WELCA Spring Conference Assembly 2014
Pastor Becca Ehrlich
*
*
When is the last time you used your body to praise or
worship God?
Why are Mainline Protestants (Lutherans included) so
...
*
• Ancient Religious Dance
• Early Christian Dance
• Distrust of Dance and the Shakers saying
“nanananana!”
• Dance in th...
*
Using dance in worship of God is NOT NEW! It’s been used in
ancient communities, through to today.
Most religious dance ...
*
• Nothing like the highly-sexualized
version seen in restaurants and
cabarets today
• Was danced by women, only for
wome...
*
• Ancient Israelites danced in many instances (we will see some of
this in the Old Testament later in the talk)
• Both m...
*
• Not much known about this, although many
Greek plays and Greek art tell of dances done by
males and females at festiva...
*
Whirling Dervishes
*
• Many African tribes and communities have a rich history of
dancing in worship to gods
• The Yoruba people especially h...
*
• Female Bharata Natyam
dancers traditionally danced
in Hindu temples, they are
called devadasi, or “servant
of God”
• D...
*
Let’s learn some Bharata Natyam
mudras!
Mudra #1: Alapadma—
• A “fully bloomed Lotus”
• To show fruits such as Apple
• C...
*
Anjali---
• Means “offering”
• Also used in real life as
a greeting, with the
word “namaste” (“"I
bow to the divinity
wi...
*
Katakaamukha— “opening in a bracelet”
• Plucking or picking flowers
• Holding a necklace or a garland
• Pulling the bow ...
*
• Dance occurs in a community
context, rather than just for oneself
• People danced for their God(s) in
thanks and prais...
*
• Early Christians still considered themselves Jews, and so
they continued to use dance in praise and worship
• Israelit...
*
• Unfortunately, dance during worship started to be seen as
blasphemous, and fell into disuse.
• “The early Christian ch...
*
• Dance was associated with pagan rituals, many dealing with fertility
(i.e. Maypole)
• Dance was also associated with d...
*
• Group of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries
• Believed dancing was foolish, spurred on deviant sexual ...
*
• Group derived from English Christian Quakers
• Embraced the use of dance in worship because it fostered
cooperation an...
*
“If You Know That Jesus
Loves You”
*
• It’s no secret that in the Bible, there are many, many
instances where peopled danced when words failed them.
They wer...
*
Psalm 150
1Hallelujah! Praise God in the holy temple;
praise God in the mighty firmament.
2Praise God for mighty acts;
p...
*
• Praising God with instruments and dancing
• This psalm is one of the many Scriptures that
liturgical dancers point to ...
*
Dancing Psalm 150
*
14 David danced before the LORD with all his
might; David was girded with a linen ephod.
15 So David and all the house o...
*
• This is a portion of a larger story, where
the Israelites gain victory over the
Philistines and rejoice in a processio...
*
20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand;
and all the women went out after her with tam...
*
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time
to dance.”
• This is the section where each sentence s...
*
6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of
Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased
Herod 7 so much th...
*
• Although this seems like a
horrible light to put dance
in, it actually illustrated the
POWER dance and dancers
have.
•...
*
*
• Dance’s “sexual” aspects
• Christians tend to view anything having to do with the
body with fear/distrust, many times ...
*
• Tendency towards individualism
• Many times, dancers can become so involved in their
personal striving for a relations...
*
• Dance’s Inherent Awkwardness
• Since dance is not currently a mainstay in worship,
there is an awkwardness about it
• ...
*
• The Risk of Spectacle
• Some churches throw in things (props, videos, certain music,
dance) in order to keep people in...
*
• Integration of the Spiritual and the Physical
• As we said before, most worship services involved standing/sitting
and...
*
• Exposing People to a New Way to Worship
• As we said before, most people have little or no experience
with dance, espe...
*
• Integration of Sacred Music and Sacred Dance
• Music is a big part of our worship services, and using
dance with singi...
*
• Involvement of (Restless) Youth and Adults
• Many youth and young adults do not come to church because
it feels antiqu...
