There is Never a Good Reason For Liturgical Dance…

… I loathe liturgical dance with the white hot passion of a thousand burning heretics. I don’t understand it’s purpose other than to keep the makers of spandex unitards in business. Even more baffling is why liturgical dance has to be performed inside a Church, a sacred space. Or even worse, during the liturgy itself.

I suppose if the performers did their jigs, more appropriately, in a dance hall then it couldn’t technically be called liturgical dance, now could it?

But that begs the question… if the only thing making the dance number spiritual is the location and not the performance itself than how exactly is the spectacle supposed to religiously edifying? It would seem logical than to assume that just being inside a Church itself would be enough of a spiritual experience, making all that dance-y dance just empty theatrics. But that’s just crazy talk. A church, all by it’s lonesome, devoid of all that “active participation” can’t possible be spiritually uplifting.


“The Redemption of Bathsheba – “A collection of dances that evoke the spirits of the Bible’s most intriguing women.” – Saint John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church, Pittsburgh, PA.”

Yeah …. Because that ginormous icon of our Blessed Mother isn’t doing enough to evoke the spirit. I need a writhing women splayed out across the sanctuary floor to tap into my feminine sense of intrigue.

Please people. Just say “No” to liturgical dance.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Eugene Edward Yeo

    … BRB. Gotta call a bishop.

  • Lucas Hennessey™

    I thought the Eastern Rites didn’t have so much of a problem with this…Boo.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      nothing escapes the touch of pompous westerners on a feel good high.

  • Cecilia Rodriguez Schwartz

    AMEN!

  • Quittin’ time at Tara!

    Failed ballerinas with middle age spread use the Church to hold us hostage to their spastications. It’s never about anything remotely spiritual.

  • Cathy R.

    I don’t know, This doesn’t really bother me – not my parish – don’t care.

    • Romulus

      Cathy: Catholicism/Congregationalism. Know the difference.

      • Cathy R.

        What does this have to do with Congregationalism? What is your point? (I don’t think Congregationalists dance at their services, they are stiffer than we are).

        • Romulus

          My point is that if you’re a Catholic, things that happen at other parishes are your business too. The Congos take it as given that every community is autonomous.

        • Nan

          It has everything to do with Congregationalism! I know a Congregationalist minister whose mother was one of the first perpetrators of liturgical dance! He told me this and is so proud of her. Shudder.

          • Cathy R.

            Oh ic. and I understand that liturgical dance is upsetting to some people. I guess I don’t get too upset because I don’t see it around where I live very often (like never). I’ve only seen “liturgical dance” once at a demonstration of it at a convention of music ministers in Cincinnati back around 1990. I thought it was kind of pretty back then. I also understand the objections to it (mainly we don’t want to turn the mass into some kind of entertainment) I get it. I just can’t get my shorts in a knot over it since it is very uncommon.

  • jscalvano

    I would just like to note that liturgical dance is used well in the African Churches. It looks nothing like that of course.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      where it’s culturally relevant. this is just pretentious.

  • priest’s wife

    WHAT!? In a BYZANTINE church- this is an outrage

  • Kathleen

    They did that occasionally at a parish I belonged to in California in the late 1980s. It was just “odd.” But, in the 1970s and 1980s, there were a lot of odd things happening.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    While I find it disturbing and silly myself, why would we have to ban it? While we are one Catholic church not everyone is moved by the same means. I find deepest spirit in poetry and song, homilies rarely do anything for me. My mother loves ritual, chanting, and prayer. My friend finds God most easily in deep discussions on theology. This whole thing reminds of the gyrations people underwent after the ‘Dance of the Bishops’. Get over it folks, not everyone needs to cry in church to feel the holy spirit. Some folks dance. Weirdly and badly.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Nuuuuuuuuuu Church. Feels so haaaaaaaappy!

      • RelapsedCatholic

        Who said happy? I said spiritual. Anyone that tells you that you must choose between laughing with the sinners and crying with saints is selling you a bill of goods.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

          I prefer drinking with saints.

          • RelapsedCatholic

            Nice! I’m pretty sure they’re drinking Guiness.

    • Cassandra

      The problem with this is that the Mass is not about the people and what makes them ‘feel’ spiritual. It s about giving GOD His due worship and praise. Period. Entertainment and distractions take away from Our Lord what is rightly due to Him. We have the rest of the week to engage in ‘self’ if that is our unfortunate inclination.

      • RelapsedCatholic

        Mass isn’t about the people? How unfortunate that this is the opinion of so many people. A God that needs to be worshipped is an insecure God indeed. We celebrate mass because we need to worship him. We need. There is no one way to worship that works for all people. Again, I find liturgical dance creepy and weird, but I’m not about to tell someone that the way they worship God doesn’t belong in a house of worship.

