I’m going to tell you something not too many people know: I have danced at church. In fact, I have danced at a few churches. You see, I am a dancer—trained in ballet for most of my life—but only those who have seen one of my few praise dance opportunities have seen me dance liturgically. Many of my friends have not. As we are all aware (dancers especially), dancing is a sticky subject amongst the people of God.
There is something else you should know too: I think that to some extent the lack of opportunities may be the dance community’s own fault. Dance is an art form that can be very ambiguous. I have watched a praise dancer and been distracted by the dancing as I finally had to admit, “I just don’t get it.” Art that is confusing, makes you think, leads to many interpretations, and creates lots of discussion has a place in this world. But I don’t think that that place is during a worship service.
Imagine a preacher coming in who doesn’t speak your language. Then imagine him preaching without an interpreter. Little to nothing will be gained for those who hear only babble. In fact, confusion and even frustration may reign.
Liturgical dance (another term for praise dance) is the same. The term comes from the idea of liturgy, which means “something that people do together.” At church, people come together to give expression to their faith. The dancer in a worship situation must lead in corporate worship. Just as Paul instructed us not to speak in tongues without an interpreter (1 Cor 14:27-29), it does not build up the Body if only one person understands what is going on. We are not dancing to “wow” the crowd but leading the church in understanding and worshipping God.
Therefore, I advocate choreographing in advance with a focus on what each movement is communicating. I had someone say to me once, “Well, you really told the story of the song.” I don’t know if he meant that as a compliment, but I took it as one because it said to me that I had communicated clearly through my movement.
I am a dancer, and I am love to worship God through dance. But I accept that some churches have been confused, appalled, and embarrassed by dance in their service at some point. I do not push to be a part of their service, but pray that one day my art would be allowed back in. Until then, I ask dancers to take care with the gift God has given them and make sure to lead in worship clearly, so that all may say, “Amen.”
PS I have a few more tips for dancers. If you (or someone you know) would like to know more, comment below, and I can email you an overwhelming amount of opinions. : )