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Dance in the Spirit of Unity

If you’ve ever watched a group of dancers on one of those reality so-you-think-you-can-dance shows on television, you might have asked yourself “What makes this group so much better than the last?” When a group is in sync with each other through each movement and transition, that makes them stand out. It’s the unity within the choreography—both physical and emotional—that heightens the excellence of a dance piece.

That’s also true within the church. Dance can bring healing, express joy, and proclaim good news. Dance also brings unity. During the season of Pentecost, we are reminded of the unity that the Holy Spirit brings to the church. Dancing together in the Spirit of unity is a wonderful way to worship!

Liturgical dance is functional in the sense that it takes place in the liturgical flow of a worship gathering. Just as congregational singing takes place within that liturgical flow, so can congregational movement. In this article I will share two ways to get the congregation moving: one with congregational song, the other through prayer.

“Spirit of the Living God” (see RW 47) is a great song for Pentecost and a wonderful affirmation of faith. The following choreography can be used with a small group of dancers forming a circle, or you could teach it to the whole congregation as they sit or stand in the pews.

Spirit of the Living God
Push the right hand toward your midline; using your wrist, flick it back and pulse again. Repeat with the left arm while the right is reaching up.

Fall afresh on me;
“Fall” bring right arm down; “afresh” bring left arm down; “me” open arms at sides as an offering.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Repeat as for two lines above. But at the end of “me” bring arms from offering position and cross them over chest.

Melt me,
Open crossed arms as if you are melting.

Mold me,
Hold left arm relaxed in front of you with palm up; bring right arm over it and make a small circle over open palm, then clasp hands together in a folded position.

Fill me,
Lift both arms at your sides as if taking a big breath and being filled by the Spirit.

Use me.
Bring arms forward from the last position (at the height of your chest) as if you are serving a tray. Keep arms parallel to each other and to the floor.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Repeat the same lines and movements as the beginning of the verse.

This dance could be expanded into a circle dance with a small group of six to ten dancers. Use a step called a triplet to move the dancers counterclockwise in a circle.

A triplet step sounds like this: down, up, up. Start on right leg, step out, and go DOWN: bend (or plié) the knee; as you straighten your right leg, step up onto a straight left leg on your toes (UP), and do the same stepping forward on your toes on your right leg (UP). Repeat the whole sequence, starting on your left leg going down.

It might take some practice to get your dancers comfortable and coordinated enough to do the triplets and the arm movements at the same time. Here is an outline of the song done with a group of six to ten dancers (if space allows, you can add more dancers to the circle or make more than one circle).

Spirit of the Living God,
(TRIPLET 3x) Push right hand towards midline; using your wrist, flick it back and pulse again. Repeat with left arm while the right is reaching up.

Fall afresh on me;
(STOP MOVING AND FACE OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE, TURNING TO YOUR RIGHT SHOULDER) “Fall” bring right arm down, “afresh” bring left arm down; “me” open arms at sides as an offering.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
(REPEAT) Repeat same thing as above two lines. But at the end of “me” bring your arms from offering position to crossing them over chest (AS YOU CROSS YOUR ARMS, FACE INTO THE CIRCLE)

Melt me,
(TURNED INTO CIRCLE) Open crossed arms as if you are melting.

Mold me,
(TURN OUT OF CIRCLE) Hold left arm relaxed in front of you with palm up; bring right arm over it and make a small circle over open palm, then clasp hands together in a folded position.

Fill me,
(STAY TURNED OUT OF CIRCLE) Lift both arms at your sides as if taking a big breath and being filled by the Spirit.

Use me.
(START TRIPLET STEP TO RIGHT ONCE) Bring arms forward from the last position (at the height of your chest) as if you are serving a tray. Keep arms parallel to each other and to the floor.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
(REPEAT AS ABOVE) Repeat the same lines and movements as the beginning of the verse.

To create a unified dance, you’ll need to spend time making sure everyone is turning the same way, stretching their arms the same amount, and stepping out on the same leg. Always remember to pray before you teach the movements, and ask for the Holy Spirit to unify those who are worshiping. I like to think that the Holy Spirit was dancing in the tongues of fire that came to rest over the disciples at Pentecost.

For another dance for prayer, see the video “The Lord’s Prayer” at tinyurl.com/LordsPrayerDance. This dance can be done while sitting or standing.