Movement and Dance

Here is a Purgatorial take on an issue that has come up in Hell.

Hugal , clearly a skilled exponent of the terpsichorian muse, advocates a 'block' format of worship songs and hymns as it better facilitates dance.

Is this the case? Ethiopian Orthodox appear to incorporate forms of corporate dance into their worship without adopting a contemporary format. Orthodox Jews do a lot of bobbing and moving and no-one can accuse them of being 'contemporary' in their worship expression.

We are not disembodied spirits. Physical actions feature in all religious traditions. Catholics cross themselves and genuflect. Orthodox cross themselves, make prostrations, light candles and kiss icons.

Charismatics and Pentecostals clap and dance. Some fall over.

Calvinists stand or sit upright.

Anglicans sit at the back row of the pews ...

Dervishes whirl.

What role can and should dance play in worship? So-called 'liturgical dance' seems less common these days, as Baptist Trainfan observes in Hell.

What forms can it take? Is it done for the benefit of the dancer themselves or for the congregation?

I'd be interested in examples from Hugal and others who have a handle on these things.
«1

Comments

  • My kids dance (ballet), and I admire (good) ballet dancing, although I'm not sure I always understand it. As a form of communication, dance is awful! It's very slow, and prone to misinterpretation.

    So I'm amused by people on the one hand opposing Latin anthems because the congregation doesn't understand them, but on the other hand promoting liturgical dance, which is frankly incomprehensible. I know what the liturgy is doing, and I still have no idea what the liturgical dancers are trying to say.

    People swaying, clapping, and raising their hands in praise is understandable. You know what they're doing. Genuflections and prostrations are understandable.

    I'm entirely certain that individual dancers can pray in dance - 'cause it doesn't really matter how badly you communicate to me, because you're not praying to me. God knows what you mean - however badly you express it. But I am deeply skeptical that it is of general use.
  • I'm entirely certain that individual dancers can pray in dance - 'cause it doesn't really matter how badly you communicate to me, because you're not praying to me. God knows what you mean - however badly you express it. But I am deeply skeptical that it is of general use.

    Perhaps (slightly mischievously) you could say that it was like speaking in tongues... edifying for the dancer, but not for the observer... and so perhaps, as St. Paul says, inappropriate for public worship unless "an interpretation is provided"?

  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited July 25
    Someone's bound to produce an utterly vile (preachy, boring, ridiculous) paper and hand it out at the door. It's what they do with other forms of liturgical art.

    And then there you'll be, struggling to keep a straight face, while they inform you that the pelvic thrust series has to do with the unimaginable fertility of God.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    We have been known to dance once in a long while at our church. I think the last time we danced was to a hymn that had a waltz as its tune. So we got up and danced. Some of our processions have been dances. This is a statement regarding the use of dance in the ELCA

    Dance
    In the book of Exodus, we read of the prophet Miriam who, at the defeat of
    Pharaoh’s army, takes a tambourine in her hand. Then “all the women went out after
    her with tambourines and with dancing” (Exodus 15:20) In moments of great joy, we
    dance. Yet for Lutherans in North America, dance may be the least prevalent
    movement in worship.
    In North American culture, dance is often equated with performance. We go to see
    others dance, but we don’t do it ourselves. This is not always the case, however.
    Dancing and parties go hand in hand. We dance at weddings; some go to dancing
    events regularly.
    Some cultures- such as many traditional cultures in Africa- could not imagine music
    without dancing; Therefore any worship that included music would necessarily
    include dancing.1
    Some congregations have begun to experience dancing through liturgical dance.
    Such dance serves the action of worship and is usually performed by trained dancers.
    The dance may accompany an action such as a procession or it may interpret a
    scripture reading. It may accompany prayer. Other assemblies have begun
    experimenting with dance that is more communal.
  • My kids dance (ballet), and I admire (good) ballet dancing, although I'm not sure I always understand it. As a form of communication, dance is awful! It's very slow, and prone to misinterpretation.
    Yes, indeed - I find that it's a sort of "code" which is understood by those in the know. I have learned a bit over the years - and I do know that there is some dance which speaks to me and moves me more than others. I have to say that my most profound spiritual experience one Easter (which isn't saying much) didn't take place in church but in Sadler's Wells Theatre, watching "The Protecting Veil".
    People swaying, clapping, and raising their hands in praise is understandable.
    Indeed so; but it's also a contextualised and learned set of actions. For instance, where does this raising of one hand in worship, often with closed eyes, come from?