        Why not go back to Latin? Sure no one will know what the hell is going on but hey, it’s not about the people in the pews, it’s about a God that requires we worship him in the way that’s most pleasing to him.

        The liturgy should be a balance of tradition and relevance, all the tradition in the world is meaningless if no ones listens.

      • Katherine

        Our Lord is due worship. If one is dancing as an act of worship, it is okay with me.,

    • Jest

      There is a place for all forms of spiritual movement. That place does not happen to be in the liturgy — which is intended for solemn worship.
      Dance for the Lord, Write poetry for the Lord, Sing with Guitars and cymbals for the Lord, have deep discussion of theology, by all means! . . . just not in the context of the Mass.

      You don’t need to feel ‘moved’ during Mass. It’s not about YOU. It’s about bowing down in worship before the Lord.

      • RelapsedCatholic

        See my response above. If its not about the people in the church feeling connected to and worshipping God, what’s the point?

        • Jest

          It IS about worshiping God. It is ABOUT God. GOD.
          Reverent Worship. The dancing and folk singing and shouting out can be done any other time in some other place.

          But in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, all due reverence must be paid.

          Would you have danced as Christ was crucified? Or would you have been on your knees in profound adoration, gratefulness, and reverence for that Great Sacrifice. The Mass IS that Sacrifice. Profound.

          Reverent.
          Adj.1.reverent – feeling or showing profound respect or veneration; “maintained a reverent silence”

          Reverence: profound adoring awed respect

          • RelapsedCatholic

            Reverence is about a profound respect, nowhere does it say that silence is mandatory. The silence you referenced is only ‘reverent’ because it is being maintained for for an important purpose. Gestures are reverent when they are made out of love and respect. For some this is bowing your head in silence, for some it is singing out in joy. For some it is dancing weirdly while the entire congregation tries not to giggle. And no, I would not be happy if there was dancing during the liturgy of the Eucharist or the communion rite, but that is because I would find them distracting.

            However, would I have danced at the crucifixion? No, but I am not a dancer. Some of the most profoundly sad and reverent sights I have witnessed have been done as dance. Why must all dancing be happy? Why can it not be done with profound awe, gratitude, and reverence? This entire kerfuffle reeks of being narrow minded.

          • Jest

            Narrow minded, I suppose, because people disagree with you. That always seems to be the first accusation when one encounters those who will not be persuaded to agree with one’s own perspective. Perhaps you are also being narrow minded for refusing to agree with those who disagree with you and because you refuse to accept that you may be wrong?.

            A favorite quote: “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

            You mentioned that dancing at particular points would distract you, that dancing weirdly may distract others in the congregation to the point where they have to focus on trying not to giggle. That in itself would be an excellent argument that dance does not belong in the Mass. We should try NOT to be distractions to others who are there to worship. The worship of the Mass is not for the individual, but for the communion of all present.

            Individual styles of worship and praise can take place outside of the Mass, where it IS about the individual and their personal relationship with God.

            Surely one hour a week of worshiping as the rubrics dictate will not dampen the spirituality of a faith-filled person in love with the Lord.

          • RelapsedCatholic

            Distraction is in the eye of the beholder. My last church used an obscene amount of incense. This is by the rubrics (God that sounds so wrong, like making the mass an English paper), yet still distracting enough that I sought a different church.

            Again, reverence has nothing to do with silence or sorrow. Gospel choirs manage to be reverent and joyful at the same time. Not all churches must worship the same way. What’s next…mandating a return to the Latin Mass?

            I have no interest in a smaller, purer, church. I want it to be big and diverse and to connect and minister to the parishioners. They are the church just as much as the priests and bishops.

          • Katherine

            “Would you have danced as Christ was crucified?”
            I would have dance as Christ rose from the grave. Why does some people’s spirituality stop at Good Friday?

      • Katherine

        The above photo was not at Mass (Divine Liturgy)

  • http://ad-orientem.blogspot.com/ adorientem

    If I wasn’t Orthodox this might make me think seriously about going Baptist.

    Q. Why don’t Baptists make love standing up?
    A. They are afraid someone might see them and think they were dancing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Cheeky!

      • Guest

        A better one: Why don’t Baptists like to have sex? It might lead to dancing…. ;)

    • http://www.onbehalfofall.org/ Gabe Martini

      Thank God for Orthodoxy.

      • Dale Scuderi

        looks like an Orthodox church in the pic above

        • Dale Scuderi

          no offense but Catholic churches have statues not icons

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

            Actually it says right under the picture, plain as day, that this is a Byzantine Catholic Church. So no offense, but yes, Catholic churches have iconography in them.

