Moved by the Spirit to Dance With the Lord By JULIE BLOOM NYTimes.com Homepage: March 4, 2007
“We thank you, God, that you created the dance and you made it pure. Father, we want to dance your words through our limbs.” Wendy Heagy’s voice rises as she leads the circle in prayer. She is the founder of Raise Him Up Praise Dance School and Ministry, and she is about to start her Saturday class. “We thank you for our physical bodies, for lining up every muscle and every joint,” Ms. Heagy continues. “We don’t want to just be dancers. We want to be ministers of you, Lord God.” The class, mostly African-Americans ranging in age from early 20s through mid-60s and clad in warm-up clothes, several with scripture written on the backs of their T-shirts, answers loudly, “Amen.” ...
Praise dance is a form of worship that seeks to articulate the word and spirit of God through the body. Though it is far from a new phenomenon — in biblical times, dancing was embraced during celebrations and worship — it was forced out of the Christian church during the Reformation, and has been fully welcomed back only in the past 20 or so years. In recent years praise dance has become an increasingly popular part of church services across the country, particularly among America’s growing Pentecostal movement, and it has emerged in New York too, where experts say one in 10 people is Pentecostal.
Depending on the history and denomination of a particular church, a praise dance may be a choreographed balletic piece in the middle of a service or an improvised riff in the aisles, and the practice draws from a hybrid of movement vocabularies, from jazz to modern to African. Many praise dance ministries also include American sign language to sign out scripture during a song.