  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    Dervishes do one hand up to signify contact with God.
  • Interesting.

    I once knew some people who formed a Christian mime troupe which used to perform in church and sometimes at secular events - to good reviews and reception it has to be said.

    It didn't do an awful lot for me but I admired their skill and commitment and could understand what they were trying to do.

    Ballet has it's own 'language' that we have to tune into - but then so do many other art forms.

    There is a way to 'read' a Japanese flower arrangement for instance, in a kind of Zen way.

    Context is everything.

    I 'got' the work of some of the US abstract expressionist painters when I saw them in New York's Museum of Modern Art rather more than I had done seeing them in reproductions. With the Manhattan skyline visible through the windows it seemed to make more sense.

    The same applies to various forms of worship, I think. Back in the day I always felt that some of the songs emanating from the UK's restorationist movement made more sense at their own Bible Weeks and fellowships than they did when sung in a Baptist or Anglican setting.

    That's an aside.

    I can't say I've ever 'got' liturgical dance. I do like the story of the charismatic Catholic priest who nervously sat alongside his Bishop as a troupe of lithe dancers in swirly frocks danced the Bible up to the podium for a Gospel reading.

    The Bishop hissed in his ear, 'The next time they'll be carrying your head - on a platter!'
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited July 26
    Some years ago Viz did one of their photo stories (mocking the format that used to be common in teenage magazines) about a lad who tried to communicate entirely "through the medium of darnce" (sic. - they were also mocking Southern pronunciation of the word). He ends up with his girlfriend killed by a car because she doesn't interpret his attempt to warn her about it by communicating the warning "through the medium of darnce".

    It does pretty much sum up exactly how much meaning I get out of watching dance. None whatsoever. It's people moving. I mean, expressions can count for a lot, but that's hardly unique to dance. It's a bit like opera is to me - the means of expression actually gets in the way of the communication.

    I suppose that's just me.
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    My kids dance (ballet), and I admire (good) ballet dancing, although I'm not sure I always understand it. As a form of communication, dance is awful! It's very slow, and prone to misinterpretation.
    Yes, indeed - I find that it's a sort of "code" which is understood by those in the know. I have learned a bit over the years - and I do know that there is some dance which speaks to me and moves me more than others. I have to say that my most profound spiritual experience one Easter (which isn't saying much) didn't take place in church but in Sadler's Wells Theatre, watching "The Protecting Veil".
    People swaying, clapping, and raising their hands in praise is understandable.
    Indeed so; but it's also a contextualised and learned set of actions. For instance, where does this raising of one hand in worship, often with closed eyes, come from?

    Raising one hand developed before the use of screens. The other hand was holding the book of words.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    We had it once at a Yoof Mass at our place.
    Once was enough.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    edited July 26
    Someone's bound to produce an utterly vile (preachy, boring, ridiculous) paper and hand it out at the door. It's what they do with other forms of liturgical art.

    And then there you'll be, struggling to keep a straight face, while they inform you that the pelvic thrust series has to do with the unimaginable fertility of God.

    And yes, I've seen that end of it. Though equally, as has been said upthread, a lot of art forms have their own vocabulary and modes of expression. Why would we assume that liturgical dance is any different in that sense.

    To play devil's advocate here; most people in this thread would be up in arms if it was suggested that we should rank the arts in value based on their wide appeal (or conversely rank the value of instruments based on the ratio of people who played them badly to those who played them well).
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 26
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Raising one hand developed before the use of screens. The other hand was holding the book of words.
    Yes, but back in the 70s - pre-screens - people raised both hands.

  • They did at concerts too - lots of lighters being waved at Supertramp.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    It seems to me though that performance dance, including ballet, competition ballroom, Indian dance, etc, is at the most detached and least participatory end of the arts. Music and cinema are immersive. Books and painting or sculpture give the reader or viewer the ability to control how they engage, to repeat as wanted. But performance dance is very much someone else doing stuff that the audience aren't doing in a particular location with the audience not in the way.
    It's therefore not really suited for worship: the relationship between audience and artist is too detached.
  • Although not a dance afficionado like my wife, I must disagree. Performance dance - especially in a theatre context - can be totally immersive; possibly less so in worship unless the dancers move among the congregation. Conversely the Great English Choral Tradition can seem very detached, even in a cathedral, especially in places where the congregation is separated from the choir by a screen.
  • It's a funny thing, but screens don't bother me any more - perhaps because I'm now Orthodox. It adds something to the sense of Mystery.

