Two guiding passions have shaped my life, dance and faith. These two passions have also shaped one another – my faith shapes the way I dance and my dance shapes the way I understand and live out my faith. Since ceasing to work as a professional dancer, I have kept up one particular form of dance called Contact Improvisation (CI). In CI the movement of the dance emerges from shared weight, giving in to gravity and momentum between bodies. Having recently returned from a 6 day CI event, the annual Australian “Convergence”, my current reflections on faith are inevitably full of dance.
For me, spirituality is an embodied thing. I understand a healthy spirit to be a truly embodied spirit, and a healthy spirituality one that seeks to overcome a dualism which sees body and soul as separate, diminishing the body and elevating the soul. This dualism is historically very strong in Christianity, but is not of its essence.
For me, three characteristics of embodied spirituality are: incarnation, communion and transcendence.
Incarnation means becoming flesh, the divine becoming human, spirit becoming embodied, each of us becoming whole physically and spiritually to the extent that I can say, “I am my body”.
Communion points to the fact that we are creatures who live, move and have our being in relationship, in community. Individual bodies have evolved in and for relationship. We become ourselves in communion with others – we become fully incarnate in communion.
Transcendence means encountering and entering into that which is greater than oneself. The mystery within and beyond individuality. The spiritual paradox at play here is that in becoming more fully myself through incarnation and communion I transcend myself and commune with the divine
Dance as Sacrament
For me CI is like a sacrament of this spiritual process (here, sacrament = a ritually enacted symbol that accomplishes what it represents). It is a process of being embodied, becoming incarnate; communing with other embodied beings; and in that communion transcending what is possible as a body alone.
I love that every dance is different because every body is different because every soul is different.
I love the moment of first encounter with another person – listening and learning – who is this body? Who is this incarnate spirit?
I love moving through that encounter to the place of communion where we dance one transcendent dance together that is not mine or theirs but ours.
I love those special moments of transcendence that come by grace when we fly (sometimes literally) – giving in to gravity together and going places that we could not go alone.
And because this might be sounding a bit solemnly spiritual, I also love the playfulness that is inherent in this dance form. It is joyous, and spirituality is ultimately about the joy of living.
A Theology of Dance
The Christian God is one divine dance of love between three: a dance that becomes incarnate in Christ, “the Lord of the Dance”. The Holy Spirit draws us in to commune with God as partners in this holy incarnate dance of transcendence.