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What Is Liturgical Dance?

Liturgical dance is the incorporation of dance movements into worship in order to facilitate deeper spiritual experiences.

Dance has for a very long time accompanied various forms of music as an expression of the joy or the feeling generated from the music. Dancing has evolved from simple movement of body parts to a complex choreographed movement. Liturgical dance entails movement of body parts which accompanies worship as an expression of devotion. Dancers respond to an appropriate dancing technique which coordinates with the music and is believed to improve worship expression and devotion. Liturgical dance may either be spontaneous or have been planned in advance.

5. Overview and Characteristics -

For many faith groups and believers, liturgical dancing forms an integral part of worship. Many churches consider it an acceptable form of a Christian way of worship. Liturgical dancers express the word and the spirit of the Lord through movement of various body parts. Choreograph dances are frequently used before the congregation to create exciting and emotional atmosphere. Liturgical dancers mostly use their body parts, for instance, lifting up of hands, clapping continuously, swaying the body in any direction, and moving the head to the tune of the music to express to the congregation the joy they feel within.

4. Origins -

For Jews, liturgical dance, first seen Biblically in Exodus 15:20-21, was seen when the Israelites were crossing the Red Sea. Miriam, who was a prophetess and sister to Moses, who was leading the Israelite, gathered the women to perform a song and dance in worship after they had crossed the Red Sea. Also, in 2 Samuel 6, when King David brought back the Ark of Covenant, the Israelite danced as they celebrated the great deeds of God. From the Biblical times to the 19th Century, dancing as a form of Christian worship and celebration was popular and common among the congregation.

3. Differences Between Faith Groups and Historical Eras -

In Christian worship, liturgical dance is often welcomed even by non-liturgical denominations. Its performance has grown in the United States of America since it was initiated by Carsa De Sola and her Omega Company in the Catholic mass. Attempts have been made to incorporate liturgical dance into the Catholic Mass with the intention a relaxed worship atmosphere. However, some other Christian groups disapprove of dancing in liturgy due to association with blasphemous activities and insignificance. Liturgical dancing in Catholic holy mass is prohibited by the canon law of the catholic and the Eastern traditional Churches with the exemption of parts of Africa where dancing has traditionally been employed in consecrated contexts.

2. Notable Modern Practitioners -

Liturgical dance has been present throughout the ages to inspire and uplift believers, as well as to provide means of expressing praise and worship to God. Congregations are embracing new forms of liturgical dance and expressive worship. New forms and expressions of liturgical dancing being incorporated include the modern ballet and jazz, hip hop based expressions, spontaneous movement with flags, banners, ribbons and decorations. Also, interpretive and mimic dancing has been inculcated to inspire and entertain worshipers an expression of spiritual joy.

1. Greater Significance and Varied Denominational Perspectives -

Liturgical dancing has the significance of allowing for the expression of worship through physical body movements, as liturgical dance is thought to have the power to convey the message of God. Liturgical dance being the expression of enthusiasm in singing and worshiping remains a significant and essential part of Christian history and expression of Christian worship. It revives and enriches praise and worship sessions. There are specific body movements that liturgical dancers use that have a biblical meaning. These movements include bowing down to show respect, raising hands which signify surrender, turning which indicates change or transformation, and leaping which symbolizes joy and celebration

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