    I have to say though, that on a practical level it can muffle the sound of the priest's prayers at some points in the service. Some I know compensate for that by bellowing them out. There is a happy medium.

    One of my fondest memories of those all too rare occasions when I've visited a cathedral service is of the female choir - an unusual occurrence - of sweet and cherubic school girl choristers - processing out towards the rear of the cathedral (sorry, I've forgotten the technical term) with the recessional anthem fading gradually into the distance. Lovely.

    As an aside, I think there's room for all these things - small group study and worship, great cathedral choirs, wheezy old organs in village churches and chapels ...

    Coming back to the medium of darnce, yes, I can see where KarlLB is coming from and there is a logic to it - as there is indeed with his musical taste and much else besides. I may not share it entirely but can completely understand where he is at with all this.

    I've only seen two live ballet performances and I did find them impressive, even though I probably lacked the 'vocubulary' to make sense of all the movements and gestures.

    I'm not a huge opera fan either but have enjoyed it when I've seen it done live.

    On gesture and movement in general, I was very struck on a visit to Germany by seeing a performance by a troupe of Russian clowns in which nothing was said and all was conveyed by visual cues and playing with expectations. It was hard to describe, it was like slapstick elevated to a Fine Art.

    The buzz and astonishment it created in the crowd of quite staid German burghers was something to experience. As people walked home through the streets they were all animatedly discussing what they'd just seen. Terrific.

    I've always been quite arty but found sculpture difficult to engage with until I - well, until I engaged with it. I imagine the same would apply to opera and dance.

    I can't see myself ever putting 'darnce' up there alongside literature, music and the visual arts in my personal canon, but can certainly see that it's 'got' something.

    I can see it having a role in worship too, but at the moment, other than the kind of bopping around you get in charismatic services and the more sedate and co-ordinated stepping back and forth that you get among the Ethiopians, I'm nto sure what that role is.

  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    I suppose the kind of dancing referred to in the Old Testament was a sort of ritualised movement thing. Common to a shared religious culture across the board. Michal was, perhaps, embarrassed that David, as a king, should have taken such a lowly part in the spectacle. Possibly he did look ridiculous. Though I'm glad, in the context given, that he did it. Today's worship experience is so varied, however. We don't really have a common shared 'look' for dance across the Christian faith.

    I've seen the floaty chiffon look, or the waistcoat and bowler hat look. More successfully, arguably, were times when one person would make various kinds of representational gestures in an artistic way timed with worship music or scripture reading. But gestures may not be understood by everyone in the same way. Or they may not have a consistency of message, such as you might get in music. Maybe as worshippers we tend not to appreciate ambivalence when something 'unusual' or novel is happening at the front of church.

    One of the things apparently that people like about watching professional dancers is the uniformity, the coherence of the performance. In the ballet all the dancers are more or less the same body-shape, eg, nothing to take one's eye away from the dance itself, as a whole. Maybe we're automatically less comfortable when less accomplished amateurs with less classically structured physiques do things with their bodies that we ourselves would find uncomfortable. Our eye is drawn to imperfections which distract from the performance; and perhaps in worship this seems particularly inappropriate. Rather like, bum notes from the choir might jar on the ear, however sincere the intention behind them.

    Maybe letting the local liturgical dance group do their stuff is a challenge to some of us because we're not really sure what our role as fellow worshippers is. Is it to be moved or inspired - in which case, are we allowed to be annoyed or at least apathetic, if we're not? Is it to 'offer it up' regardless in a kind of 'bless them, they're trying' kind of way? After all we should be encouraging one another etc. Is God okay with that (and why not, you might ask)? People get annoyed at things that embarrass them, or present them with the problem of not knowing how to respond. How far should the aesthetic affect our appreciation of worship dance? Some church dance groups incorporate people with learning and physical disabilities, precisely because there are freedoms in movement they do have, which in other aspects of formal worship they can't share.

