-scientists as it uses scientific language to explain the areas of the brain. This source can be considered reliable as it was written by an unbiased professional and originates from a scientific website.
Edwards, S. (2016). Dancing and the Brain. On the Brain newsletter.
I used this source to gather information on how dance can improve brain health, therefore affecting conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia. The author, Scott Edwards, is a freelance science writer and is therefore qualified to write such a source. This source contains information about how dance movement can be used as a therapeutic method to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease and also states that the reason dance is unique is that it combines music and movement. The source also contains various case studies and examples therefore giving value to its ideas. This source is up to date (2016) and is relevant to my project as it explores how dance affects the psychological aspect of the brain as well as how dance is unique to any other form of exercise. There is a reasonable level of complexity but it may be confusing for some non-scientists as it uses scientific language to explain how the brain is affected. This source can be considered reliable as it was published on the site of a respected newsletter, ‘On The Brain’ from the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute.
Examined Existence. (2015, November 10). Brain Health and Functionality . Retrieved from Examined Existence website: http://examinedexistence.com/the-effect-music-has-on-the-brain/
I used this source to find more information on how music impacts the brain and what it means for the dancer. The author’s name is not stated but is instead under a pseudonym called Marvelous, this and the fact that the source is posted on a blog, indicates a lack reliability. This source informed me of the affect music has on memory, anxiety and spatial reasoning skills. It also claimed that music can help brain damaged patients, and can be used for brain health. This source is up to date as it was posted in 2015 and is relevant to my project as it conveys how music affects the brain and music is one of main aspects of dance. There is a general low level of complexity and the source can be understood by non-scientists. Despite the fact that the source is from a blog, it is still reliable as its content matches my own research and own knowledge.
Govender, V. (unknown). Meaning of a pose in bharathanatyam. Retrieved from Pinterest website: https://uk.pinterest.com/VanessaGovOT/for-my-girl/
I used this source as I required a picture or diagram that would be suitable for my cover page, while also illustrating the complexity of Bharathanatyam, therefore signifying the affect it would have on the brain. I do not know the true creator of the diagram, however Vanessa Govender posted it on her Pinterest account. She is an occupational therapist and therefore is knowledgeable about the therapeutic value of dance, nevertheless it does not make her completely qualified to support this source. This source links to the geometric positions within Bharathanatyam and how they are similar to yogatic poses. The date of when this source was published is unknown, however it is still relevant to my project as it tries to portray that Bharathanatyam and therefore dance in general is more than just an art form and instead can affect the human body and mind. As it is a picture there is a low level of complexity and can be easily understood. Although this source was published on a site like Pinterest, it can still be considered reliable as it supports other research ideas but with a visual aid.
Hassan, L. (2015, September 28th). Thinking on your feet: The effects of dance on the brain.


Retrieved from The Brian Bank North West, science blog:



I used this source to explore the therapeutic effects of dance and learn how they can be used to treat clinical conditions. The author of this source, Lamiece Hassan, has a PhD in psychiatry and an MPhil in psychology, so is therefore qualified to write this source. The source contains information about the aspects of dance that stimulate the brain, ranging from music, movement and social interaction. It also includes studies which provide evidence to support its ideas. This source is fairly up to date as it was published in 2015 and is relevant to my project as it provides evidence of dance affecting brain health and therefore can be used to treat mentally ill patients. There is a general low level of complexity and the content can be understood by a non-scientist. This source can be considered reliable as although it is from a science blog, it was written by an unbiased professional.
Lovatt, P. (2012, April 12). Psychologist and dancer. TED Observer . YouTube. Retrieved from YouTube website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihCh5wzNjYY
I used this source to find out the effects of dance on people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The author of this source, Peter Lovatt, is qualified to speak as he is a principle lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire and has studied psychology and computational neuroscience. He has also done experimental work investigating the ways dance, and different types of dance can affect the brain. He has even set up the first Dance Psychology Lab in 2008. This video contained information about how the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be reduced through dance exercises. Lovatt talks about a study that took place at the university he works at, that looked at how dance psychologically affected those with Parkinson’s disease. This source is reasonably up to date as it was posted in 2012 and is relevant to my project as it looks into how dance can be used to treat clinical conditions. There is a low level of complexity and Peter Lovatt speaks at a level that can be easily understood by non-scientists. This source can be considered reliable as Lovatt is a professional publically speaking at a TED event.
Margariti, A., & Economou, N.-t. (2012). An application of the Primitive Expression form of dance therapy. Retrieved from Academia web site: http://www.academia.edu/14547145/An_application_of_the_Primitive_Expression_form_of_dance_therapy
I used this source as I wanted to acquire a professional opinion on how dance affects psychological behaviour and further information on the process of dance therapy. This source was not biased and instead focused on providing detailed scientific information on dance therapy and PE therapy. The main authors of this source, Alexia Margariti and Nicholas-Tiberio Economou are qualified to write it as Margariti is a professor of dance and a dance therapist and Economou specialises in neurophysiology. There are other accompanying authors mentioned as well, however Margariti and Economou are stated as the main ones.  This source provided information about PE therapy and how it affects psychiatric patients. It also goes into detail about a case study that reported that dance therapy can affect hormone and neurotransmitter release within the brain. This source is not completely up to date as it was published in 2012, however it is still relevant to my project as it touches on the aspect of dance that can affect brain health. There is a high level of complexity and non-scientists may find the content to be difficult to understand. This source is reliable as it a scientific paper written by experts, posted on an official website, Academia, and includes several reliable references.
Minton, S. (2000). Research in Dance: Educational and Scientific Perspectives. Dance Research, Vol. 32, No. 1, 110-112.
I used this source to find information on dance science research and how dance can be linked to fields such as medicine and movement analysis. The author, Sandra Minton, is qualified to write this source as she has written several books on the subject of mind/body connections and has also achieved M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in dance. The source content goes into detail about the links between dance and science and also conveys how body therapies such as dance can improve brain and body functions. This source is not up to date as it was published in 2000, it is also not completely relevant to my project as it does not focus on the brain and instead concentrates on the scientific nature of dance. There is a high level of complexity and some non-scientists may find the content hard to understand. This source is reliable as it is a journal article taken from a respected scientific journal, written by an unbiased professional.
Ravindran, P. (2009). Bharathanatiyam Syllabus OEBL (Grades 5-8). 48B, Bloemendhal Road,


