CriticalDance Forum

Religious Content In Dance
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Author:  ZmUdA77 [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 1:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Religious Content In Dance

When a piece of work takes on Christian religious content why does it automatically fall into the catagory of Liturgical dance. Liturgy is defined as a prescribed form or set of forms for public religious worship. So is it the public's view that any Christian content in dance becomes just a form of public worship? Also why does Christian content only gain this classification? One does not often hear of a piece about Hinduism falling under the classification of Liturgical dance.

I would also like bring attention to this belief that ALL Christian churches are against any form of dance; dancing is the devils work. This is NOT true for all Christian churches. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been supportive of dance and the arts. From its begining with Joseph Smith encouraging the early saints to express their joy through dance to our current time where the LDS Church donates large sums of money to the arts. In addition to donating money, Brigham Young University, a University funded, orgainzed, and run by the LDS Church, has a large dance department where students are free to study many different forms of dance including ballet, jazz, modern, world dance, ballroom dance and others. So the next time you hear someone say all Christianity has denounced dance, politely correct them.

Author:  Alex R [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 3:51 pm ]
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I was always under the impression that it was only the Puritan division that thought dance was "evil", and even then I only thought that was during the 18th and 19th centuries.

As for whether all dance with a Chrisitan link is Liturgical, I think it depends on whether the purpose of the piece is to preach or just for awareness.

Author:  salzberg [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 4:01 pm ]
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Some fundamentalist Christian denominations prohibit dancing. I believe (and I trust someone will correct me if I'm wrong) the Baptists do so.

Alex's point is well-taken -- intent is the defining factor.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 4:06 pm ]
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Here's a link to an article about the Baptists and dance: ... tters.html

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 4:20 pm ]
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There still are many who firmly believe that by allowing young people to dance, you are encouraging them to go to the bars and joints where dances are held.

Hmmm. As far as I know, just about the only places "dances are held" these days are churchs, synagogues*, high schools, and fraternal lodges -- none of which is a place where you'd not want a child to go.

* Orthodox Jews allow -- even approve of -- dancing, but not across gender lines.

Author:  ZmUdA77 [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 6:28 pm ]
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Well, I'm glad to hear that not everyone thinks that Christianity and dancing don't mix. I guess I was just beginning to get frustrated with the opinions of my professors.

Author:  salzberg [ Sun Nov 13, 2005 6:29 pm ]
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What exactly did your professors say? Was this part of the course work, or just casual conversation?

Author:  ZmUdA77 [ Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:19 am ]
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I don't remember exact words, but the topic came up twice with one professor. On the first occasion we were in her office talking about the content of my thesis work. She basically said that it was well know that Christianity has rejected dance as an appropriate form of artistic expression. I told her of my positive experiences with dance and many different religions and how it was encouraged by the leaders. She said my experiences were not the norm and that most experience regection and dismissal.

The second occasion was in an undergraduate dance issues class. She just restated that all forms of Christian religions reject dance as an appropriate form of expression, because of their puritanical beliefs that the use of the body in such a manner is a sin.

Again I'm not able to remember the exact words, but these are the impressions that are left on me by her comments.

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:07 am ]
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It sounds to me like your teacher, being human, is bringing her own set of prejudices to the issue. It should be fairly easy to refute her -- I'm sure there's enough written material to support your case -- but you want to make sure that you don't win the battle and lose the war. Some profs hate being corrected.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Nov 14, 2005 5:03 am ]
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Two counter-examples:

1. Organ and Dance - Westminster Abbey, London

Three choreographers create work performed to Gillian Weir's superb organ recital: ... estminster

2. There is a US touring company, Ballet Magnificat which uses ballet to put over christian ideas and philosophy. We have some topics on this theme and will post links later.

Author:  salzberg [ Mon Nov 14, 2005 5:31 am ]
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Here are the existing threads on Ballet Magnificat.

Author:  Alex R [ Mon Nov 14, 2005 8:03 am ]
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an example here in the UK: Henri Oguike Dance Company has a piece called 'Seen of Angels' in their repertoire. it tells the story of Jesus, but is not liturgical whatsoever.

Author:  Redbookish [ Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:45 am ]
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ZmUdA77 wrote:
She basically said that it was well know that Christianity has rejected dance as an appropriate form of artistic expression.

*knock, knock* (Dancing) professor here - it sounds like your lecturer was talking about Christian responses to dance in the past ie historically. And there's a lot of evidence for that - as well as evidence to the contrary - there's no exclusive right or wrong here! You have to make your argument from the evidence you find - and I'd be cautious about relying only on your own experience - find other evidence as well.

There are also lingering (indeed, very present) threads of belief throughout most versions of Christian doctrine which view the body (the flesh) as innately sinful, although capable of being "saved" ... So the potential is there in Christian theology for both views - dance as part of worship, and dance as the "Devil's work."


Author:  citibob [ Thu Nov 17, 2005 8:31 pm ]
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This thread was beginning to make me uncomfortable, due to the amount of mis-information flying around, as well as comments that could be interpreted as religious evangelization.

Organized religion goes back for many thousands of years (Christianity for 2000), and has involved zillions of world views, social mores, etc. in different places over that timespan. There are very few blanket statements you can make about Christianity, other than (maybe) that it has something to do with Jesus Christ.

It would be helpful, therefore, to be specific in time and place when referring to what various Christian groups do and do not believe. You have to be VERY specific. For example, Baptists are a varied lot. Tony Campolo is a well-known (in some circles) Baptist speaker. When someone asked him "can Christians dance", his answer was "some can, some can't" :o

In general, I think it's best that we limit discussion to what we're personally familiar with, lest a flame war break out.

As for my experience: my Baptist church has nothing against dancing. My ballet company negotiated a 41-year lease with another Baptist church, and converted the sanctuary into the city's biggest dance studio.

My ballet company recently put on a dance with significant religious content. It would not have qualified as "liturgical dance" --- it was not made for worship or to be part of a church service, but rather as a theatrical event. So it is 100% "theater dance", and I don't think anyone questioned that. Also, the costumes were very skimpy, as part of an intentional effort to break the stereotype of Christianity being associated with bodily repression.

Author:  Katgrad [ Wed Nov 30, 2005 10:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Religious Content In Dance

ZmUdA77 wrote:
When a piece of work takes on Christian religious content why does it automatically fall into the catagory of Liturgical dance.

I wonder the same thing. My last year as a undergrad, I choreographed and produced a Christian dance concert, but it was all modern, and while the professors liked it, they still called it liturgical. When I think of liturgical, I think of people in big, flowy costumes doing interpretive dance, which can be beautiful, it's just not my thing.

As for churches, my Baptist church has just recently allowed me to dance. Other Baptist churches that I have belonged to, however, would never allow it. Just goes back to the autonomy of the church.

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