Dancing at World Youth Day

More than 10 years ago America published an article I wrote entitled “Shall We Dance." The question that I raised in the piece was whether we as a people of God would respond to the invitation to “Praise God’s Name in the Festive Dance” (Ps 149:3). When I saw millions of people including bishops and priests joining in a simple but lively dance at the closing liturgy of World Youth Day, I received an answer.

As a Jesuit priest, trained dancer and choreographer who for more than 40 years has been exploring the power and beauty of dance as a very human form of prayer, praise and worship, I was moved to tears and laughter when I saw so many people responding to the call to praise God with “timbrel and dance” (Ps 150:4). I was particularly moved to see many bishops enjoying themselves as they were taught the dance.

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The criticism that we hear of using dance in a religious context is that dance in Western Civilization is only used for “courtship” or “entertainment.” Yet this argument fails to acknowledge the wonderful tradition of “folk” dance in Western culture. These are the dances that are usually very simple, where people join together to express their joy and the beauty of human community. We saw a wonderful example of such a dance of the “folk” on Copacabana beach last week. It seemed that the Holy Spirit was “taking the lead.”

Robert VerEecke S.J., is pastor of St Ignatius Church in Chestnut HIll, Ma., and a Jesuit artist-in-residence at Boston College.

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Bill Mazzella
5 years ago
Robert, where have you been? After Vatican II there were many signs of dance and folk songs at the liturgy in our churches. Some people panicked forgetting that joy is all over the Scriptures. This was stopped by alarmists who pointed out the few abuses. Dance must return to our altars. Let the dancing resume again.
Juan Valdez
4 years 11 months ago
Where do we see liturgical dance used in either the Eastern or Western churches looking at nearly 2000 years of Christian history? I'm referring only to the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches as opposed to Protestant sects. I'm willing to bet a small fortune that the nonsense that came after Vatican II was an anomaly along with the rest of the novelties that came out of the 60's and 70's (Protestantized liturgy courtesy of Protestant periti/advisors on Bugnini's committee, simplistic and desacralized worship, guitars/bongos, torn-out altars and altar rails, etc). The most charitable way to characterize that dancing is to call it goofy. Bishops are successors to the apostles, Dancing (and looking silly in the process) is not fitting for the high office they occupy. Although it was a relief that the dancing prevented further distribution of consecrated hosts via plastic cups.

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