Colombo 13: Unie Arts (Pvt) Ltd.

I chose to research in this book because I needed a variety in source types. I used this source to obtain background information on Bharathanatyam and various other classical Indian dance forms. Premala Ravindran is a qualified author as she is a senior dance teacher and a long standing member of the Oriental Examination Board London (OEBL). This book contained the knowledge required for Bharathanatyam exams Grades 5-8, including detailed information about Bharathanatyam and other classical Indian dance forms. This source is not completely up to date as it was published in 2009, how it is very relevant to my project as it gives the reader context to what sort of dance form Bharathanatyam is and what makes it so unique. There is a low level of complexity, however it contains many unusual, foreign words that may confuse a non-Bharathanatyam dancer. This source is reliable as it is a published book which means many people had to proof read the book beforehand. It also contains unbiased opinions and was written by a knowledgeable author.
Rowley, L. (2016, February 1). 7 Ways Music Affects the Body: Here’s How Science Says Sound Moves Us. Retrieved from Mic website: https://mic.com/articles/133981/7-ways-music-affects-the-body-here-s-how-science-says-sound-moves-us#.KH4RYgXUU
I used this source to find more information on the way music affects the brain and the body. The author of this source, Liz Rowley, is not qualified to write this source as she is a staff writer at Mic however the content of the source matches my own knowledge and other research. This source talks about how music affects brain activity and many biological processes such as pulse and respiration rates. The source even contains information about using music to treat patients with epilepsy, mentioning a theory called the ‘Mozart effect.’ This source is very up to date as it was posted in 2016, it is still relevant to my project as music is a critical part to dance, therefore any impact music has on the brain would be similarity replicated when dance is performed. There is a low level of complexity and the content can be easily understood by non-scientists. This source is not completely reliable as it originates from an unscientific website and is written by a non-scientist, however as the content can me matched with other research, it can still be considered reliable and useful.
Sajeev, A. (2017, January 11). How is dance and the brain interlinked? (A. Shakthi, Interviewer)
This source was useful for my project as it is primary research collected by myself. Anusha Sajeev, M.Sc., P.G.C.E., B.Sc., is a Bharathanatyam dance teacher, who is the owner of Sakthi Fine Arts dance school. In addition to this, Sajeev has gained a masters in science was a research scientist (2002-2008) at Oxford University. Anusha still teaches dance and is also a science teacher at Loxford School of Science and Technology. Although she may show slight bias due to her role as a dance teacher, she is still well versed in scientific matters and therefore could provide a reliable outlook on my project. I used this source to gain a qualified viewpoint on my project and to see whether my ideas could be backed up by further evidence. Within this source, she talks about the link between Bharathanatyam and yoga and what that means for the body. She also goes into detail about the nine expressions and how dance can be used as an outlet for a dancer’s emotions. This interview was conducted within January 2017 showing that it is up to date, it is also relevant to my project as directly considers the link between dance and the brain. Throughout the transcript there is a general low level of complexity, in which the language can be easily understood by non-scientists. It can be considered reliable as although Anusha Sajeev could be biased, she mainly provides an experienced insight into the effect dance has on the brain.
Shakthi, A. S. (Performer). (2014, October 12). Bharathanatyam Arangetram. The Phoenix Theatre, London.
This source was taken prior to dance performance accomplished by myself, Amara Shakthi and my sister, Anika Shakthi. Although this source does not provide any evidence to prove that dance impacts the brain, it instead shows my dedication towards Bharathanatyam and my inspiration for this project. It also provides evidence that as a Bharathanatyam dancer, I have personally experienced any changes that may have occurred within my brain. This source can be considered up to date as it was created in 2014 and is relevant to my project as provides evidence of my background as a Bharathanatyam dancer. As it is a photograph there is a low level of complexity and the source can be considered reliable as it was taken professionally at a public event, demonstrating the art form, Bharathanatyam.
Yogharajah, S. J. (2011). Natya Vilasam. Triplicane, Chennai – 600 005. India: Monark Offset Printers.
I chose to research in this book because I needed a variety in source types. I used this source to obtain background information on Bharathanatyam and various other classical Indian dance forms. Smt. Jeyanthy Yogharajah is a qualified author for this source as she is a Bharathanatyam teacher and an examiner within Oriental Examination Board London (OEBL). This book contained the knowledge required for Bharathanatyam exams, including detailed information about Bharathanatyam and other classical Indian dance forms. This source is not completely up to date as it was published in 2011, however it is still relevant to my project as it gives the reader context to what sort of dance form Bharathanatyam is and what makes it so unique. There is a low level of complexity, however it contains many unusual, foreign words that may confuse a non-Bharathanatyam dancer. This source is reliable as it is a published book which means many people had to proof read the book beforehand. It also contains unbiased opinions and was written by a knowledgeable author.

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