  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 26
    One of my fondest memories of those all too rare occasions when I've visited a cathedral service is of the female choir - an unusual occurrence - of sweet and cherubic school girl choristers - processing out towards the rear of the cathedral (sorry, I've forgotten the technical term) with the recessional anthem fading gradually into the distance. Lovely.
    Good thing you didn't hear the most uncherubic-like cat-fight in the choir vestry, then ...
    I've only seen two live ballet performances and I did find them impressive, even though I probably lacked the 'vocabulary' to make sense of all the movements and gestures.
    Yes, that is an issue. I tend to prefer 'contemporary' dance - there's a lot which is a bit naff but some choreographers have an amazing gift for communication.

    Good opera can be amazing!

  • I don't really have a horse in this race. I've only ever been to one service which included dance (of the slow, floaty, chiffon variety), and although AFAICS it was performed well, I couldn't see the point or purpose.

    However, those who appreciate this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they appreciate.

    That's not to say I don't like dance - Mrs BF and I used to shake a mean shoe at local folk clubs and ceilidhs, and were sometimes chosen by the caller to demonstrate. O! Our *Stripping The Willow* was something wondrous to behold...
    :mrgreen:
  • O! Our *Stripping The Willow* was something wondrous to behold...
    I have a sneaky feeling that that is A Bit Too Much Information ... blame my perverse mind!

  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    I recall a St Trinian's film here.
  • O! Our *Stripping The Willow* was something wondrous to behold...
    I have a sneaky feeling that that is A Bit Too Much Information ... blame my perverse mind!
    Penny S wrote: »
    I recall a St Trinian's film here.

    Oi!

    TIACW!
  • Ooh, Matron!

    Meanwhile - yes, cat fights can take place between cathedral choristers just as chapel deacons can behave like mini-Mussolinis or Baptist 'church meetings' descend into inconsequentiality and farce - as well as wafting heavenwards in the closest thing Baptists have to a sacrament.

    All these things have the capacity to be transcendent or catastrophic.

    Another Orthodox saying: 'You can find both Heaven and Hell on Mount Athos.'
  • Baptist 'church meetings' descend into inconsequentiality and farce - as well as wafting heavenwards in the closest thing Baptists have to a sacrament.
    In your dreams ...

  • Ha ha ha! Which way round? Inconsequentiality and farce or transcendence?

    On a serious note, after 18 years in a restorationist setting the much maligned Baptist 'church meeting' came as a godsend.

    I would still regard it as part of a much needed and very welcome 'healing process' at that time.

    'Look, these people have a say ... they have a voice...'
  • Yes, of course. But - as you will be well aware - they can become the setting for power-struggles, the strident voicing of opinion, ecclesiastical politics, and downright rudeness (not to mention Walking Out in a Huff).

    When people are truly attuned to humbly seeking the mind of Christ together - well, that's a different thing.

    BTW one couple from a rather Vicar-dominated Anglican church came to my last place, and were amazed and pleased that a proposal I made (it was only on a minor matter) could be soundly turned down.
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    I remember the disappointment from a lad in the Exclusive Brethren that the suggestion he made in the church meeting was roundly ignored. The issue was that the entrance to the site of the building was in a difficult position from the point of road safety. His suggestion was that they moved the entrance to a position which was safer. Knowing the site, I felt that his suggestion was probably a very good one, and if the problem was as stated, possibly the one the mind of Christ would have backed.
    However, the site was one with value for development, and the sense of the meeting was to sell it and buy somewhere else and build a new meeting house (with no windows, as was traditional), so that is what they did. The lad was very put out, so much so that he felt he needed to spill it out to me, and I wonder if he is still in the fold.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Although not a dance afficionado like my wife, I must disagree. Performance dance - especially in a theatre context - can be totally immersive; possibly less so in worship unless the dancers move among the congregation. Conversely the Great English Choral Tradition can seem very detached, even in a cathedral, especially in places where the congregation is separated from the choir by a screen.
    We may be using the words immersive and detached in different ways.
    I would say music, however distant or invisible the performers, is immersive in that it is part of the environment: you can't get away from it without covering your ears (or turning off hearing aids). It feels like it's happening in one's head, so if one's actively listening it feels as if one's accompanying and taking part.
    Dance and theatre are different. Even when one can feel that the entire audience is focused on what's happening on the stage, one's still focused on what the performers are doing as distinct from oneself.
    It may be to do with the difference between eye and ear.
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    I was wondering if some kind of collective liturgical dance, on a very limited and straightforward basis, might help bridge the gap. There will be those who will run a thousand miles - such as @Bishops Finger and @KarlLB , as there are with all sorts of such things, but it seems to me to make it properly liturgical, in exposing the people whose work it is expressing to the process of that work itself. There are the same issues as with music of course, but ato my mind one participatory session could lead to a lot more offerings by small groups - it's the ability to introject the movement and understand what it feels like and means which, to my mind, helps to increase the of engagement.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I enjoy watching dance performances outside of a church context but I think I would find it distracting in a service. Personally I like my entertainment arts and my liturgical arts to be very different and separate, but that's just my personal stance. I also find that the pauses and still moments in liturgy to be the most pregnant with meaning.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    I was wondering if some kind of collective liturgical dance, on a very limited and straightforward basis, might help bridge the gap. There will be those who will run a thousand miles - such as @Bishops Finger and @KarlLB , as there are with all sorts of such things, but it seems to me to make it properly liturgical, in exposing the people whose work it is expressing to the process of that work itself. There are the same issues as with music of course, but ato my mind one participatory session could lead to a lot more offerings by small groups - it's the ability to introject the movement and understand what it feels like and means which, to my mind, helps to increase the of engagement.