          • Dale Scuderi

            Sorry didn’t catch that, Roman Catholic churches do not have iconography. Is that better?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

            Actually some do. They don’t have an iconostasis.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Not as of late. My Novus Ordo parish has big 6 foot tall iconography of our patron Saints (Clare and Francis) in a side chapel.

            And in Pendleton, Oregon, the church has a mural of the crucifixion almost as large as that, above a pre-Vatican II high altar.

          • An Eastern Xian

            Sounds like you need to breath with your Eastern Lung! Mostly ALL of the Eastern Catholic Churches have icons and/or icon screens. One can be a Catholic without being Roman/Latin!

          • http://www.onbehalfofall.org/ Gabe Martini

            The theanthropic Body of Christ is neither eastern nor western; it is only orthodox, catholic, and the fullness of him who fills all in all.

          • http://www.onbehalfofall.org/ Gabe Martini

            Hmm, then I guess the Pope and his legates at the Seventh Ecumenical Council were way off base?

          • Martin

            And Icons…….

        • http://www.onbehalfofall.org/ Gabe Martini

          They like to try, but then they go and do something like this in front of the altar.

  • DonSchloeder

    I once heard a (possibly apocryphal) story regarding regarding some liturgical dance being performed during a Mass in which the bishop was present. While watching the leotard clad dancer gyrating around he reportedly turned to the pastor and said “I’m not sure what I think of this, but if she asks me for your head on a platter, she’s got it”

  • OldWorldSwine

    What bugs me about “liturgical dance” is that it’s so culturally bogus in the West. If I were worshiping in a Catholic parish in Zimbabwe, or some place, it might make perfect sense, because maybe interpretive dancing is an organic part of the culture. What makes OUR liturgical dance so dopey and awkward is that it’s so artificial and pretentious. How many important public occasions in modern Western culture are celebrated with symbolic interpretive dancing? Think hard!… None. Zero. It’s just not something we do in the West. Consequently, when some ad-hoc parish dance troupe inflicts their artistry on a captive Mass audience, 95%+ of the people watching just can’t wait for it to be over.

  • Charlene Bader

    It looks like it was a performance-oriented presentation done outside of the liturgy for an unobligated audience, similar to parishes hosting musicians, theatre groups, or guest speakers. I don’t see a problem with it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      It’s in a sanctuary and not a dance hall. That’s the problem.

      • oregon catholic

        I don’t think videotaped messages from archbishops about financial issues belong in the sanctuary either, but they happen.

        • Suburbanbanshee

          Actually, if it’s outside the iconostasis in an Eastern church (that’d be outside the altar rail and the altar steps for Latin Rite), it’s not in the “sanctuary.” It’s in the Eastern equivalent of our “nave,” which is allowed to have concerts and stuff. But I thought they had doors or curtains to close off the altar, and that should probably have been done….

          The main concern with secular concerts, etc., is that the material should be wholesome and not blasphemous, and that Our Lord should be reposing someplace that’s not right there while it’s happening. (Not that God hates art, but it’s like touring a palace while the owner’s not in residence. If Jesus is in residence, the whole space is being used by Him.)

          Also the performers are supposed to behave themselves, and there are rules about it. I once went to see a (small) opera in the Covington KY cathedral. The opera wasn’t a problem and the Tabernacle was off in a side chapel. But the (non-Catholic) performers decided to use the altar and steps as a performance space, whereas they’d promised to stay down in the aisle. They got in trouble with the bishop, I heard later.

          • http://www.onbehalfofall.org/ Gabe Martini

            The nave is still sacred space. Most would say it isn’t appropriate to have applause, dancing, etc. in the nave of the parish. It should be done in a parish hall or other non-religious setting. That is, if what we claim about the real presence of Christ and his mysteries are really true.

  • Ray McCracken

    What should have been said to King David when he danced around the Ark of the Covenant? Francis of Assisi wrongly said, “to sing is to pray twice, and to dance is to pray three times”. There is an African proverb that I hope someday will be condemned by Rome, “When you pray be sure to move your feet”.

    • OldWorldSwine

      And maybe we Westerners *do* have a thing or two to learn about the spontaneous joy of worship. Who knows? We are a stiff lot. But if we ever DO begin to learn to “move our feet”, this would be the opposite of the “liturgical dance” we see now. Chesterton said that it was a bad sign when our singing and dancing was done by a small class of professional performers. If we do all suddenly decide to embrace Pentecostalism, I don’t think we would resemble these Martha Graham liturgical dance routines.

      And anyway, if we are open and accepting of different styles of worship, we ought to be as open and accepting about our OWN style of worship. There is a tradition in the West of quiet, solemn reverence. Not the only valid worship style, but certainly A valid worship style. It’s hardly fair to say that no one should be allowed to practice it.

