The definitive scholar of liturgical dance ( of the divine kind) is none other than Kevin Bacon. Memorialized in the film Footloose, he makes his argument before the court:
People have danced since the beginning of time. People have danced in prayer. People have danced to bring down the rains and bring in the harvest. People danced before the hunt to bag big game for their tables.
Dance is the most ancient form of Jazzersize.
Dance is an expression of the human spirit.
A full body celebration of the soul.
Everywhere. Everyone. Dances.
Professor Bacon pulls out his Bible and turns to Psalm 149:
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in his maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance; let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
And King David, the musical king (who supposedly wrote the psalms) dances his heart out before the ark – the prophet Samuel tells us – before the golden throne of the Lord of Lords.
David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals… David danced before the Lord with all his might…And David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, with the sound of the trumpet…King David leaping and dancing before the Lord.
Michal, his wife was not too happy about all this dancing. She thought it unseemly. But thirty thousand of God’s chosen people tossed aside their inhibitions and threw themselves into it and danced with their king before the Lord.
A full body expression of unbounded joy, praising the Lord not just with your head but with your feet can make a body hungry.
After the dancing, they were famished. They feasted on bread and meat and raisins. (Don’t forget the raisins.)
Now we Episcopalians are not prone to dancing in the aisles. We are known as the frozen chosen. In church we sit still. We are quiet. We speak only when we are spoken to. In the. beauty of the call-and-response liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. (All the parts printed in BOLD.)
And I myself am not much of a fan of modern liturgical dance. It can be done well but often it is baby boomer ladies like myself performing in tights. A sight better unseen. A performance not meant for audience participation.
David, on the other hand, gets EVERYONE up on their feet.
So when was the last time you felt like dancing? When was the last time you actually danced? Weddings, of course, are one of the only places, grownups can still let it rip on the dance floor.
But where else?
What are those favorite tunes that set your toes to tapping?
(Click and take a listen.)
For those a decade or so ahead of me, maybe the classic crooner Frank Sinatra?
My very first dance record was a 45 – the Beatles Twist and Shout. The dance for people who did not know how to dance. The dance for people with two left feet — but nonetheless pure silly joy on the dance floor. No date. No problem. You could dance alone. Or with a crowd.
But sometimes, I’m happy just to dance with YOU. A friend, a partner. A budding relationship that blossoms into romance tete a tete. Maybe.
And even when hearts break, even when spirits crash, we can stretch our limbs and slow dance the sadness away. Like Emmy Lou Harris in A Tennessee Waltz.
And after working for our daily bread, exhausted from dancing through our day — two steps forward, three steps back, like Burt and Ernie we can Dance Ourselves to Sleep.
(No need for Ambien!)
And you can dance because you’re good at it. Ballet. Tap. Modern. And you can dance because you’re proud of where you’re from. Salsa. Hula. Irish Step.
Sometimes your feet are just happy. Happy for any reason at all. And you can dance like it’s 1999. You can dance like no one is looking to songs with almost no words. Just Dance and Hum Along.
Because isn’t that what the world needs now – deep, authentic, unbridled joy?
Not to escape or bury our heads in the sand. We will not ignore the needs of a hurting world. Our prayers attest to the tenuous nature of the planet, the world, the nation, our neighborhood. All in need of healing.
My Christian brothers and sisters, we are in the reconciliation business, the love your neighbor as yourself business. We are in the faith, hope, and love business. The resurrection business.
And so that everybody may dance this dance of life — the dance of love — let’s let it rip and dance like Jesus, the Lord of the Dance.
I danced in the morning, when the world was begun.
And I danced in the moon, and the stars, and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth.
At Bethlehem I had my birth.
Dance then wherever you may be.
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.