Experiencing prayer through dance: A weekend with Vertical Movement

An opportunity came along to take a Vertical Movement dance workshop with my daughter. According to their website at http://verticalmovement.org/

Vertical Movement is a contemporary based workshop where our main focus is to use dance as communication to God, and others. Throughout the weekend, we will weave together creativity, instruction, movement devotionals, choreography, a closing concert, and more.

I love to dance and I frequently dance with my girls at home. However, when it comes to things like dance workshops, I am generally just a spectator and my oldest daughter is the participant. So, I thought it would be a good bonding activity to do with her.

Learning the contemporary song. I am the one with the crazy hedgehog socks.

Learning the contemporary song. I am the one with the crazy hedgehog socks.

The workshop was taught by two wonderful instructors, Amy and Jenn, who had us in constant motion. We selected scripture and phrases from the bible to put movement to. We danced prayer concerns for each other. We created a dance for the Lord’s Prayer. We choreographed our own dance and learned a contemporary dance that we performed for friends and family on the last day.

I am not used to being in constant motion. Sure I dance everyday but three hours on Friday night and six hours on Saturday is not something I do. About midway thorough Saturday I told my husband that when they came to watch the end show, he would need to bring a wheel barrow to get me back home. I was only partially kidding. Somehow though I pushed through the pain and kept going. I kept thinking of something my Iron Man competing friend Cindy told me – that our bodies are capable of way more than we realize.

I don’t typically dance in front of others but I quickly gathered that – not only would I be dancing choreographed movements in front of others but I would be free forming it too. As someone who is basically an introvert and shy – this pushed me way out of my comfort zone. However, the women running the workshop and the women attending made me feel entirely comfortable. After a few hours, I didn’t care about how I looked anymore, I just threw myself into the dance, which consequently means, you dance far better.

It’s been many years since I learned choreography and I was re-reminded that this is not easy. Part of the issue is learning to back your head out and let your body and the music do the heavy work. If you start thinking to much – not only do you lose the steps but you lose the greater purpose of a dance which is to bring passion and fire to it. Mistakes will be made but how you react to those can make that mistake quickly fade into the background or become noticeable to those watching.

When I have a stressful day, the first thing I want to do when I come home is throw on music and dance. It is my method of calming down, my method of meditation in a way. What I loved most about the vertical movement workshop is that it moved my notion of dance even further- it turned dance into a prayer. At times it was a joyful prayer. At times it was a prayer of comfort. At times it was a prayer of desperation. But, that phrase “let go, let God” really becomes felt through music. You are not only letting go of stress; but you are releasing feelings and emotions through a dance that is an act of worship at its core. If you really let go into the song you find that not only are your legs and arms moving, but the curve of your shoulders, the curve of your neck, and even the intensity of your eyes are all embracing the message you are sending with that dance. I was in the middle of a few very stressful weeks and with every movement I felt release come over me in a way that dance has never done before.

vertical2I really left with a sense that dance is an art form that can impart so much more meaning than we usually allow it to. It is a way to engage your entire being in the act of worship. I hope to see this brought into our communities of faith more often. I know for me, the dance that I used to use to manage stress will become more of an intentional practice as I use my whole body, heart, and mind in a prayer practice that is far more meaningful for me than being hunched over enclosed hands.

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