      • Ray McCracken

        Love what you said here!

    • Rebecca Duncan

      Yes, David danced before the ark, but the Lord was not being SACRIFICED
      at the time. Cripes! Can you imagine Mary and St. John dancing before
      the cross as Jesus died?!? There should be no dancing at the Holy SACRIFICE of the Mass. Unless you think you would dance around Mt. Calvary as Jesus was dying, then why would you do it at the Mass??? The Mass is the representation of the sacrifice of the cross, not a dinner party or a talent show.

      • An Eastern Xian

        The “Mass” is more than just a representation.
        Furthermore, the entire Liturgy commemorates: “All that has come to pass in our behalf: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the second coming in glory.” To me this sounds quite joyful!

        • Rebecca Duncan

          re-presentation as in, it’s there again in front of us. I wasn’t saying it was symbolic.

          • An Eastern Xian

            Actually, it is symbolic, in its true and original use of the word – for all of Liturgy participates in that which it is being represented. You meant to say “sign.”

      • oregon catholic

        I don’t want liturgical dance but I think your analogy is too literal. I can’t see myself singing as Jesus was dying either yet we do that in spades at Mass. By that same token, an expressive dance conveying the extreme grief and sorrow that Mary and John must have felt would be in order would it not? Maybe some rending of garments at least?

        • Janet Baker

          Did Mary and John do that at the Cross? Then neither should we.

          • oregon catholic

            did they sing? Then neither should we. See how ridicuous this line of literal (dare I say fundamental?) thinking can go? The best reasoning I’ve heard against liturgical dance in the US is by OldWorldSwine that begins:

            What bugs me about “liturgical dance” is that it’s so culturally bogus in the West…What makes OUR liturgical dance so dopey and awkward is that it’s so artificial and pretentious…

          • Rebecca Duncan

            I agree we shouldn’t sing…at least not if the songs are as stupid as we sing most of the time. Chanting on the other hand…. I wouldn’t think it was strange even if they sang a psalm when He died since He was reciting part of a psalm (which is a song) Himself on the Cross. I’ve never thought anyone would think it was odd to sing at a funeral…dancing in front of someone’s casket would be weird though. Plus, they sang hymns at the Last Supper and on the way to the Garden. They did not dance.

        • Rebecca Duncan

          Why not rend garments? I don’t see any ‘expressive dance’ conveying extreme grief and sorrow. When’s the last time you heard someone say…oh did you see that really sad dance on tv the other day? But you will hear people talk about sad songs.
          Our culture doesn’t care about dancing, especially not interpretive dancing. It’s ridiculous.
          If it’s some other culture, I’m not going to talk about it because I’m no expert on how they express things by dancing….because gee, I’m a westerner who has no experience or knowledge about dancing and how it expresses anything. Whatdayaknow.

        • Rebecca Duncan

          They sang at the Last Supper and on the way to the Garden. Jesus recited part of psalm (which is usually sung, because it is a SONG) as He was dying on the Cross. There was no dancing however.

      • Janet Baker

        Rebecca, that’s an excellent point.

      • janina

        But Eucharist literally means “thanksgiving”. The whole Mass is a big THANK YOU to God for being with us, for coming into us, for wanting to be one with us and allowing us to be one with God. That is beautiful. The whole Christian mystery is beautiful, sad, appalling, gratifying, joyful, awe inspiring, and full of hope and redemption. Which is why we sing many types of song at Mass, we have joyful times, reflective times, sorrowful times, glorious times, and thankful times all in the one hour of Mass. Dance is an art, and the Church and Mass is already filled with art (visual, symbolic performance, dramatic). If done correctly a dance can transcend space and expectation by expressing and evoking one or all of the aforementioned emotions. But just like all other art, if it’s bad, it’s glaringly obviously out of place. It seems that most naysayers in this discussion have never seen a good, soulful dance before.

      • Katherine

        Christ has risen!

  • http://www.parafool.com/ victor

    If it’s done outside of the Liturgy, it’s not Liturgical dance. Dance as an art form is as legitimate as music (predating music, even). If we’re going to allow performances of religious music inside of a Church, why not performances of religious dance? Provided it’s done well and with reverence, I’m not sure what the objection would be.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      If the only thing that makes it liturgical is the location and not the actual dancing than it’s really just a dance. Nothing religious is involved other than where it takes place.

  • Lynn

    Wait! Byzantines put up with this stuff? I’m totally shocked. They have amazing liturgy and I thought they didn’t fall for this, umm, stuff.

