On the seventh day, God said, “Let there be dance!” God watched the dancing and saw that it was good.
Every Sunday, people of all shapes, ages, and sizes gather to worship at Dance Church, in the radiant dance room at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. Is “worship” the right word? In this light-filled space you’ll find no icons, no statues of Jesus or Buddha. What you see are fellow human beings, twisting and jumping, moving and shaking, running and stretching, juggling and gyrating. The definition of “worship” is “reverent honor and homage paid to an object regarded as sacred.” Here at Dance Church, the sacred objects are us. After all, we not just human, but also divine. We celebrate being alive in our bodies through boogie woogie.
The scripture? It’s in the songs mixed by a DJ. Just like the Psalms, these lyrics speak of longing, joy, despair and sorrow. Our hearts beat synchronously with the music. This is no somber Catholic or Episcopal service. It’s kin to Pentecostal. Sure, some people may come simply to dance. I’m quite certain, though, that I’m not the only one who experiences dancing as sacred. I arrive with the intention to open as fully as possible to Spirit, feeling the Spirit take me by the hand and lead my communion with music and other dancers.
I commune with a woman ripe with unborn child, gently swaying to the music, hand on her protruding belly. A young couple, joined like paired images in a poem, fluidly elegant as they responded in tandem to the beat. A man dressed in a lion suit, swirling his tail. A three-year-old, blond-haired girl with dimples. A teenager whose long legs seemed foreign to him, shifting mechanically in search of rhythm. A woman in her 80’s, cane in hand, shuffling in tiny steps, smiling beatifically. Two young, dark-haired women slithering along the floor, as if love-making, without a trace of self-consciousness.
People come and go during the two-hour dance session, and last Sunday, up to 40 people filled the space in various ways. Some of us roam the floor, weaving in and out of dancers. Others remain in the same spot the entire time, carving out a space of their own. A few people meditate or do yoga postures. Here, at Dance Church, everyone is welcome and accepted for who they are or who they want to be in that time and place. Only with that freedom can church truly be church.
At Dance Church there’s no bread or wine. Cold water feels like a blessing after dancing non-stop for an hour.
And sharing of the peace? Oh yes, some of my fellow dancers share exuberantly. This euphoria that arises with the freedom of movement shows itself through smiles, laughter, sweat, and a saintly glow. Each of us could crank up the music and dance at home, alone. Instead, we chose to dance with others, in community. We chose to go to church on a snowy Sunday.