I love to dance. My experience as a dancer began as a child in an American family with strong ties to our Dutch heritage. In order to maintain these ethnic roots, my parents encouraged us to participate in Dutch dancing at our church, which culminated in an annual performance at the Festival of Nations in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Whether or not I always enjoyed getting dressed up in a traditional Dutch costume complete with wooden shoes, dancing definitely got in my blood.
Dancing is also the way I became friends with Stephanie, who is now my wife. We both participated in the ballroom dance club at our university, and once we rehearsed and performed an Argentine Tango routine together, I think the future of our relationship was pretty much sealed. Since then, we have both worked as instructors at a ballroom dance studio, learned a variety of dances including traditional Mexican dancing, and my wife has created and directed dance productions for the church and community organisations. And of course, we love every opportunity to dance the night away at a salsa club, join in a Ceilidh, or swing dance at a wedding.
I love dancing for personal reasons—fond childhood memories and the centrality of dancing in my marriage—but there are several other reasons why I think dancing is a fitting activity for human beings and especially for Christians. Here are a few:
1) Because we are human. Dancing is an integral part of almost every human civilization and culture because this is a natural way to express different aspects of our humanity. Animals sometimes dance to find a mate or even find food (I just saw a seagull tap dancing outside my office window today trying to simulate rain to scare worms out of the ground for an afternoon snack), but humans dance not just to fulfill a particular need but to express and explore meaning.
2) Because bodies are good. God created everything very good and that includes our bodies, which have incredible capabilities. There are plenty of ways in which bodies are broken and abused because of sin, but dancing is one way that we can express the goodness of being embodied.
3) Because dancing is enjoyable. It feels really good to dance, especially if you dance just to dance and not to impress anyone else. There is deep joy in dancing because this is one way our bodies were intended to move. Of course, dancing is also used to express other emotions such as fear and sorrow, but even in those dances there is a kind of joy in being able to express these emotions in such a beautiful way.
4) Because dancing is beautiful. Dancing is an art, a creative act that produces extraordinary beauty. The beauty of dance gives us a glimpse of God’s own beauty in his creation.
5) Because dancing builds community. Dancing is often enjoyed with other people, and in fact, many people around the world dance when they come together as a community, whether for special occasions or just for fun. Either way, dancing builds community by bringing people together and providing a practical way for people to interact, even if they are simply watching.
6) Because dancing is worshipful. Scripture is replete with examples of God’s people dancing in order to worship God, and many Christians today continue this practice in their corporate worship gatherings. Worshipful dance is not limited to worship gatherings, however; whenever bodies move in beautiful, constructive ways, worship can happen.