  • angelakw

    Back in the late 70′s/early 80′s, there were three of us girls (10-12 years old) who were ballet students. Sr. Mary Catherine choreographed a couple of Liturgical Dance numbers and we did them for the reflection after Communion at the Saturday evening mass. Tasteful, simple, graceful – no gyrating, no rolling on the floor. Am I a fan of Liturgical Dance today? Not really, I prefer a straight-up, solemn mass with no new age stuff. However, I am glad of the experience as a child and the way it helped me frame how all our talents can be used in a broader context of “worship”.

    • Romulus

      The problem with liturgical dancing is that it exalts the individual, so that “excellence in worship” becomes something to strive for — a matter of personal achievement, not attainable by all. Authentic worship is an act of the community; attending a performance as spectator, even a very good performance dedicated to the glory of God, is at odds with the concept of worship as an activity of the whole Church.

      It is for this same reason that the best and most traditional principles in sacred music discourage or even outlaw the use of musical soloists, either instrumental or vocal.

      I guess everyone has forgotten this stuff, so that it takes a sour old trad to point out that elitism in worship is un-Catholic.

      • mortimer zilch

        You NAYSAYERS sound just like the wife of King David in the Old Testament when he danced during the liturgical installation of the Ark in the Tent. She complained that David called demeaning attention to himself, and David replied with one of the funniest lines in all of Scripture: “the serving girls didn’t seem to mind.” Scripture makes a point of noting that this wife of David died childless. Lest your Faith die childless too, I recommend EVERYBODY dancing in the aisles! (don’t be more Catholic than the Pope….)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

          David danced because he was over come with joy. It was spontaneous. Hiring or organizing an event with professional dancers to perform a show is hardly spontaneous spiritual joy. Any fool can tell the difference.

      • Katherine

        Does a Palestrina Mass also exalt the individual? A soloist singing the Ave Maria? An organ prelude?
        You sound like a Calvinist

        • Romulus

          Funny, I don’t feel like a Calvinist.

          Katherine — a soloist singing the Ave Maria is a very fine thing. It’s just not liturgical. Avoidance of soloists is fundamental to the Catholic understanding of music’s place in the liturgy. There is a theological basis for this. Please do some homework and give the Church some credit for having thought this through.

          One of the chief reasons Palestrina is well suited to liturgy is because it is NOT operatic and does NOT call attention to any individual. It is polyphony, remember?

          The chief business of the organ in liturgy is to support the human voice. Purely instrumental use of the organ is secondary and peripheral. This is not to argue against beauty in the liturgy. I have MCed lots of masses of staggering beauty, Solemn masses in the x-form, with full choir and orchestra playing Mozart or Haydyn. I have been blessed to be present at a lot more of this than most Catholics. All this is fine so long as it’s configured as worship — ecclesial worship — and not entertainment. To be blunt, most pastors these days know little to nothing about music in liturgy, so they opt for the sentimental and decorative. Or they let themselves be pushed around by musicians digging themselves. Lacking both liturgical understanding and good taste, they end up producing gruesome spectacles that confuse people about what is appropriate and what is not.

          • Katherine

            All this is fine so long as it’s configured as worship — ecclesial worship — and not entertainment.
            Fine. So liturgical dance, music, choral singing etc is acceptable as long as it is configured as worship and not entertainement. I don’t think the one photo here gives anyone enough information to rule on this.

          • Romulus

            No. Not fine. Liturgical dance and choral singing are two very different things. I was not speaking of liturgical dance.

            You are willfully misreading me. Please stop, as I have no time to waste on intentional obtuseness or sophistry.

          • Katherine

            Fine. They are two different things. One you have a private, personal dislike for and the other you do not. That seems to be the distinction.

          • Romulus

            No again. The distinction is that one is permitted and even encouraged by the Church. The other is forbidden. This is official law we’re talking about. My personal likes and dislikes are irrelevant.

          • Katherine

            Liturgical dance is not forbidden. You have a bug up your backside about this. Worship God with music and dance.

          • Romulus

            Forbidden.

            Look up “Dance in the Liturgy”, from the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship. “Notitiae” 11 (1975) 202-205.

            You are the one with the bug. If you want to do what you feel like, be honest enough to admit you don’t care what the law says, and can’t be bothered to find out. Don’t just make stuff up.

          • Katherine

            Rather then skip to 202-205, let’s start at the begining of the document you reference:

            THE RELIGIOUS DANCE, AN
            EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL JOY

            The dance can be an art: a synthesis of the measured arts (music and poetry) and the spatial arts (architecture, sculpture, painting).

            As an art which, by means of the body, expresses human feelings, the dance is especially adapted to signify joy.

            Thus, among the mystics, we find intervals of dancing as an expression of the fullness of their love of God. Recall the cases of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, St. Gerard Majella.

