Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

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JW
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Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by JW »

Changing cultural influences in the UK have meant that, on occasion, dance is being used within Catholic Liturgy. African and Asian culture uses ceremonial dance to a much greater extent than Western culture. Dancing at Mass has been observed quite frequently in the UK, including Schools Masses, Ordinations and the recent Mass at Liverpool Cathedral to welcome the relics of St John Bosco. I am unable to verify, but I have the impression that dance was included in Papal Masses celebrated by Bl. John Paul II in Africa.

Western European Catholic opinion has, in the past, condemned dance as immoral, because of its carnal overtones. Indeed, at one time, I believe all dance was considered morally suspect, though I don't think anyone told the Irish! However, this is no longer the case. Consider, for example, this video of Bl. John Paul II obviously enjoying watching break dancing, outside of liturgy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YK87pyWaZs

Indeed, there are many types of dancing, where there are no carnal overtones, e.g tap, riverdance, some ballet (Nutcracker), dances at school Nativity plays, etc.etc.

Cardinal Arinze's views on the matter are expressed in the following video and are quite ambiguous. He says that dance should not enter the Liturgy in Europe and North America because it is "akin to Saturday night" with a man dancing with a woman. As I've mentioned earlier, this misinterprets and cheapens much European and American dance. However, he leaves the question to the discretion of local bishops in African and Asian churches.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rJFdmmqj_s

We now have African Catholic priests working as missionaries in England, with a brief to teach us what works in their local churches. We have congregations consisting mainly of African or Asian congregations. Presumably the cardinal's comments suggest that there is a place for dance within such congregations?

A final thought:
Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself. ~Havelock Ellis


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VML
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by VML »

It's over 30 years ago, but there was dance at the Papal Mass at Coventry in 1982.

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by gascoynep »

I was recently privileged to be invited to play at the mass for the baptism of a colleague's son. My colleague is from Cameroon and the majority of guests were also from Cameroon.
Their tradition seems to include dance as an integral part of music, I was especially struck by the "offertory procession" which included all the congregation dancing down the isle to deposit their offerings in baskets held near the altar.

The whole celebration was dignified and spiritual but rooted it seemed in the culture of those attending. The fact that everyone participated (both singing and dancing) so enthusiastically made it the most memorable baptism I've been to.

I don't dance at all (ever!) . Had I not been playing an instrument I might have felt awkward, this is not something that could happen at our regular Sunday masses - our culture is different.

Personally I do not like to see "performances" like that in Liverpool, I don't see how the congregation is supposed to interact with a dance from their seats, I'd want everyone to be able to be involved and to understand the significance of the movements. (I also feel the same about choir pieces at prep. gifts and after communion - but I know this does happen - how is a well prepared dance different to a motet in this respect?)

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by alan29 »

There's a fine line between dance and liturgical movement, isn't there? A couple of examples
I was playing at a requiem the other day, and playing the Ernie Sands "Mat the Lord receive you" during the sprinkling and incensing if the coffin. Quite subconsciously the priest timed the chinking of the thurible (spell-checker wants to replace that with "terrible" :mrgreen: ) exactly with the beats of the music as he moved around the coffin. He was moving his feet and arms in time to the music - isn't that dance?
Some of the actions of the EF solemn mass when ministers are moving simultaneously are dance-like too. Isn't it sometimes referred to as choreography?

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by Peter Jones »

alan29 wrote:Isn't it sometimes referred to as choreography?
Some might call it mummery.
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by musicus »

Dance-in-education has a strong presence in many schools and involves large numbers of girls and boys in creating and performing contemporary dance in a wide variety of styles - see the website of the National Dance Teachers' Association at http://www.ndta.org.uk for more about this. In my not inconsiderable experience (as a colleague of dance teachers, not a participant!), this is dance as an art-form and not as social interaction. I suggest that if young people in secondary education, FE and HE have a mental image of dance, it is more likely to be of dance as a contemporary art-form than of Saturday night socials (wherein dance no longer plays much of a part, I think). Dance in schools takes itself very seriously - often, too seriously - and its advocates would have little difficulty in making a case for liturgical dance if we were allow that the Church still has a role as patron of the arts.
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by Peter Jones »

musicus wrote:.......... this is dance as an art-form ...........
hmmmmm - OK - but I don't want to focus on an art form, let alone be side-tracked into idolatry by being so absorbed in the dance that it becomes, in itself, the object of worship. How might dance as an art form become dance as ritual prayer that focusses on God and that draws people's hearts and minds into an active participatory experience of the presence of God? I have to admit that dance "doesn't do it for me". I have more negative experiences of so-called liturgical dance than positive ones, I regret to say. Decorum forbids me to say more, apart from, perhaps, I did once feel repulsed by the proximity of something very large, ferociously fat and anatomically basal quivering queasily before a presidential chair.

BTW - please note that Jeremiah 31: 13 refers to young women/girls and, I suggest, that some of the joy that the old men feel is not wholly focussed on God.
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Nick Baty
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by Nick Baty »

Peter Jones wrote:Jeremiah 31: 13 refers to young women/girls and, I suggest, that some of the joy that the old men feel is not wholly focussed on God.

That's the problem with these heterosexual Masses – they should be banned! ;)
Last edited by Nick Baty on Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by BobHayes »

Personally I would find dance distracting - by its very nature it is a performance, may well lead to a focus on vanity rather than worship and it is certainly non-inclusive, if not overtly elitist.
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Nick Baty
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by Nick Baty »

Exactly the same could be said about choral music. But would we want to see it banned?

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by BobHayes »

In the case of music/singing, I believe there can be a very fine line between what adds to the depth of Mass and what is a distraction from worship. With dance I can only see it as a distraction. That's my personal view.
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by Southern Comfort »

I wonder how the folks of Auxerre in the early 13th century would have reacted to this thread. The bishop and ministers danced (I imagine stately, patterned movements) on the tiled floor of that ancient cathedral on the 1st of January each year, while the Prose de l'Âne, a hymn to the donkey, was sung (to our modern tune Orientis partibus).

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by alan29 »

It has continued in Spain
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4rOqzjLG24
I wouldn't give it more than a 6.

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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by Southern Comfort »

VML wrote:It's over 30 years ago, but there was dance at the Papal Mass at Coventry in 1982.


I have to confess that I don't remember this happening at all. Was it during the pre-Mass warm-up rather than the actual Mass? Lots of peculiar things happened then — during school pageants, etc — and Abp Couve de Murville (who had only been appointed a short time before) tried to derail the entire warm-up period by inserting a long recitation of decades of the rosary into it. (He was resisted.)

JW
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Re: Is there a place for dance within Catholic Liturgy

Post by JW »

So was the Cardinal mistaken when he claimed there is no tradition of dance within the Latin rite? I worry about his thoughts that Europeans don't have the dignified movements within their culture that Africans and Asians have and therefore should not dance within the Liturgy: is he saying that Europeans are inferior in this matter?

Incidentally, he makes no mention of South America - are they allowed to dance or not?
JW

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