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Religion in motion.

In our secular society it's often hard to talk about God. All too often, words used to describe or defend a supreme power are more divisive than unifying; more destructive than comforting. Perhaps this is partly why many use dance to bring believers closer to the divine. The following stories shine a spotlight on those who move within this region where dance and spirituality meet. [] For many in the Western world, dance and religion might seem an odd mix or even downright contradictory. At some point in history, Judeo-Christianity became suspicious of the body, some associating it more with unholy urges than religious expression. But even in the most fearful times and unwelcoming environments, sacred dance has never been blotted out. And in these more liberal days, the field seems to be almost booming. [] The dancers we talk about here are only a few examples of those who work in the sacred-dance world. Across the country, hundreds of praise dancers--teams of movers, often associated with evangelical churches--dance for their congregations. The Sacred Dance Guild, an association that supports and spreads the word about various sacred dance classes and performances, boasts 600 members (more and more of them from other countries) and lists links to a number of sacred dance companies on its Web site. [] The first two articles in this special section zero in on a small sampling of professional sacred dance groups--touring companies made up of trained dancers who use their skills in religious settings or endeavors. In the first story, artistic directors discuss how they weave dance into Catholic, Jewish, and Protestants services--a challenge that at times requires as much spiritual sensitivity, theological knowledge, and diplomacy as dance expertise. Then, in four short autobiographical profiles, sacred-dancemakers talk about their particular approaches to merging movement and spirituality. [] Thought the use of dance in worship might be unfamiliar to some of us, there are many traditions that never severed the link between spirit and body. In our final sacred dance piece, scholar and dancer Kimerer LaMothe takes us through dance rituals from other cultures. Her four examples illustrate some of sacred dance's diverse forms and functions. [] In times like these, when the world is troubled, it's easy to let doubts about dance's relevance creep in. Perhaps these dancers, who focus so specifically on the art form's spiritual powers, can remind us of how important dance is. It doesn't have to be liturgical to be spiritually uplifting and healing. Who hasn't been deeply moved by Alvin Ailey's Revelations or even Jiri Kylian's Wings of Wax? Dancers are completely visceral and yet unearthly. We have the power to make people feel deeply and transcend daily existence. In that sense we truly are, to borrow a phrase, "athletes of God" It's a good thing to remember as we leap into a new year.
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Author:Weeks, Janet
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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