            When the Angelic Doctor wished to represent paradise, he represented it as a dance executed by angels and saints.

            The dance can turn into prayer which expresses itself with a movement which engages the whole being, soul and body. Generally, when the spirit raises itself to God in prayer, it also involves the body.

            One can speak of the prayer of the body. This can express its praise, it petition with movements, just as is said of the
            stars which by their evolution praise their Creator (cf. Baruch 3:34).

            Various examples of this type of prayer are had in the Old Testament.

            This holds true especially for primitive peoples. They express their religious sentiment with rhythmic movements.

            Among them, when there is a question of worship, the spoken word becomes a chant, and the gesture of going or walking towards the divinity transforms itself into a dance step.

            Among the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers and in the conciliar texts there is mention of dancing, an evaluation of
            it, a comment on the biblical text in which there is an allusion to the dance; more frequently there is a condemnation of profane dances and the disorders to
            which the dances give rise.

            In liturgical texts, there are at times allusions to the dance of the angels and of the elect in paradise (cf. “Among
            the lilies thou dost feed, surrounded by dancing groups of virgins”) in order to express the “joy and the “jubilation” which will characterize eternity.

            THE DOCUMENT THEN CONTINUES:

            Actually, in favor of dance in the liturgy, an argument could be drawn from the passage of the Constitution on the
            Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in which are given the norms for adaptation of the liturgy to the character and the traditions of the various peoples:

            “In matters which do not affect the faith or the well-being of an entire community, the Church does not wish, even in the Liturgy, to impose a rigid uniformity; on the contrary, she respects and fosters the genius and talents of various races and people. Whatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she looks upon With benevolence and if possible keeps it intact, and sometimes even admits it into the Liturgy provided it accords with the genuine and authentic liturgical spirit.”[1]

            ONLY AT THE VERY END OF THE DOCUMENT DOES IT RAISE THE RESTRICTIONS YOU RAISE, namely not at Mass, at least those Masses in a culture where it is not appropriate. Since you seem to prefer a legalistic approach, I woudl note that the photo in question show dance outside of the Divine Liturgy and at a non-western Byzantine church, which is not under the jursidction of the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship.

          • Romulus

            So what?

            The document is thorough and judicious. It examines the subject carefully. Then it comes to a conclusion, unambiguously presented.

            Other than that you don’t like the conclusion and are attempting to pretend it isn’t there — What’s your point?

          • Katherine

            I am happy with the conclusion. It does not apply to the Byzantine Church (as is the case in the photo). It does not apply to acts of worship outside of Mass (as is also the case in the photo). It indicates that the entrance and recessional processions are not part of the Mass as pertains to this question. It commends dance in the general sense as an act of worship (the whole first half of the document). It says the proper answer to this question depends on the culture.
            It restricts dance within the Mass in Western culture. I am fine with that (and that is not on several counts what was pictured.
            It does leave ambiguous as to what are the boudnries of western culture save a reference to Samoa and some other places as being non-western. My parish would see itself as multicultural so it is unclear how it applies to us. (I know in certain reactionary quarter the word multicultural brings horrors. That is those people’s problem, not mine).

          • Romulus

            It’s clear you do not like being in the Latin Rite because you keep arguing that it should stop being what it is.

            It’s clear you do not like the Vatican Council’s call for full liturgical participation by the people, because you want to reduce them to spectators.

            It’s clear you do not like being Catholic because you have no regard for your local church, much less the universal Church; your ecclesiology is entirely congregational and it’s you who wants nothing to do with the outside world.

            Finally, it’s clear you do not like living in the truth, because you make false claims about what the ruling document indicates.

            I am not interested in joining your fanciful alternate reality. Please stop bothering me.

          • Katherine

            Now, Romulus, that response simply lacks charity and truth.

  • W. Randolph Steele

    I have been married to the first African-American Pastoral Associate in our diocese for the past 10 years. She and her family were converts in 1960′s. “I” am cradle and 9 years old er than her. She has a Master Degree in theology, a beautiful singing voice AND she introduced me the beauty and the exuberance of African-american Gospel music and it’s inclusion in the liturgy. There is great joy present at the Masses I have attended and it is infectious. IF this can exist in Catholocism, so can liturgical dance. God knows both are far better than what I grew up with serving Mass in the early 60′s where my pastoral once threatened to cut my arm off for the awful “crime” of picking up his biretta by the tassel. I was 10.

    • Romulus

      Christian joy is a fine thing, but it is not the same as high-energy liturgi-tainment. Authentic joy is almost always something interior.

      • W. Randolph Steele

        Not necessarily, sometimes, as, I have felt during a “Gospel Mass” it can imbued.

