Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams posts presents three online excerpts and one complete newspaper article about the history of praise dancing, with special focus on African American praise dancing.
The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and educational purposes.
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Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Click the "African American praise dancing" and "Black Gospel mine" tags below for more pancocojams posts on this subject.
THREE ONLINE EXCERPTS/ AND ONE COMPLETE ARTICLE ABOUT PRAISE DANCING IN CHURCH
This online material is given in no particular order. Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.
"Worship dance or liturgical dance take on several forms of sacred dance in Christianity and Messianic Judaism, and is usually incorporated into liturgies or worship services.
Some liturgical dance was common in ancient times or non-Western settings, with precedents in Judaism beginning with accounts of dancing in the Old Testament. An example is the episode when King David danced before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6:14), but this instance is often considered to be outside of Jewish norms and Rabbinic rituals prescribed at the time.
Dance has historically been controversial within Christianity. Many records exist of prohibitions by leaders of most branches of the Christian Church, for such reasons as the association of dance with paganism, the use of dance for sexual purposes, and a Greek-influenced belief in the separation of soul and body. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, and especially following the Second Vatican Council, there was a significant growth in the use of dance in Christian worship. This received a boost from the charismatic movement of the 1970s, which initiated a transition to contemporary worship in many churches."...
From https://classroom.synonym.com/praise-dance-history-12080860.html "Praise Dance History" by
Joy Granger [no publishing date given]
"The history of praise dance dates back to biblical times. The first mention of dance in the Bible is in the book of Exodus when Miriam, sister of Moses, took a tambourine and led the women of Israel into a dance after witnessing the parting of the Red Sea. They expressed joy and celebration in their dance after witnessing God’s great miracle on their behalf.
Other Biblical records of dancing occurred after David slew the giant Goliath and the women sang "to one another in dance" (1 Samuel 29:5). King David also danced before the Lord, as he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, recorded in 2 Samuel 6:14 of the Bible. In his writings found in the book of Psalms, King David has many references to dancing as a form of worship to God. One such reference that remains popular in teachings today is "Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp" (Psalm 149:3).
The New Testament gives just a few direct references to dance. However, deeper studies into the original language of the New Testament suggest more references to dance than originally thought. Closer examination of the Aramaic language which Jews spoke, reveal the word for 'rejoice' and 'dance' are the same, in such references as dancing and leaping for joy (Luke 6:23) as well as 'dancing in the Spirit' (Luke 10:21).
During the first 500 years of the Christian church, praise or liturgical dance remained an important part of church gatherings, due to its Judeo-Christian traditions. Christians were accustomed to celebrating in dance at worship and festivals because of the Hebrew traditions of dance.
The history of praise dance takes a dramatic change during 16th and 17th centuries. The Roman Church organized the movements of the priest into something more "formal." By the 18th century, praise dances became scarce in the churches, with the exception of the Shakers where religious dance remained part of their worship.
Contemporary Praise Dancing
With the renewal of the church in the twentieth century,
dance began to find increasing acceptance in the worship services of the church
again. It has a rich and biblical tradition. Dance offers a range of forms and
expressions in worship, from carefully choreographed dramatic presentation to
the spontaneous worship and celebration of individuals and congregations of all
From https://obsidiantea.com/praise-dance/ "What Is Praise Dance?"
December 13, 2018/Black Culture
…"Black church is a unique experience that is totally unlike white American church. It’s something that influences us all even if we aren’t Christian. It’s a major cultural touchstone and having left the church a few years prior this was my first time seeing praise dancing, specifically Mime. I attended an older church and so we had more singing than dance.
Praise Dancing became popular in the 1970s in the Black community as another way to express love and worship towards God. In Black culture the arts have always had a relationship with the church and many of us get our start there. It was only right that at some point, a specific style would emerge just around worship and dance.
It’s also known as Liturgical, although seemingly no one outside of acedemia really calls it that. It’s the idea of mixing dance and worship and has been around in some form or another for likely as long as worship has been a thing. But, for Africans Americans there was an issue. You guessed it? Slavery. As Africans were stolen to the Americas, and many of us lost family members and traditions, we settled here to find that dance was not allowed. Or at least our dances, weren’t.