*
• The Building of Community
• Many congregation members and attenders don’t have
anything to do with other congregation ...
*
Dancing the Doxology
*
*
What are you trying to accomplish by using dance in worship?
• Some goals that we’ve learned today:
• Fostering a sense ...
*
• Since most people have no experience with dance at all,
incorporating dance into worship without first preparing the
c...
*
• Some things the liturgical dancers need to understand and
prepare for before dancing in worship:
• By dancing at a wor...
*
• Before using dance in liturgy, it must be established if only
the members of the congregation trained in dance will be...
*
• This is something most people don’t think about, but it’s
very important– how will the worship space be used during
th...
*
What body movements make you think of/feel closer to God?
*
*
Any questions or comments??
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Praising god in the dance

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A presentation on liturgical dance given by Pastor Becca Ehrlich for the Upstate NY Synod, Southwest Conference members of the Women of the ELCA

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Praising god in the dance

  1. 1. WELCA Spring Conference Assembly 2014 Pastor Becca Ehrlich *
  2. 2. * When is the last time you used your body to praise or worship God? Why are Mainline Protestants (Lutherans included) so “heady” in their spirituality and worship? Where is the connection between head/heart/body? Trip to Tanzania, Africa “Dancers are the athletes of God.” Albert Einstein
  3. 3. * • Ancient Religious Dance • Early Christian Dance • Distrust of Dance and the Shakers saying “nanananana!” • Dance in the Bible • Risks & Benefits of using Liturgical/Praise Dance • Things to Consider When Using Dance in Worship • *Dance Breaks all throughout the talk!!*
  4. 4. * Using dance in worship of God is NOT NEW! It’s been used in ancient communities, through to today. Most religious dance is community-based–- that is, done in community rather than alone. It’s important to look at different traditions to understand dance in the context of worship and spirituality. We will briefly look at five examples of ancient religious dance.
  5. 5. * • Nothing like the highly-sexualized version seen in restaurants and cabarets today • Was danced by women, only for women’s eyes • Danced around the woman when she was in labor & would undulate their bodies so the woman could imitate their motions and deliver the baby quickly and less painfully • Dancing to please God(s) for a safe delivery • After the delivery, dancers would continue to dance to thank God(s) for successful birth • Still done in North Africa and parts of the Middle East
  6. 6. * • Ancient Israelites danced in many instances (we will see some of this in the Old Testament later in the talk) • Both males and females danced in praise and thanks to God • The Hasidic Jews in Eastern Europe and America continue this tradition (think Fiddler on the Roof) • The Jewish dance tradition continues to present day, such as the Hora (Who wants to try???)
  7. 7. * • Not much known about this, although many Greek plays and Greek art tell of dances done by males and females at festivals for the gods Dionysus and Corybantes • Two remnants of Ancient Greek dance still done today– fire dancing and Melevi whirling dervishes • Fire dancing is done to celebrate St. Helena and the recovery of the True Cross • Whirling dervishes still spinning in Anatolia in the religious life of the local people
  8. 8. * Whirling Dervishes
  9. 9. * • Many African tribes and communities have a rich history of dancing in worship to gods • The Yoruba people especially have this tradition– they dance to praise and thank their deities, always in a community context, usually to drumming patterns that inform the dance • People of the community usually stand in a circle and dance, while some come into the center and dance as well • Sometimes they participate in possession dance • Dance is a huge part of the religious life of the community
  10. 10. * • Female Bharata Natyam dancers traditionally danced in Hindu temples, they are called devadasi, or “servant of God” • Dancers were symbolically married to the temple deity, were born into the class of dancers • This marriage to the deity took precedence over dancers’ abilities • Indian dancers continue the tradition of the dance today
  11. 11. * Let’s learn some Bharata Natyam mudras! Mudra #1: Alapadma— • A “fully bloomed Lotus” • To show fruits such as Apple • Circular movement • Bosom • A full Moon • Hair knot • Show Beauty • Separation from dear one • A Mirror • A Village • Cakravaka Bird • High Altitudes
  12. 12. * Anjali--- • Means “offering” • Also used in real life as a greeting, with the word “namaste” (“"I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.“)