      • Katherine

        “Authentic joy is almost always something interior.”
        You are confusing joy with contaspation.

        • Romulus

          I think the word you want is “recollection”.

  • Rebecca Duncan

    bwahahaha! Hilarious. We used to have ‘liturgical dance’ at my parish. I was a brand new Catholic and let me just say, it was disturbing enough that I started looking at going Eastern Orthodox. If your liturgy is a joke, then why do you think people will come to the Mass every week? Do you think people become Catholic (or stay practicing Catholics) so they can see morons dance around an altar? Of course, I know now that it isn’t a good reason to quit being Catholic (nothing is) but, like I said, I was brand new.

  • An Eastern Xian

    I attended this event.

    Firstly, it was not held during Divine Liturgy or any of the Divine Services, therefore it was not liturgical dance. So, get over it.

    Secondly, for a church to act as as venue for other performances is not something new, just something rarely done in the west.

    Thirdly, I feel for a Byzantine Church to hold such an affair opens the church to people who may have never set foot in one and may hopefully be moved and intrigued to return some Sunday to see how worship of God in this particular church occurs – very good form of evangelization! Which I must say the Byzantine Catholic Church as a whole does not do – they don’t even have an office for it… and Eugene Edward, you can confirm that when you speak to the Bishop. ;-)

    • http://www.onbehalfofall.org/ Gabe Martini

      When evangelization is rigidly defined following contemporary Protestantism, sure. But that’s a real issue with modern Catholicism—it is often defined by her reactions to Protestant trends, whether in the affirmative or the negative. Rather than being a light in the darkness, it is finding new ways to try and convince the darkness to enjoy the light. Quite a hard sell. And thus, silly dancing in front of the altar.

  • Hilary White

    At least she appears to be a real dancer. A step up from the usual greying grannies and portly porkers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa???? Ms. White complimenting a liturgical dancer????

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

        ..

  • Thew

    In a church whose architecture is filled with grace and purpose and where the priests wear beautiful well crafted vestments and use vessels made of precious material and the music is of the highest quality and the readings done with care, it makes perfect sense that the priests, deacons and other ministers should waddle through the liturgy like clumsy oafs. Because the spirit is good and the body bad. Ok, sarcasm off… I agree with OldWorldSwine and jscalvano. The problem with liturgical dance in the west is not that it’s dance, it’s that it’s not a part of the liturgy. Since I’ve learned to dance and started teaching it the way that the ministers move through the mass has started to bug me like off key music. There is one priest I know who has an orans position skewed 6 inches to the right and when he gives the final blessing his right hand is angled up and well above the left hand which is angled down. It’s annoying. Anyway, the movement in the liturgy should be a dance. We just don’t know how to do it right yet.

  • John Moses

    My music teacher once told me that such things were not lit-urgy, but lit-orgy.
    And so it is…

  • Christine Hebert

    AMEN!!!!!!!

  • Christine Hebert

    The purpose of the Holy Mass is to worship God. It is not about “feeling” anything!!!! It doesn’t matter how boring a homilist is. It isn’t about him. It isn’t about how ugly the wallpaper is, or how beautiful the icons are. We are there for Christ. If we do not “feel” anything when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, it still doesn’t change that fact that Christ, who is unchanging, ever-loving, all-powerful, is there with us BODY, BLOOD, SOUL and DIVINITY! How can any of the other externals EVER compare? They certainly shouldn’t.

    • Katherine

      Then sell the organ, fire the choir

  • AnonCollie

    Ecclesiates 3 assures us that there is a time to dance.

    Human expression is an important part of prayer – all of human expression. Song, Dance, Art, poetry, writing, *everything*.

    Therefore Liturgal Dance is not something to be banned. Jesus would have danced in his own Jewish tradition.

    • Rebecca Duncan

      There may be a time to dance but it ain’t at Mass. :)

  • Dale Scuderi

    sacred space is what you meant… please fix that. scared space..really?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      OMG… really? A typo! The horror!

      Besides, any place with liturgical dancers is indeed a scary space.

  • Christopher Petty

    What is all that crap along the sanctuary? drapes and candles? and some woman doing a pole dance in front of Our August Queen? Totally disrespectful and distracting.

    • An Eastern Xian

      Again, this occurred OUTSIDE of any liturgical service, therefore the tomb and its decorations were moved to the center of the Ambon. As for the candles – they were surrounding the “tomb.” Oh, and God forbid one find candles in a church!!! Furthermore, it is an icon of Mary Platytera.

  • mortimer zilch

    Well, Jesus’ condemnation of His contemporaries was just this:
    “We played pipes for you, and you did not dance…” Matt. 11:v17.
    and I say: “if the shoe fits, wear it.”

