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Dance: Is It a Mating Ritual or an Art Form?

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Essay title: Dance: Is It a Mating Ritual or an Art Form?

Dance: Is it a mating ritual or an art form?

The dictionary defines dance as “an artistic form of nonverbal communication” (“dance”). As Christians we have always heard that dancing is immoral; that dancing only led to one thing- sex. Although this is the general belief, many people find the art of ballet, such as The Nutcracker to be tasteful. Dancing embodies passion, grace and poise. Dancing is not just a mating ritual as we have been told; it is a story that is too good for words. Dancing is a way to communicate with anybody no matter what language they speak or how old they are. It is a way to cross barriers and touch souls.

Many people over time have argued as to what the true nature of dance is; some people think it is an expressing of culture, others say it is a spiritual medium and some cynics even believe dance is only a mating ritual. Contrary to what these people have argued, dancing has been used as a form of art for centuries, not just a mating ritual.

As an Adventist, the writing of Ellen White is viewed highly. In her book, Messages to Young People, she takes a very harsh view of dancing. Ellen White believes that no Christian should be caught dancing; that Jesus and dancing can not exist together. In Ellen Whites’ eyes, dancing is only used for “self-gratification” and will lead down the “path of dissipation” (135,136). She does not distinguish between the types of dancing which leads many Adventist to believe that she is referring to all types of dancing.

So where did this negative view of dancing start? It certainly did not begin with the Bible because there are 27 different mentions of the word dance listed. Throughout the Bible dancing is used to portray joy, sorrow, even a spiritual connection with God. In the Bible, David said “Let them praise His name with dancing, and make music to Him” (New International Version, Psalms 149.3). The only negative connotation the Bible puts on dancing is when it is mixed with idolatry or intoxication. When Moses came down the mountain and found the people dancing around the golden calf, he had a problem with the idol not the dancing (Daniels 9).

The medieval period is when dancing began to develop a bad reputation. Dances such as the dance of the dead, the dance mania and flagellant dancing had surfaced. These types of dancing were unnaturally weird and associated dancing with demons and the devil. The church denounced many forms of dance claiming they were pagan (Daniels 34).

The dance of the dead is a dance in which it is believed that ghosts would entice people to dance with them. They would dance a wild and enchanted dance but the person who was lured by the dead to dance would be cursed from that point on. This dance was used to “both satisfy and fend off the dead” (Backman 133). It was often performed in a graveyard. It was danced in a slow somber trance-like state.

In other dances such as dance mania and flagellation the dancers would dance wildly for days, exhausting themselves and often causing bodily harm. They would break limbs for no apparent reason and gouge their bodies. The result of these dances was often death. With the birth of these new and strange dances, the Christian church became disapproving of all dancing, because they claimed that dancing allowed demons to enter your body and control it. This was the time when the church ban all dancing, even cultural dances and religious dances. The repercussions of these strange dances seemed to hold for centuries and many Christians still believe dancing is immoral.

The dances of the middle ages often give religious dancing a bad name but there are many examples of dancing in religion in which people feel a connection to God. One example of this type of dance is the dance of the whirling dervishes.

Dervish dancing is an ancient Islamic ritual that has been around for over seven hundred years. This Muslim ceremony was founded by the Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi at Konya. When people dance this dance they sit in a circle listening to music and when they feel moved, they get up and start swaying. Slowly they start to spin, being careful to respect the other participants’ space. As they all spin in around one another, “they throw their heads back and raise the palm of their right hands, keeping their left hands down, as a symbol of giving and taking”. As they whirl faster they enter a trance-like state to lose their personal identities and form a connection with the “Almighty” (“Islamic Arts”).

Another dance that resembles the whirling dervishes is the dance of the Shakers, a Protestant religious group in America that was started in the 18th century. It has been argued as to whether this movement should be classified as a dance because when performed

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