The following is a guest post by Randall Flinn, director of Ad Deum Dance Company in Houston, TX.
The Relationship Between Faith and Dance
Dance is born from the heart and soul of people and cultures. Long before the polished refinement of classical or contemporary dance movement, dance lived and thrived in personal expression and communal relationships within a society. Dance was also a highly important and viable means of worshipful devotion, as worldviews of faith were visually demonstrated through offerings of dance. It may seem that as dance evolved more to a stage performance art form that these sacred expressions of faith began to disappear.
Perhaps not completely recognized or documented, dance as a form of worship or as a means for visually incarnating one’s faith is one of the oldest and perhaps richest offerings of dance. Although it is clear that dance and faith have always maintained a dynamic interaction throughout history, it is in this present age that dancers are finding a fresh significance in regards to integrating their beliefs with their artistry.
Dance in Worship and Fellowship
There are now many worldwide expressions of what may be called liturgical or sacred dance forms. In the past few years, even several dancewear companies have begun designing entire lines of worship and dance ministry performance wear. Organizations such as the Christian Dance Fellowship maintain an extensive networking of fellow dance worshippers and sacred movers.
Dance it seems has finally made its comeback as an acceptable and welcomed form of worship in many churches of various denominations throughout the world. There are now many workshops and conferences that are organized with the sole purpose and vision of expressing faith through diverse forms of dance.
Artists Articulating Faith
While the liturgical forms or church oriented praise dance expressions are wonderful displays of freedom in worship, there are other dance artists that are traveling more on the cutting edge, engaging culture with relevant and contemporary works of dance that are derived from their faith and supported by their worldview of life. These dancers and choreographers may not be gracing the altars of the local church but they are nonetheless articulating their faith where art meets the whole of life, and not just the familiar floors of sacred or religious spaces.
Over the past twenty years there has been a worldwide networking and fellowship of these Believer artists. Professional companies and dance movements have sprung forth from these relationships including ProjectDance.com which conducts international arts festivals, The Culture House in Kansas City, Creative Arts Europe, Xaris Dance Company-Europe, Word in Motion –Los Angeles, Inlet Dance Theatre in Cleveland, and Hosanna Sacred Arts in Alabama. All of these dance arts organizations are directed by professional artists who hold fast to their faith while exercising their gifts in the marketplace. Dancers from around the world have been drawn to these companies due to the integration of “keeping the faith” while engaging the culture with artistic excellence.
Reconciling Faith and Art
The gulf between faith and art is finding needed reconciliation and a more holistic view of what it truly means to create art that is informed and supported by one’s personal faith. As many artists during the time of the Reformation knew, the gift of art is a gift of God to mankind who has created us in His image. The artist therefore can understand themselves as servants of God to humanity, enriching life and upholding its’ truth and beauty through their offerings and servitude. The artist then finds freedom from the pull of celebrity appeal to the higher call of a creative servant, meeting this world in its’ need. The arts were meant to bless and enrich our world.
As artists reevaluate their journey, maybe more healing will be poured upon the soil of life through their work. Dance and expressions of faith truly belong in relationship to each other. For dance was born from such expressions, as a celebration of life and the validity of its joys, sorrows, journeys and discoveries. It may be true that indeed all artists create from the great need and passion to speak, as it were, from the inside out.
Perhaps the arts really do reveal, more than we may realize, what lives on the inside of who we are and what we believe. As the artist finds freedom to live out their faith within this world, then we can hope to see more light shine over the darkness and injustice of our times. The arts are indeed one of the richest gifts to humanity. May the arts bloom and blossom in this new year through the faith and belief of those granted such an incredible gift.
Photographs of Ad Deum Dance Company by Visage Photo Studio
Randall Flinn is the founder/artistic director of Ad Deum Dance Company in Houston, Texas. He is a professional choreographer and teacher who has worked with Houston Ballet Academy, Cirque Du Soleil –Alegria, Houston Met Dance Company, Project Dance Times Square, Hong Kong Ballet, Ballet Magnificat and the dynamic Lakewood Church of Houston and Hillsong Church-Sydney.
Ad Deum (which means “towards God”) Dance Company began their full time work in January 2000, with a clear mission of integrating their Christian faith with relevant and redemptive artistry. Ad Deum has been honored to perform the works of other professional dancer/choreographers from around the world whose art is also informed by their Christian faith. Choreographers who have regularly set works on Ad Deum include Hope Boykin of Alvin Ailey, Steve Rooks –ten year principal dancer for Martha Graham, Caleb Mitchell –former Houston Ballet company dancer, Stephen Wynne –Talk Dance Company, and Bill Wade –Inlet Dance Theatre and Freddie Moore –former Ailey II dancer. Ad Deum maintains an international touring schedule and offers spring and summer intensives and a nine month pre-professional training program.