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Back to the GIRM:
    Liturgical dance is legitimate when it occurs *before* or *after* Mass, and includes the whole congregation, not just performers. Liturgical dance based on ballet is strictly prohibited.

    So you’re correct as far as your own experience goes- apparently all the liturgical dance you’ve seen is truly against the rubrics.

    But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater- a marian mariachi procession can be quite life affirming.

    • Katherine

      The photo in question is of dance outside of Mass. It is sad that it unleashed a series of attacks when it is a perfectly legitimate act of worship, as it meets that standard. Nevermind that neither GRIM nor the notes of the Congregreation for Sacraments and Divine Worship apply to the Byzantine Church anyway.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        The “and includes the whole congregation” is important. Even the legitimate Eastern Rite liturgical dances that I’m aware of follow that important rule.

        Dance as a performance art is relatively modern (that is, post 900 AD) in and of itself. And of course, it was inspired by the highly sexualized court performance dancing for the king/sultan.

        Liturgical dance should never be about performance art.

        • Katherine

          Nor should music or singing be about performance art. We have existing forms of worship expression to use to measure this. What a choir or organist can do, so could a worshipper do with dance.

  • Martin

    You do like to complain hey….wow. Just read a few of your pieces. Complain, complain, bitch, moan, groan…..I don’t like this, I don’t like that….whadda whadda whadda. Please do get off that pedestal before you hurt yourself.

    • Dale

      Martin, the internet is a big place. There are millions of blogs to choose from. If you don’t like this particular one, why not find one more to your liking?

  • Katherine

    The Byzantine rite service of marriage includes “the Dance of Isaiah”, so dance is a required part of the Byzantine rite.

    • Romulus

      “Dance of Isaiah” is the term for what in reality is a liturgical procession. It is not a performance.

      • Katherine

        It is not a performance because the intention is for worship. The same with liturgical dance. On the other hand, if a operatic performer dressed as an archbishop makes the sign of the cross on stage, that is a performance, not a liturgical act.

        • Romulus

          The intention may be for worship, but we are not at liberty to import into the liturgy whatever we like: “no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or
          change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” So said Vatican II.

          • Katherine

            That does not preclude liturgical dance outside of Mass, as was the case in the photo of which this thread was based.

          • Romulus

            If the dance takes place outside the liturgy, it isn’t “liturgical”.

          • Katherine

            Romulus, Romulus, Romulus,
            you need to come out of your narrow and rigid world view and experience the joy of God. Music, song, dance, gesture, fragrance, poetry and language can be secular or acts of beautiful worship of our awesome God.
            Liturgy can in its narrow defintion mean just the Mass (Divine Liturgy) or can embrace all corporate worship — the Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass of the PreSanctified (which is not strictly a Mass, but we use the term broadly here too). Or a liturgical service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Or the Sign of the Cross as what we call a liturgical gesture even outsie fo Mass.
            Romulus, don’t obstruct other who are worshiping God who is the cause of their joy and happiness. Maybe you don’t feel their joy in our awesome God, but please respect those who do and are moved to express it.

          • Romulus

            Thanks, but I understand just fine what is and what is not liturgy. I don’t care if people want to dance as an act of worship. Knock yourself out, say I. But not within liturgy. You don’t honor Christ by insulting his bride, in his own house.

          • Katherine

            Well, it took you a long time to admit you have no probem with what was pictured in the post that started this discussion. But I am glad that you finally are agreeing that I am correct. Dance can be a wonderful form of worshipping God. It is not inappropriate before Mass as part of the entrance or after Mass as part of the recession or at worship outside of Mass.
            Having said that, nothing in any church document suggests that dance is an insult any more than any other deviation from the rubrics, for example doing a May Crowning during Mass.

  • Elisabeth

    I am a member of the Catholic faith and an established performer of concert dance. I believe in the power of expressive movement to bring individual’s closer to God. However I am skeptical of its place within the liturgy. Outside of mass, the process of dancing clarifies my state of mind providing the quiet necessary to hear God’s voice. I would love to share this with others but I recognize that it is my personal form of religious reflection and may not work for everyone. It is for this reason I feel that dance performed in mass may alienate my fellow parishioners. But then again music is a huge part of celebratory mass. I’m still developing an opinion of this. Maybe less spandex in general? Dance is a valid form of artistic expression. Why are all other art forms accepted in mass while dance is excluded?

  • Lazz

    Who says it only has to be done in any specific place i myself have done it at various events and locations schools, parks, rec centers etc. It is a form of expression and worship out isn’t limited to just religious our spiritual songs but all across the bored obviously you have no understanding of dance period. It had no limitations of any sort


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