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What is Liturgical dance? And what does it mean?

Time and time again, the understanding around its meaning has been at the center of discussions both in, and outside of the church.

But where do we start?

The term Liturgical dance has been commonly interchangeable with the terms; praise dance, worship dance, Christian dance, and sacred dance. For the purpose of this article, we will be referencing the term Liturgical. Liturgical dance has been widely defined as “A form of movement which serves as an expression of worship, which typically occurs within the platform of a church, or worship service.” [1] Although the definition remains straightforward, at its core the depth and meaning of Liturgical dance holds great purpose, and biblical origins.

Biblical reference

One of the most common mentions of dance in the bible references King David in 2 Samuel 6:14. "And David danced with all his might before the Lord: And David was girded with a linen ephod." [2]

But what is the purpose behind King David's dance? Biblical scholars have denoted that the significance of this passage, indicates that David's dance was a form of his worship, and love for God. His dance was a communication of praise, and a demonstration of Honor. Thus, followers of the word of God have used this form of movement to in turn give honor to God, while acknowledging his presence, holiness, omnipotence, sacrifice, and love. As such, Liturgical dancers express their desire for the heart of God through dance, while telling a story with their very bodies.

But how does it work? And how is it put together?

Many Liturgical dancers will admit to hearing the word of God, and telling his story, or their own, through organized movement (choreography.) Others will account that through prayer, and constant study of the word of God, that their Liturgical dancing is a ‘spontaneous’ reflection of their journey, and communication to God.

It should be noted, that Liturgical dance can indeed be spontaneous, or choreographed. There is no right, or wrong in this instance, however many Liturgical dancers believe that spontaneous movement or ‘free worship’ is more authentic, pure, and true to the heart of God.

Is Liturgical dance only for the church? Absolutely not!

Liturgical dancers across the world have shared worship through dance on many worldly platforms.

Typically, Liturgical dancers will reference their presentation as ministry and not a performance, as the term “performance” suggests that the presentation is focused on the artist, and not on the Lord. Liturgical dance is not about ‘the self.’

Dance within the church has become a more acceptable art form over the last two decades. Prior to this, it’s potential to be too worldly and suggestive, caused it to be shunned, and met with hesitancy in many faiths.

The look of Liturgical dance has also expanded greatly. In earlier years, many would look upon it, and see a resemblance to traditional contemporary, or lyrical movement. However, due to the fact that it is an expression of worship, it leaves room for an open demonstration of what discipline of dance can be seen when it is presented.

In our current time, Liturgical dance can be found on many platforms including schools, weddings, public festivals and more, making it a more accessible form of dance to non-believers of the biblical word.

Interestingly, in 1925, the Hampton institute began praise groups and dance spirituals for the first time. In 1960, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre also began showcasing brilliant work which popularized Liturgical, and Praise dance, while shifting the understanding that Liturgical dance was only for church goers. “Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.” [3]

Worthy mentions can also be attributed to Joe Nash,[4] Talley Beatty,[5] and many more who contributed to conceptualizing, and presenting spiritual stories on stage through dance. However, Liturgical dance maintains its authenticity by being deeply rooted in the word of God.

Although it’s antiquity is more than what can be written here, we invite you to research, see, and feel what the heart, and history of Liturgical dance is, by referencing the Bible and engaging in faith based workshops and classes. You’ll never know what you will discover about worship…or yourself.

Contact Inica Dance Industries to learn more about Liturgical dance classes, and workshops:


  1. Wikipedia - Liturgical Dance

  2. King James Bible Online

  3. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. "Revelations"

  4. Joe Nash Biography - "Trained Self to Dance on Broadway, Became Prominent Historian of Dance, Left Archive in Peril" Biography

  5. Talley Beatty. Feb 1 2011, Rachel Strauss, Dance Teacher


  1. Karen M. Curry, Sept 30th 2004, "Dancing In The Spirit: A Scriptural Study of Liturgical Dance."

  2. Catholic exchange. Nov 15 2008, Mary Anne Moresco. Dance at Mass?

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