    Is God employing you to design Hell?
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    I was wondering if some kind of collective liturgical dance, on a very limited and straightforward basis, might help bridge the gap. There will be those who will run a thousand miles - such as @Bishops Finger and @KarlLB , as there are with all sorts of such things, but it seems to me to make it properly liturgical, in exposing the people whose work it is expressing to the process of that work itself. There are the same issues as with music of course, but ato my mind one participatory session could lead to a lot more offerings by small groups - it's the ability to introject the movement and understand what it feels like and means which, to my mind, helps to increase the of engagement.

    Is God employing you to design Hell?

    No - the fees are coming from another source entirely.....*twirls moustache and sighs "if only"*
  • Anselmina wrote: »
    Our eye is drawn to imperfections which distract from the performance; and perhaps in worship this seems particularly inappropriate.
    [..]
    bum notes
    [..]

    You did that on purpose, didn't you? ;)

  • PoppyPoppy Shipmate Posts: 28
    There is a huge difference between performative and participatory dance in worship. If you are up the front then you need to be good and you need to make it short as most people don’t get the language. I’ve seen it done really well. I’ve also seen it done very badly. Anything up the front in church during the liturgy needs to aid worship and most untrained dancers wafting around don’t. Sorry.

    I have led workshops on dance and movement as prayer. That is something completely different to liturgical dance. The movement is there in the service of prayer. It’s a tool and not the end product. A gesture might express something that words can’t. A short and repeated set of steps , with or without gesture, might be a pathway into stillness. The important thing is that you do it and reflect on the doing. It is really hard to video this sort of dance and mostly I don’t try as it is people participating in prayer and not performing.

    It can be done. I’m spending a sabbatical next year thinking about how dance in prayer and worship might be described and shared more widely.

    Poppy; priest, spiritual director and dancer.
  • Poppy wrote: »
    It can be done. I’m spending a sabbatical next year thinking about how dance in prayer and worship might be described and shared more widely.

    Poppy; priest, spiritual director and dancer.

    Thanks, Poppy.

    I suppose I'm thinking of dance-as-prayer as something a bit like labyrinth walking: something that could work for the individual, but not as a congregational effort. So I'm interested to hear the conclusions you reach.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    That sounds a bit like Stations of the Cross - it's a while since I've participated, but I remember a regular cycle of physical movements (walk to next station, genuflect, kneel) interleaved with the cycle of prayer and meditation.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Someone's bound to produce an utterly vile (preachy, boring, ridiculous) paper and hand it out at the door. It's what they do with other forms of liturgical art.

    And then there you'll be, struggling to keep a straight face, while they inform you that the pelvic thrust series has to do with the unimaginable fertility of God.

    LOL! Do Jews shekhinah-ing it all about say that?
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    So much to talk about here. Firstly liturgical dance is a specific form of worship dance. It expresses things in a liturgical form. It is quite literal.
    Let’s talk performance. As indicated a good performance serves the art (song, dance etc). A good performer points to the piece not themselves. I have to get back to work now.
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    Perhaps this is a matter of (to quote the Hymn of Jesus) 'Ye who dance not know not what we know'?
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Eirenist wrote: »
    Perhaps this is a matter of (to quote the Hymn of Jesus) 'Ye who dance not know not what we know'?

