Liturgical Dance

Liturgical dance is being increasingly re-introduced into services of Christian worship. Behind the choreography is the belief that the dance must be a heartfelt expression of faith and prayer. It is a physical expression of worship.Young people especially need to see a connection between body, movement and spirit. The aim is not to dazzle audiences but to deepen their religious experience,to make dance a prayer. However, the dance must not become such a personal expression that it means nothing in particular to the rest of the congregation.

Liturgical dance can include Folk dance, modern dance, jazz, interpretive dance, spontaneous dance, and circle dance to name a few. There are many starting points for the choreography . For example a song which has “danceability” and allows the word to be interpreted as movement. The dancers could also move to the music and see what emerges. Facial expression is also important. Sign language can be used as a basis to create dance moves. Some Christian church groups have been inspired to create dance by the exercises of St.Ignatius Loyola.

The dance can express many aspects of worship. Praise where the dancers are offering thanksgiving. Worship when intimacy between the performers would be expressed through reverent, yielding movements.There are celebratory dances and those expressing the fight against evil which would be forceful, bold and full of confidence. Expressing travail and trouble would suggest movements conveying reaching out to God for help, guidance, direction and relief.

Simplicity and humility are characteristics which are emphasized. Liturgical choreographers have to carefully integrate their choreography into rites that have been established for generations. All works have to be created with the peculiarities of each sanctuary’s architecture. Sometimes obstacles such as stairs have to be taken into account. Sometimes the altar is in the middle of the dancing space and must be worked into the choreography.

Dance might accompany the entrance of the clergy and choir into the church, might replace the sermon, serve as a meditation or accompany an ancient prayer.

Christian women’s groups are at the forefront of introducing liturgical dance. Interpreting scripture through movement can in fact be done by anyone, anywhere. Neither physical ability or experience with dance are required. Dancers need to work together for a significant period of time before dancing in the actual service. This develops rapport between dancers in both faith and movement. If there are great differences in technical ability then the choreography must be levelled at the least experienced to preserve integrity of movement and its meaning.

Some groups only dance for their own congregations while others tour to other places of worship.There are congregations who are involving the youth in dance, fitness and nutrition education. Christian based dance schools impart character development, self-discipline, self-control and self-esteem. The students are taught in a positive atmosphere with strong dance technique. Some dance ensembles have women’s groups, young adults and children’s groups.

Many videos, articles and books exist with instructional material for liturgical dance.

What liturgical dancers wear is not a costume. It is a garment of praise, symbolic and meaningful in design, colors and fabrics .Modesty is the key. There is much advice on the type of undergarments, the depth of necklines and the appropriate length of dresses and skirts.

The International Christian Dance Fellowship is an ecumenical fellowship that links individuals and organizations involved in dance and movement ministries around the world.


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