Liturgical dance is a relatively recent form of dance, used primarily in churches but quickly making its way into the mainstream. Below is some basic information about this beautiful form of faith expression, as well as some groups across the nation currently involved in creating this unique form of movement.
What is Liturgical Dance?
Liturgical dance is simply a Christian form of prayer and worship through bodily movement. Like most dance styles, music accompanies liturgical dance, be it live or pre-recorded. Mostly performed by females, this beautiful form of worship can either be improvised via the emotions felt during certain songs, or previously choreographed for a more organized presentation of dance.
Liturgical dance was practically non-existent until the 20th century, unlike many other dance styles that have been around for centuries. However, the start of liturgical dance actually originates back in biblical times, with many examples of worshipful movement recorded in the Old Testament. It has also remained popular in other regions of the world, but is still fairly new to Christians in the West.
Liturgical dance can be choreographed in a few ways. When it comes to the spontaneous forms of movement mentioned above, there really aren't any rules, as it is considered by the church to be spirit-led. Movements can be jerky or flowing, graceful or sharp, fast or slow.
Choreographed liturgical dance is usually a series of arm movements with gentle turns and modest steps involving the lower body. There is usually no jumping or other technique-infused choreography.
Lastly, liturgical dance can be incorporated into other dance forms. Every year, more churches and non-profit groups are beginning to discover the beauty of using traditional dance styles such as ballet, jazz and even hip hop, to glorify God. Christian teenagers are especially drawn to this form of dance, as it allows them to be energetic and expressive about their beliefs, without ever being boring or stuffy in its creativity. John Tesh's Alive is a perfect example of this newest form of liturgical dance. His music and dance collaborative was recently performed with young adults worshiping God through lyrical, ballet and hip hop dance. The end result was aired on network television and the DVD is still being sold to many who are searching for that perfect artistic inspiration.
Liturgical dance dress is just as varied as the different styles the genre hosts. Traditionally, worship dance teams are made up of girls and women who dress extremely modestly. This may include floor-length skirts, long sleeved tunics, and vibrant colors representing the church, such as royal purple, bright red, or pale blue. Modesty is key when it comes to liturgical dance performance.
However, some groups have managed to put a new spin on this old-fashioned costuming style, maintaining a look of purity and humbleness without dressing in such a manner. These groups may wear jazz dance or palazzo pants, team t-shirts, or even traditional ballet costumes. Hip hop dancers often wear street clothes, and there are many other forms of clothing expression besides just these examples. The goal of the liturgical dancer is always to give the credit and focus to God, and as long as clothing does not deter from this, then there are plenty of possibilities.
Liturgical Dance Groups
Liturgical dance is sweeping churches and mainstream performance stages all over the nation. A few groups are featured below.
Ballet Magnificat is a ballet company based in Jackson, MS. Highly acclaimed and extensive in its teaching, training and performance opportunities, Ballet Magnificat is one of the most prestigious of liturgical dance companies, using the finest ballet technique to praise the Lord.
Pazaz Christian Dance Academy is located in Pennsylvania and has a dance company that is cast out of the studio's best dancers. They have been dancing for God since 2003, and continue to grow and thrive.
If you would like to get involved in liturgical dance, do an Internet search for groups near you, or visit an already organized resource site such as Christian Dance Resources. If nothing is in your area and you feel a distinct calling to celebrate the arts through your beliefs, consider starting your own group. All it takes is a little hard work and a lot of prayer.