    Yeah, probably. It's a complete mystery to me.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Eirenist wrote: »
    Perhaps this is a matter of (to quote the Hymn of Jesus) 'Ye who dance not know not what we know'?

    Yeah, probably. It's a complete mystery to me.

    To me, too, I'm afraid - but I was interested to read the post by @Poppy regarding movement, steps etc., as prayer. I can sort of see the point of that, even though it probably wouldn't mean much to me.

    That's not important, of course, if (like liturgical dance) it's meaningful and spiritually helpful to others. As with hymns/worship songs, one size doesn't fit all!

  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    So much to talk about here. Firstly liturgical dance is a specific form of worship dance. It expresses things in a liturgical form. It is quite literal.

    Does that depend a bit on the tradition?

    The church where I grew up occasionally had liturgical dances. AIUI they were quite symbolic, in the sense that a wave of the flag could correspond to a specific concept, e.g. the flame of the Holy Spirit. In musical terms, this would be like The Four Seasons, where the scratchy bits on the violins represent the rain, and so forth.

    OTOH, I have attended an Ethiopian Orthodox service with liturgical dance. To me the Ethiopian dance seemed more formal than symbolic. Musically, it would be more something like Vaughan Williams' fourth symphony - IIRC he was asked what it was about and he replied 'It's about the key of F minor'. Which isn't to say it's random noise or random movement but it isn't necessarily noise or movement that maps directly onto concepts.
  • One of the points about dervish whirling, is that one abandons the ego, as the whirling proceeds. The Sufis lift the right arm upwards, and point the left to the ground, thus allowing a flow of energy between heaven and earth. It can make you dizzy! But you can see connections between this and other religious rituals, in that eventually a force greater than oneself is dancing, or singing, or whatever. It seems to be at the core of "going beyond", or what Asian religion calls non-dualism, or "thou art that".
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Hugal wrote: »
    So much to talk about here. Firstly liturgical dance is a specific form of worship dance. It expresses things in a liturgical form. It is quite literal.

    Does that depend a bit on the tradition?

    The church where I grew up occasionally had liturgical dances. AIUI they were quite symbolic, in the sense that a wave of the flag could correspond to a specific concept, e.g. the flame of the Holy Spirit. In musical terms, this would be like The Four Seasons, where the scratchy bits on the violins represent the rain, and so forth.

    OTOH, I have attended an Ethiopian Orthodox service with liturgical dance. To me the Ethiopian dance seemed more formal than symbolic. Musically, it would be more something like Vaughan Williams' fourth symphony - IIRC he was asked what it was about and he replied 'It's about the key of F minor'. Which isn't to say it's random noise or random movement but it isn't necessarily noise or movement that maps directly onto concepts.

    My definition is the correct one. In the same way we tend to use jealousy to mean envy, popular use of the word can differ from the true definition.
    There is also free dance in which what is expressed comes from your heart. It may not make obvious sense but it is an expression. I have heard musicians improvise a melody in the same way.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    Poppy wrote: »
    There is a huge difference between performative and participatory dance in worship. If you are up the front then you need to be good and you need to make it short as most people don’t get the language. I’ve seen it done really well. I’ve also seen it done very badly. Anything up the front in church during the liturgy needs to aid worship and most untrained dancers wafting around don’t. Sorry.

    I have led workshops on dance and movement as prayer. That is something completely different to liturgical dance. The movement is there in the service of prayer. It’s a tool and not the end product. A gesture might express something that words can’t. A short and repeated set of steps , with or without gesture, might be a pathway into stillness. The important thing is that you do it and reflect on the doing. It is really hard to video this sort of dance and mostly I don’t try as it is people participating in prayer and not performing.

    It can be done. I’m spending a sabbatical next year thinking about how dance in prayer and worship might be described and shared more widely.

    Poppy; priest, spiritual director and dancer.

    I think this is an important post. As inimical as dance may seem to many people in the context of worship, I think there's definitely a place for body movement in a liturgical setting, including dance. It's just so difficult to tie down because, rather like musical expression, it's so varied and received in such varied ways. Not quite the same thing perhaps, but back in the late 80's I recall a Christian mime artist doing the rounds - and it really was a prayer and a blessing how he enacted story and gospel. I can't remember his name. He was an associate ministry of British Youth for Christ, that is freelance, but also working with BYFC at times.
  • Anselmina wrote: »
    Poppy wrote: »
    There is a huge difference between performative and participatory dance in worship. If you are up the front then you need to be good and you need to make it short as most people don’t get the language. I’ve seen it done really well. I’ve also seen it done very badly. Anything up the front in church during the liturgy needs to aid worship and most untrained dancers wafting around don’t. Sorry.

