Dancing between the Pews: Liturgical Choreographers on Their Faith in Dance

By Weeks, Janet | Dance Magazine, December 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Dancing between the Pews: Liturgical Choreographers on Their Faith in Dance


Weeks, Janet, Dance Magazine


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

After Kathleen S. Turner graduated from Purchase College's dance program choreographers were interested in her. Yet she found herself in the frustrating position of always making it to the final round but never getting hired. In 1978, she auditioned for a job she really wanted. In the end, it came down to Turner and a fellow Purchase classmate. "They couldn't decide which one of us to choose but could only hire one, and they took Fran," remembers Turner.

Turner left that audition filled with doubts about her life's purpose. At the depth of her depression she even considered suicide. But, though she wasn't very religious, something led her to call her childhood piano teacher, a close family friend and member of the church she grew up in. She talked with the teacher and then with the church pastor.

"Within an hour, I was saved," Turner remembers. "I went to dance class that afternoon and it was the best I'd ever had. I danced with more joy because I had offered my gift to God."

Not everyone who works in this niche where dance and prayer meet have entered it as dramatically. But all are inspired by liturgical dance's power to affect people--both those who watch it and those who do it--in ways that prayer as a purely mental (or vocal) activity cannot. And yet, not all worshippers agree that dance has a place in the sanctuary, given age-old ideas of the body as sensual rather than spiritual. Still a number of choreographers with professional experience are making liturgical dance sing and have found communities that celebrate the gifts they bring.

Shortly after Turner devoted her dance to divinity, she discovered the vibrant Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral of New York in Queens. The minister, Floyd H. Flake, asked Turner to start a dance group for the church's teens and women. What began in 1978 with a handful of participants has since become the 300-member Allen Liturgical Dance Ministry, which offers dance classes for all ages and performs in every Sunday service. And devoting her art to God didn't exclude Turner from the secular dance world. She danced with choreographer Dianne Mclntyre and was an associate professor at Hunter College for more than 10 years.

Father Robert Ver Eecke, director of the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble and pastor of Saint Ignatius Church at Boston College, joined the Jesuit Order at age 18 and began studying ballet three years later. He believes that it is through our bodies that we experience God. But as a pastor he has to tread sensitively. Some members of his congregation are enthusiastic about liturgical dance "and others don't find it prayerful," he says. So Ver Eecke schedules dance outside of standard Sunday services. During holy week (the week prior to Easter), his church offers a special liturgy that is almost completely danced. For some, the service is much loved; others choose to stay home.

When Ver Eecke does include dance on a Sunday, his choreography is more contained. "In the regular liturgical setting, simple is powerful," he says. "I first thought lots of turns and penchees were great. But what works best is a beautiful, simple movement phrase, textured with canon and opposition. The purpose is to invite people into a deeper spiritual experience. Your goal isn't to show how great you are. Liturgical dance is a ministry. It takes humility to do it effectively."

Ver Eecke has great respect for the spiritual accomplishment of Alvin Ailey's famed Revelations. "Although Revelations is not a liturgical piece per se," says Ver Eecke, "it embodies the intimate connection between body and spirit in such a powerful way that anyone who tries to use dance as a form of religious expression will use this piece as a model of perfection."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Constance M.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dancing between the Pews: Liturgical Choreographers on Their Faith in Dance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.