  13. 13. * Katakaamukha— “opening in a bracelet” • Plucking or picking flowers • Holding a necklace or a garland • Pulling the bow string • Talking and Seeing • To show preparing a paste of sandal or musk • Offering Beetle leaves
  14. 14. * • Dance occurs in a community context, rather than just for oneself • People danced for their God(s) in thanks and praise • All of these dances included women, sometimes at the exclusion of men (like belly dancing and Bharata Natyam)
  15. 15. * • Early Christians still considered themselves Jews, and so they continued to use dance in praise and worship • Israelites had a different view of the body than Western medieval Christians through to present day • Christians tend to favor intellect and soul over the body; worship tends to favor the soul and intellect • Although body may be used for gestures, the Christian worship act includes standing/sitting still, thinking/listening, and contemplating concepts that speak to the soul while ignoring the body • Jewish thought, though, does not separate the body from mind & soul • Old Testament view= whole being, no separation or hierarchy of mind/soul/body • This is why early Christians did not question the use of dance as a worship act
  16. 16. * • Unfortunately, dance during worship started to be seen as blasphemous, and fell into disuse. • “The early Christian church used dance frequently in worship. Processionals, confession through movement, dances of thanksgiving, and re-enacting the scripture through dance were all common practices in liturgy. As time progressed, the dances became more and more elaborate and were seen by some as performances that were lacking a true spirit of worship in their focus and, thus, idolatrous. By the time of the Reformation and the centuries following, dance, as well as many other art forms, was almost totally removed from the Reformed liturgy due to a break from practices of the Roman Catholic Church, a turning away from iconography, and a movement toward more rationalistic, intellectual expression of theology in worship.” (Edyth I. Potter, “Dance: A Movement Back to the Visual.” Reformed Liturgy and Music (Summer 1994)) • It’s because of this distrust that centuries later, still today, we hesitate to use dance in a worship setting.
  17. 17. * • Dance was associated with pagan rituals, many dealing with fertility (i.e. Maypole) • Dance was also associated with dinner parties; Church had the Lord’s Supper and didn’t want the connection to secular parties known for intoxication and stripteases (No, I’m not joking) • Later on, the Church wanted to separate itself from Judaism, so because dance was part of Jewish worship, they wanted nothing to do with it • The Enlightenment (start= late 17th century Europe) valued individuality and human reason to solve problems–- doesn’t jive with the physical and spiritual act of liturgical dance. “Intellect is better.” • Victorian Era (1837-1901) valued bodily control and keeping emotions and spirituality in check. Intellectualism was honored above all and dancing was treated as frivolous–- OK in social situations but not OK in religious or intellectual settings
  18. 18. * • Group of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries • Believed dancing was foolish, spurred on deviant sexual behavior, and took time away from working and studying the Bible • Oliver Cromwell, strict Puritan ruler of England, in the 1650s outlawed the consumption of alcohol along with theatre and dance • The pilgrims who came to America were Puritans and continued the practice of not allowing dance • Is it any wonder we have a distrust for dance in worship today????
  19. 19. * • Group derived from English Christian Quakers • Embraced the use of dance in worship because it fostered cooperation and recognized the equality of the sexes • Dancing would include clapping and stomping while singing, in order to give thanks and praise God • They horrified the Puritans! • The Shakers recognized the Scriptural basis for dancing in thanks and praise, while other Christians did not
  20. 20. * “If You Know That Jesus Loves You”
  21. 21. * • It’s no secret that in the Bible, there are many, many instances where peopled danced when words failed them. They were moved to express their emotions in the physical action of dancing. This includes prayer, worship, praise, thanks, etc. • More instances of dance for worship happen in the Old Testament than the New Testament, but this does not mean the use of dance diminished in New Testament times-- • Many scholars have pointed out that in Aramaic (the everyday language Jesus and his followers spoke), the words “dance” and rejoice” were the same word! • So, in Aramaic, the language undergirding the Greek in the New Testament, rejoicing and dancing were the same thing! So actually, there are MORE instances of dancing in the NT than the OT! • Dancing and rejoicing were always connected!
