Praise Dance

Posted by Censor Librorum on Mar 5, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

Excerpts the article, “Moved by the Spirit to Dance With the Lord,” by Julie Bloom.

“We thank you, God, that you created the dance and you made it pure. Father, we want to dance your words through our limbs.” Wendy Heagy’s voice rises as she leads the circle in prayer. She is the founder of Raise Him Up Praise Dance School and Ministry, and she is about to start her Saturday class.

“We thank you for our physical bodies, for lining up every muscle and every joint,” Ms. Heagy continues, “We don’t want to just be dancers. We want to be ministers of you, Lord God.”

The class, mostly African-Americans ranging in age from early 20s through mid-60s and clad in warm-up clothes, several with scripture written on the backs of their T-shirts, answers loudly, “Amen.”

Praise dance is a form of worship that seeks to articulate the world and spirit of God through the body. Though it is far from a new phenomenon–in biblical times, dancing was embraced during celebrations and worship–it was forced out of the Christian church during the Reformation, and has been fully welcomed back only in the past 20 years.

Doug Adams, a professor of Christianity and the arts at the Pacific School of Religion, an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA., cited several reasons for the popularity of praise dance, including a general increase in spirituality among Americans; the rise of women in leadership roles in the church; and on a practical level, dance’s visual appeal. “Most people were raised on television, and churches that are flourishing have a lot for the eye,” said Professor Adams, who has edited several books on the subject of dance and church. “Most churches now greet you with a video screen, and dance is a visual art.”

One dancer explained, “Although the songs are saying the words, when you see it in our bodies it elevates the message. We’re able to look into people’s faces and feel what they’re feeling. We’re going through the same thing.”

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