When I started this blog I wasn’t clear on what topics I would be writing about. One thing I did know though, was that I would be blogging about my dancing..
I know that dance practices in the church are controversial and not everyone will agree with what I write, but please refrain from making any negative comments! 😦
The church that I attend includes dancing during their praise and worship. The practice is sort of controversial in Christianity however it’s such a big part of my life that I won’t neglect it just because some people may disagree with me. There are different names and meanings that people associate with this type of dancing – liturgical dance, praise dance, dancing in the spirit.. But we’ve come to call it prophetic dance.
So today I’ll be telling you about why I do it, and why I think it’s great – not about if I think it’s biblically correct or why you should or shouldn’t dance at church.
This won’t be short.
When I sing during praise and worship there are a lot of times I feel really self conscious. Am I singing too loudly or out of tune? I think I’ll just close my eyes and put my hands up. Should I put my hands up more or just kinda keep them half up? I’ll just take a little peep.. Oh wait, no one else’s hands are up. How does this song go again????
Over the past few years I’ve been learning to be less self conscious when I worship through singing, but there’s always that bit of self awareness that I haven’t been able to get rid of just yet. My mind tends to wander off a lot too when I’m singing. One minute I’ll be focusing on God, and then I’ll be thinking about that chicken sandwich I ate for lunch and what I’ll do when I get home. This is where the dancing comes in.
When I’m dancing I feel like I’m worshipping God more sincerely than when I’m just singing. I feel like I’m using my entire body to praise and worship, not just my mouth. It may sound contradicting because I’m physically doing more, but I feel like I can focus better on Him. Dancing requires using focus not only for coordinating movement but also on paying attention to the atmosphere and the rhythm of the song. I can focus on the words and adjust my movements to complement them, I can choose which props will match the song without my mind wandering off. It forces me to focus on the here and now, to focus on God and how great He is, rather than thinking about something irrelevant or what people are thinking about when they look at me (unless I’m dancing in private of course).
But then won’t you be focusing on remembering how the movements go???
I admit it was like that at first (and still even now sometimes), but with weekly practices, the routines become like a second nature. Having those patterns drilled into your head make them easier to remember. If someone starts a new pattern, everyone knows immediately what that movement will be just by seeing the first few beats. When we first started we mostly improvised, but we’ve come to a system where we assign a leader to prepare the week beforehand, and everyone assigned to dance for that day practices with them and the band so they know what to expect. This makes our dances more coordinated and less hassling.
You might be thinking that this defeats the whole purpose of “being led by the Spirit”. Not necessarily. Before each praise and worship session our team prays together and asks to be anointed by God. We ask Him to fill our hearts with His spirit (and yes I know how incredibly cheesy and cliche that may sound). The church’s prayer team also includes us in their prayers every Sunday meeting. While we do have preparations, we leave a bit of freedom within our plans so that although the leader organizes which props to use and certain formations, the dancers don’t always execute the exact same dance that they did during practice. Think of it as a commander telling their soldiers what they need to do, but not how to do it. We also have a mentor to guide us and tell us if we’re not doing something right. She’s always encouraging us to listen to the Holy Spirit and learn to be more sensitive in hearing what God wants us to do.
One metaphor we use to describe our dance team is an army. Although we teach discipline and unity, when it comes down to it, we hope that each individual knows what to do best when the time comes. This is also why we learn theory, pray and fast. Each prop we use and pattern we perform has different meanings and we believe it relates back to the spiritual realm and biblical verse. Like a soldier, it’s important to know which weapon is best to use for a specific job.
This metaphor extends more so, because we are acting under God’s command. God is our King and He tells us what He wants us to do, and the devil is our enemy. Only God can and will completely defeat satan – this is impossible for us as mere humans. What we can do though, is form a relationship with Him, bring lives to Christ and resist the devil’s temptations. We can’t do all that just by dancing, but it does help. Our objective when we dance is also to uplift people’s spirits and aid in stirring up the atmosphere.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12 [NIV]
Another great thing about dancing is the teamwork that’s necessary to pull it off. Spending an extra hour or more together every week really helps you get closer with someone. Pretty soon you can predict what movements they’ll do next, syncronize with them and cooperate better. Praying together also helps us to edify each other’s spirits and encourage one another. This makes it much easier to ask questions and share experiences with each other, and grow together both individually and as a team.
One last thing I will mention is that although it may seem weird and unconventional, it draws people. The colourful costumes, loud music and movement often makes people wonder what the fuss is all about. And who knows? Maybe for the few minutes they decide to take a look, God will touch their hearts. Maybe they’ll even come back next time and become part of the congregation.
I love prophetic dancing and although there may be a lot of people who disagree with it, the way we do things or the way I feel about it, I don’t think I’ll stop doing it for a long time. Like everything, it has its cons. We’re not professional dancers or technically skilled in dance, but that won’t stop us from dancing for His kingdom.
As long as we keep focusing on Him.
P.s. It’s also great exercise! 😉