    I have led workshops on dance and movement as prayer. That is something completely different to liturgical dance. The movement is there in the service of prayer. It’s a tool and not the end product. A gesture might express something that words can’t. A short and repeated set of steps , with or without gesture, might be a pathway into stillness. The important thing is that you do it and reflect on the doing. It is really hard to video this sort of dance and mostly I don’t try as it is people participating in prayer and not performing.

    It can be done. I’m spending a sabbatical next year thinking about how dance in prayer and worship might be described and shared more widely.

    Poppy; priest, spiritual director and dancer.

    I think this is an important post. As inimical as dance may seem to many people in the context of worship, I think there's definitely a place for body movement in a liturgical setting, including dance. It's just so difficult to tie down because, rather like musical expression, it's so varied and received in such varied ways. Not quite the same thing perhaps, but back in the late 80's I recall a Christian mime artist doing the rounds - and it really was a prayer and a blessing how he enacted story and gospel. I can't remember his name. He was an associate ministry of British Youth for Christ, that is freelance, but also working with BYFC at times.

    What @Anselmina said, and I hope @Poppy will contribute further to this thread, and in such a thoughtful and non-dogmatic way.

    BTW, @Hugal is right about musical improvisations - a great feature of the Lutheran/Reformed traditions when it comes to hymns and psalms.
  • PoppyPoppy Shipmate Posts: 28
    I suppose there are two things that interest me in dance in church. One is bringing the body into prayer. How does standing, sitting, kneeling, raising the hands, holding hands over the heart being aid prayer? Can a gesture say something or bring something that words cannot? Holding the hands as if cupping water and visualising the things you want to let go of and then turning your hands over to symbolise letting it go, putting it at the foot of the cross or handing it over can be helpful. The physical action mirrors and gives form to the prayer’s intent.

    The other thing that interests me is moving into stillness. Dance is repeated phrases of movement. In the same way that one might use the Jesus Prayer to bring stillness then repeated steps can do the same. In dance you are listening hard to the music, to your memory of the steps, to your neighbour as most of these dances are danced in community, to your body (opps careful of that shoulder injury) and so slipping into listening for the divine is not a huge next step.

    For me gesture and dance are tools in prayer. It isn’t for everyone but it can be helpful for some.

  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    I know I may get roasted for this, but as hinted at up thread, dance can speak when words can’t. Why does worship dance have to be interpretive? Liturgical in other words (that is why I don’t use liturgical dance to mean worship dance). There a a lot of God that cannot be defined. It passes our understanding (to paraphrase a little). If we just let go of that idea we can meet God in a way that is not understandable to our logical brains.
    OK let’s talk about being distracted. I agree that those up front should have some skill. But we don’t expect our singers to sing at Royal Opera level why should we expect our dancers to dance at Royal Ballet level?
    I always say dance at the back then you are out of the way of people, and accidents can be avoided. In my experience people only find it distracting for a short while. After a time they turn and watch. The begin to see God in the movement.
    I will admit I really dislike the way in the past the more Evo end has looked down on creative arts, God is creative for goodness sake. That has changed a lot.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    I know I may get roasted for this, but as hinted at up thread, dance can speak when words can’t.

    I won't argue with that at all. And as I said upthread, I can understand how individual dancers can pray in dance. The thing I'm struggling to understand is how congregations can pray in dance. Because dance is so bad at communicating to humans, how can I think I'm doing the same thing as the person next to me, even if we're making the same movements?
  • No, I wouldn't roast you for saying that, Hugal. Far from it.

    If the Spirit helps us in our weakness with 'groans too deep for words' then why not through movement and gesture too?

    It's not something I am 'against' in principle. Although coming at these things from different directions, I think there ard more parallels between some of the more choreographed sacramental traditions and charismatic evangelicals than might be supposed when it comes to the use of physical actions.

    I do take on board the distinctions you make between liturgical dance, though and what you describe as 'freer' or more improvised movement.

    And yes, the more evo end of things did look down on the creative arts for far too long. My brother is an accomplished artist and he had a hard time of it in evangelical settings back in the day.
Sign In or Register to comment.