Liturgical Dance as a Form of Worship

Combining Sacred Movement With Worship

silhouette woman dancing

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Praise dancing is a liturgical or spiritual dance that incorporates music and movement as a form of worship rather than as an expression of art or as entertainment. Praise dancers use their bodies to express the word and spirit of God.

Praise Dance Basics

Praise dancers can be old or young, male or female, experienced or novice. Anyone who feels spiritual joy and wants to express it through dance can join in. That said, some praise dance performances are prearranged as choreographed pieces for a select group of dancers in a congregation. Praise dances can also feature a soloist, who may perform with or without set choreography, depending on whether he or she chooses to dance a previously arranged routine, or prefers to dance spontaneously.

Praise dance, as opposed to other forms of worship dance, is typically performed to a faster, more upbeat music tempo, and is often characterized by the waving of arms above the head, wild clapping, and swaying bodies. It employs several different genres of dance. Modern dance seems to be the most popular, but other styles that are used include ballet, jazz, and hip-hop, among others. Praise dance can also incorporate gymnastic and musical traditions, making use of colorful streamers, flags, banners, tambourines, and other props to enliven routines and heighten audience excitement.

Praise Dance Attire

The costuming worn by praise dancers is not typical dance attire. Rather than tights and leotards designed to help the audience focus on the dancers' line and form, praise dancers wear more loose-fitting, modest attire, aimed at keeping the audience's attention on the spiritual message they are trying to convey through their movements, rather than the bodies being used to convey it.

A typical praise dance costume might include an undergarment such as a leotard worn beneath a loose top or cape. Male dancers wear loose pants, while female dancers complete the ensemble with purpose-designed skirts, easily recognizable in dancewear stores thanks to their signature length and fullness.

Praise Dance's Past and Future

Historically, dance has been an important part of worship for many cultures and religions around the world. While dancing is certainly mentioned in the Bible, with roots in pre-Christian pagan traditions, dance as worship was phased out of the Christian church as part of the 16th century Protestant Reformation and did not make a reappearance until the 20th century.

While praise dance is now considered by many churches to be an acceptable form of Christian expression, some conservative sects still object to including dance in a worship service. Sects with the most extreme views actually consider any form of dancing immoral and ban it from their congregations entirely.

As praise dancing grows in popularity, more and more churches are incorporating it into their services. As with choirs and prayer teams before them, praise dance teams are becoming church ministries. Dance studios are beginning to include praise dance classes into their curriculums. Praise dance conventions are being held as forums to unite the larger community of dancers, while competitions allow praise dance teams to match skills with their peers.