Thursday, April 29 2021
By. Rev. Lloyd E. Brockemeyer
In her book, “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, she pursues the intriguing idea about how living things without a language like humans, communicate what they are. She suggests, if I understand her, that they do this by dance, by the way they immerge from a bulb, send roots spiraling down into the soil, push up through the earth and open to the sunlight, unfold leaves in gradual but beautiful ways and form seeds to repeat this dance of becoming. Perhaps it is somewhat like a mime communicating without words through movement, dancing out thoughts in clear, unmistakable ways.
I think dance has been an important and meaningful part of our human experience since creation. Often it has been a part of ceremonial rituals about birth, rites of passage, marriage, death, and many other life experiences. Sometimes it is a pure expression of joy, and at times, an intimate movement of lovers together allowing people to release emotions that they cannot find words to express.
Be it modern, ballet, rock and roll, or the "round" dance performed by our ancient ancestors, dance is an expression and sometimes a purposeful attempt to convey to others feelings, thoughts, ideas, hopes, desires, and even the most seemingly intangible of emotional experience. Other forms of human movement are sometimes said to have a dance-like quality including martial arts, gymnastics, cheerleading, figure skating, synchronized swimming, marching bands, and many other forms of athletics.
The TV show, “Dancing With the Stars” and other similar ones, have popularized a certain form of dancing today. It is a competition of style but still holding basically to accepted forms of ballroom dance. The professionals are very creative in what they are able to perform.
In the early nineties, Mary dragged me to a ballroom dance class some of her friends were attending. After a time, we both got hooked so began taking classes and joined a dance group, the Congenial 100, that had a long history, actually beginning with people from St. Paul’s Church. We enjoyed this group for many years. Each month there was a theme chosen with appropriate decorations, and a meal was served prior to the dance time. Among many highlights for me was dancing with a lady on her 100th birthday. We enjoyed the fellowship of many friends, and the time spent together as a couple was special. At a number of wedding dances we were the last couple on the floor when eliminated by age. Surgeries and health issues ended our dancing a few years ago.
Dance can be a special form of worship. The Ark of the Covenant was a special sign of God’s presence so after a long absence it was finally brought into Jerusalem. The Bible tells that wearing a linen ephod, David danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (2 Samuel 16: 14) In our worship at St. Paul’s we have sometimes used liturgical dancers to help interpret a scripture reading or a hymn. Dance was also used to express joy at a time of victory as described also in Samuel, “As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.” (I Samuel 18:6, Standard Version)
The hymn. “Lord of the Dance”, portrays Jesus life verse by verse with the chorus between them, “Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he, And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be, And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.”
So we might ask ourselves what kind of dance are we encouraged to engage in. For Jesus it was a dance of self sacrifice and love. Are we called to any less that that?