Dancing with G-d

22 07 2009

I was a teenager the first time I saw someone dance in worship. She was a kindergarten teacher, a former nun and I was mesmerized. I knew in that moment that I wanted to dance before G-d!

Nancy taught me her choreography for The Lord’s Prayer and after that I was on my own. I hadn’t taken a dance class since I was six, but I had been enacting, interpreting lyrics and music in my living room at home ever since I could reach the record player (ask your parents or grandparents to explain what that was). I began creating choreography for songs I like to sing at church. Then others began asking me to teach them. How does one teach what you haven’t studied? This was one of my early lessons in trusting my instincts and celebrating spiritual gifts.

I now teach sacred dance classes. The next one will be July, 2009 at the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Synod School.

Ten years ago, I began realizing that even after explaining the biblical history of dance as worship and my experience of dance as prayer, folks sitting in pews still understood it primarily as performace (this is true of other art forms in worship, e.g. music). So, I began using liturgy that incorporated movement, simple movements, as part of the congregation’s prayer life rather than using only solo or troupe work. As a community of faith, I think this choice has helped us understand ourselves – body, mind and spirit – and G-d as incarnate, enfleshed. As we reclaim our bodies as hands and feet of Jesus in the world able to move, touch, dance, we discover our bodies redeemed for sacred purpose.

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2 responses

30 03 2010
Beloved Spear

I’d be interested in hearing more. The idea of liturgical dance as “performance” has always bugged me, and I’ve yearned for something more participatory and open to the fullness of community worship. My dream is of a worship that resembles Shaker dance, but using postrock as the musical underpinning. Not sure I can get that one past my session, though. 😉

8 04 2010
godpots

Worship as performance is a challenge. I prefer worship as integrated, participatory experience in which folks are invited to open themselves to the movement of the Spirit. The soaring solo can be poignant, beautiful, meaningful — but I want to sing, too! Dance is no different.

There are two thoughts that might be helpful.
1 – Everyone has their own learning style. Dance is not for everyone. Just like not everyone sings or stays awake, but maybe listening and resting blesses them. If there are a variety of ways people can engage, they will usually tolerate someone else’s style.
2 – I’ve found that anytime I introduce something new, a little bit goes a long way. It goes much longer if it happens in the fellowship hall, with kids leading or during the offering. For a congregation unfamiliar with moving their bodies as part of worship (other than sitting and standing), something as simple as praying with their hands open than than folded can be liberating.

Thanks for reading and writing!

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