  22. 22. * Psalm 150 1Hallelujah! Praise God in the holy temple; praise God in the mighty firmament. 2Praise God for mighty acts; praise God for exceeding greatness. 3Praise God with trumpet sound; praise God with lyre and harp. 4Praise God with tambourine and dance; praise God with strings and pipe. 5Praise God with resounding cymbals; praise God with loud clanging cymbals. 6Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. | Hallelujah!
  23. 23. * • Praising God with instruments and dancing • This psalm is one of the many Scriptures that liturgical dancers point to in order to show praise and worship through dance is very much Biblically based. • Other psalm examples that mention dance: • Psalm 87 (“all sing in their festive dance”) • Psalm 149 (“praise God’s name in festive dance”)
  24. 24. * Dancing Psalm 150
  25. 25. * 14 David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 16 As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.
  26. 26. * • This is a portion of a larger story, where the Israelites gain victory over the Philistines and rejoice in a procession while moving the ark to a new place • The people danced in joy of their victory, including David, who “danced before the Lord with all his might” • His wife, Michal, was upset. Some people read her reaction as if it’s due to David’s lack of clothing, but many scholars read it as her anger at David’s emotional uncovering because he danced in an uninhibited way. He danced and gave all– mind, soul AND body-- to praise and worship God. She wasn’t comfortable with his vulnerability in praise dancing. • Dancing in worship, then, means that we are able to “bare our souls” to those gathered and to God in a wholistic way
  27. 27. * 20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” • This is after the parting of the Red Sea and the Israelites successfully escape the Egyptian pursuers, due to God’s intervention • Miriam lead the women in praise and thanks to God for helping the Israelites escape • It is interesting that it is only the women who dance in this instance • A Biblical precedent to physically share in the joy of God’s action in our lives through dance and song and instruments
  28. 28. * “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” • This is the section where each sentence starts “A time to… and a time to….” The first thing is sad, the second thing is joyful or beneficial. • Dance is established as something that is done in time of happiness and joy. • There IS a time to dance!
  29. 29. * 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod 7 so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; 10 he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother.
  30. 30. * • Although this seems like a horrible light to put dance in, it actually illustrated the POWER dance and dancers have. • Herod offers the dancer (“Salome?”) ANYTHING she wants. She even had the power to ask for the death of another human being. • Shows that dance is a powerful medium that has lasting impressions longer than the dance itself.
  31. 31. *
  32. 32. * • Dance’s “sexual” aspects • Christians tend to view anything having to do with the body with fear/distrust, many times because of “possible sexual implications” • This is especially true when females dance– our society has taught us that women are responsible for exciting men with our bodies • In addition, as talked about before, many groups in our history deemed dance as “too sexual” and banned it (i.e. Puritans) • This baggage relating to bodies may be a hindrance to others seeing dance as a worship act
  33. 33. * • Tendency towards individualism • Many times, dancers can become so involved in their personal striving for a relationship with God through dance that they lose sight of the fact that their dancing should also aid others in their conversation with God. • Even if only a few people are dancing and the rest of the congregation is watching, the dance should be a beneficial community act. • The congregation should feel a part of the action, not just passive observers watching other dancers enjoy an experience they can not.
