Share |

Dance Without Music

Dance without music, you say? That sounds rather intimidating! Where is the rhythm and the underlying flow and melody to accompany the dance?

Dance without music and with Scripture or other spoken words can be very effective and pow- erful. Dance has the ability to make words come alive as the movement helps paint the overall picture. Many Scripture passages and poetic litanies have a natural flow to the wording, making them appropriate for pairing with dance.

Psalm 136 is an excellent example of a Scripture passage that can be beautifully set with dance. There is an underlying sense of motion within this passage, and the refrain “His love endures forever” creates a simple foundation for movement.

When putting movement with repeated words, keep the gestures very similar from one refrain to the next. Try not to make it boring by keeping it exactly the same; consider using the same movement but facing different corners or areas in the space, for example. That way, the impact of the repetition remains, but the movement does not become redundant. You could also pair the spoken word with a drumbeat in the background for more concrete rhythm.

Here are some movement ideas for part of this well-loved psalm. For the refrain “His love endures forever,” do a turn in any direction and then reach either hand up to the heavens, with the head reflecting this movement by following the hand. This turn and reach can be done on high or low levels, to different corners, different tempos, and so on. This simple pairing of movements has endless possibilities. I like the idea of a turn, thinking of a circle, and eternity—his love endures forever!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Clasp hands over head and bring hands down in front as if serving something with the palms of your hands.

His love endures forever.
Do a turn in any direction and then reach either hand up to the heavens, with the head reflecting this movement by following the hand. (This refrain motion will be repeated throughout.)

Give thanks to the God of gods.
Reach right hand out, straight or on a diagonal, with left hand crossed in front, touching your right shoulder —looks very royal and powerful; then extend position upward to the heavens.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
Sweep arms across to the left diagonal while clasping hands in gratitude.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

to him who alone does great wonders,
Circle arms toward your body— almost like “stirring up your soul”— and extend arms straight out to congregation.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

When you are facing a group to teach them movements, remember to do the opposite movements and say the opposite directional terms. You will be “mirroring” the group when you teach the movements facing them. When you turn your back on them to do the movements with them, do what the group is doing.

If people are having a hard time learning circle dances, try teaching them the movements in straight lines, then put them in the circle formation when they feel comfortable.

who by his understanding made the heavens,
Turn backward and open both arms to the heavens.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

who spread out the earth upon the waters,
Face front and start on left side of the body, and “smooth out the space” with your right hand—palm down—on an upward diagonal, and flip palm to face upward at full extension of your right arm.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

who made the great lights—
Do sporadic arm movements with “twinkling hands.”

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

the sun to govern the day,
Stand in a wide stance and sweep your arms all the way around—using your body and arms to trace a large circle in front of you—stretching all the way down and forward.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

the moon and stars to govern the night . . .
Bring arms up over your head, and lead fingertips down toward your heart into your chest.

His love endures forever.
Repeat refrain motion.

Movement without music can be set to other words than Scripture. It can also be very effective with the familiar words of the Apostles’ Creed, which is well known but often recited without much thought. Adding movement can help familiar words become fresh and new again. This may also be a good way to teach children the words of the creed. (For a video example from the 2012 Worship Symposium, visit vimeo.com/channels/wsymp12#36483334 and view the clip beginning at 50:30.)

When moving to Scripture or other spoken words, rehearse beforehand a few times with the reader so the dancers will feel comfortable with the tempo. Make sure you work collaboratively with the reader about when to slow down or speed up to make things flow with the movement and wording.

Putting movement to words without music expands the opportunities to get dance ministries and pedestrians (my affectionate term for non-dancers) moving. Pairing movement with Scripture enables people of all ages to embody the Scripture, memorize it and own the words, and hide them in their hearts. His love endures forever!

For a video example of similar ideas from the 2012 Worship Symposium, visit vimeo.com/channels/wsymp12#36483334 and view the clip beginning at 2:10.