Before sunrise on 125th Street, before the vendors and employees arrive at the buildings along the boulevard, two men greet each other with a hug. They begin to unload vans and unfold tables, arrange incense and small colored bottles and soaps, accessories for small electronics and hand crafted beanies. While doing this music plays.
The men stop when they recognize a communal favorite and finish their morning routine stepping together, in tune and time to the music. They dance.
Like the ring/shout dances done by Africans during slavery, Serena Williams invoked the Holy Ghost when she performed her joyful crunk-style dance after winning the U.S. Open in 2012. Or the Sunday morning shout festivals that usher in the spirit of Pentecost when a congregation lends itself in physical worship. The call and response to the feel good atmosphere is what happens naturally when we answer the cry for worship. More often than not, we’re compelled to join the dance.
When we use our bodies as instruments to express the beauty of God – our offering brings the gospel to life. Dance is sacred, a basic, intrinsic way to bring glory to the God of creation. With our bodies…we become the prayer. The temple come to life as the word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Jesus in me. Jesus in you. Each gesture, step or turn is an opportunity to meet God in ecstatic, euphoric liturgy.
In May I attended the Jumping Tandem retreat in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hosted by Deidra Riggs, the theme “grace” opened the door for thoughtful contributions from a delightful gathering of speakers and presenters. I had the opportunity to minister in dance and lead a movement workshop. My students would be women of various ages and abilities, some confident from experience…others determined to break free from deep seated insecurities.
Afterwards participants spoke of feeling free to move or encouraged to express themselves in physical worship in a way they’d not explored before. Witnessing the glorious abandon in the dance offering of Tammy Belau at an open mic event later that evening reaffirmed my faith in dance as a fully embodied worship experience. Dance is an art of hospitality, a point of contact for an ever-widening circle – an open call for generosity and grace.
Beyond teaching some of the technical aspects of dance, what I hoped to extend was an invitation. The very invitation offered by Christ when He suggests we break free from the voice. The voice that urges we sit still, shut up in our seats when our hearts hold a song, bound in our bodies when His love begs we dance.
Hear now the call to worship. Hear now the call to praise.
When Miriam the prophetess, took a tambourine in her hand, all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. This is the perfect image of a woman surrendered to the call – extending an open invitation to the ones who watch.
Come, now is the time to worship. Come.
This article is part of our series on the Hospitality Of Art. Read more from this series HERE.