  34. 34. * • Dance’s Inherent Awkwardness • Since dance is not currently a mainstay in worship, there is an awkwardness about it • Most people are unfamiliar with dance as an art to begin with, and dancing in front of people with little or no familiarity with dance can be confusing and frustrate people who are used to their usual type of worship • Also, some worship spaces do not have dance space far enough away from the congregation. The dancers may be physically too close to the people worshipping, and this can cause discomfort, both for the dancers and the congregation
  35. 35. * • The Risk of Spectacle • Some churches throw in things (props, videos, certain music, dance) in order to keep people interested, especially seekers and new Christians • These things aren’t wrong to use in themselves; but their use should be to help people worship God, not just to make the worship service interesting • Dance shouldn’t be used just to “jazz up” worship service, it should be used to help people feel close to God in a new and physical way
  36. 36. * • Integration of the Spiritual and the Physical • As we said before, most worship services involved standing/sitting and listening/reading • The majority of worship is a sit-still, be quiet event • There is an implication that spirituality and worship is only perceived by the intellect • By using dance as a part of worship, people will have the opportunity to combine the intellectual aspect of worship with the physical/emotional aspects of worship • People can begin to realize that the body can be used to worship God just as much as the mind and soul can. Using the body can indeed be a spiritual experience
  37. 37. * • Exposing People to a New Way to Worship • As we said before, most people have little or no experience with dance, especially dance in a worship setting • Our worship services are, by and large, the same every week • This can be a great thing, but there are also times it’s important to show people different ways of worshipping God– not everyone connects to God in the same way • Dance is also a way to show people that when words fail us when speaking to or about God, there are other ways to express ourselves
  38. 38. * • Integration of Sacred Music and Sacred Dance • Music is a big part of our worship services, and using dance with singing can add a whole new dimension to the music that wasn’t there before • Many times, the same songs/hymns are sung pretty regularly because the congregation knows them and is comfortable with them • Adding dance to a familiar song may open up the congregation’s eyes to a new way of looking at the songs they can sing by rote.
  39. 39. * • Involvement of (Restless) Youth and Adults • Many youth and young adults do not come to church because it feels antiquated to them • Dance can bridge our traditions with the here and now • Youth are frequently open to trying dance and it can help them in their spiritual lives and in their sense of belonging in the Church
  40. 40. * • The Building of Community • Many congregation members and attenders don’t have anything to do with other congregation members/attenders the rest of the week • Using dance in worship can help people feel like they are more part of the congregation rather than just individuals who attend worship • Dance is and should be a community action that binds us together as fellow Christians thanking and praising God • The use of dance, whether everyone is involved in the actual dancing or not, makes the worship more participatory rather than a select few reading and talking to the congregation
  41. 41. * Dancing the Doxology
  42. 42. *
  43. 43. * What are you trying to accomplish by using dance in worship? • Some goals that we’ve learned today: • Fostering a sense of community • An atmosphere of thanking and praising God • Making sure both women and men feel like they can be included (and different age groups) • Helping people connect to God through worship and prayer • Any others for your particular setting?
  44. 44. * • Since most people have no experience with dance at all, incorporating dance into worship without first preparing the congregation will only shock and confuse them • The congregation can be prepared by having the pastor or someone else explain why dance is being used and its benefits • Also, dance can be gradually introduced in non-liturgical settings such as community nights, retreats and conferences before being utilized in worship • If the congregation is prepared, they will be more open to the benefits of dance as a spiritual experience
  45. 45. * • Some things the liturgical dancers need to understand and prepare for before dancing in worship: • By dancing at a worship service, they are worship leaders; they are leading a worship act that will be experienced by everyone present • By dancing, they are externalizing their relationship with God • Dancers should attend workshops in their spiritual art whenever possible; musicians and pastors attend trainings, and liturgical dancers should not be an exception
  46. 46. * • Before using dance in liturgy, it must be established if only the members of the congregation trained in dance will be doing the dancing (or people new to dance who have learned movements for this purpose), or if everyone present will be participating in the actual movement • The choreographer and dancers should understand the benefits and risks of both and choose what they think will be most appropriate for the liturgy • If congregational dancing is chosen, the movements should be simple and easy to pick up
  47. 47. * • This is something most people don’t think about, but it’s very important– how will the worship space be used during the dancing? • Many worship areas do not have ideal spaces in which dance can occur • It’s been suggested that architectural obstacles (baptismal fonts, alters, different floor levels, banners) should be worked with instead of against, since these are the very “stuff” of Christian symbolism • It should also be considered when to put the use of dance in the liturgy. Processionals, recessionals, the presentation of the Eucharist, readings, and other portions of liturgy can lend themselves the use of dance better than others.
  48. 48. * What body movements make you think of/feel closer to God?
  49. 49. *
  50. 50. * Any questions or comments??
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