In many African cultures, dance and ritual were one in the same. When we were brought over, we were stripped of our religion and in time our dance. It was only once some people decided to convert us to Christianity that we found a work around. We were allowed to dance if we adhered to some rules, such as not crossing the feet. In time it was the rituals and cultures of Africa that were hidden under the guise of Christianity. It became mixed and what we think of as Black church today.
Praise Dancing Today
So, today Praise Dancing tends to incorporate a few different styles of Black dance. Some common stylings are modern, jazz, hip-hop and Caribbean dances. It’s said this was the influence of the Alvin Ailey choreography Revelations. Other big influences were the Arthur Mitchelle Dance Theater of Harlem and the Sacred Dance Guild. It’s created a style that is expressive, and choreographed. Some styles tend to be divided along gender lines, but it is avalible for anyone to do and perform as an expression of worship. Obvisiouly it’s most easily found in church although some Black talent shows will often feature it too.
Additionally now there have been some subcultures formed. Mime is a big one. It leans less on modern and more on performing the song with lip syncing and gestures. This really came out of the 1980s and started with K&K mime and has since become an amazing subgenere.
There is also Krump. And high energy expressive
style that was originally praise dancing also. It comes out of clowning and was
considered too raw, so it’s creators developed their own style. It’s since then
develop into something amazing and has it’s own off shoots.”…
That post includes several video examples of Black American praise dancing. Unfortunately, most of those videos are no longer available.
COMPLETE ARTICLE #4
From https://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/02/arts/dance-stepping-and-stomping-in-an-old-time-gospel-mood.html "Dance Stepping And Stomping In An Old Time Gospel Mood; June 2, 2002
"FIFTEEN boys and girls from the step dance team at Junior High School 231 in Springfield Gardens, Queens, were chatting in the back of the school auditorium. When Lamont O'Neil, the team's director, announced that he was ready to start rehearsal, they took off down the aisles, hurriedly tucking their white shirts into their pants and skirts. Forming a circle onstage, they bowed their heads and joined him in a prayer, as they always do before a rehearsal.
''How was your weekend?'' Mr. O'Neil asked.
A girl answered, laughing, ''Groovy.''
That was the last bit of levity for the next two and a half hours as Mr. O'Neil, a combination of drill sergeant, choreographer and big brother, put the team through its paces. To the hip-hop beat of the gospel singer Kirk Franklin's ''He Reigns,'' the youngsters, in three lines, ran through their routines in rapid-fire movements, slapping their hands on their hips, stomach and legs, crossing and recrossing their arms. Later the dancers chanted, ''We are the children of righteousness,'' imbuing their stepping with a spirituality.
Mr. O'Neil and his team were preparing for the competition that will take place today at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan as a part of this year's McDonald's Gospelfest. Begun by the fast-food chain in several black churches in Los Angeles in 1984, it now travels around the country, this year stopping in 11 cities. In addition to performances by Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Choir, Vickie Winans and Cissy Houston, it features competitions between choir groups, soloists and Christian rappers as well as those in step dancing and praise dancing, another form of black vernacular dance. In July, WABC (Channel 7) will broadcast a special with excerpts from the four events held in the New York area.
This brand of step dancing, or stepping as it is familiarly known, is not to be confused with Irish step dancing. Stepping dates to the early 20th century, when black veterans of World War I enrolled in colleges, said Thomas De Frantz, a professor of music and theater arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the historian of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
''They wanted to express their blackness through a communal art form of their own,'' he said. ''Inspired by their military training, they brought to their dances a highly rigorous, drill-like component and combined it with elements from other black dances, just as today steppers often add hip-hop movements.''
Stepping quickly took off in black fraternities and sororities, becoming an integral part of the initiation, with students holding fierce contests to demonstrate their originality. Spike Lee's 1988 film ''School Daze'' brought stepping to a wider audience.
Like much African-American music and dance, step dance relies on improvisation, call and response, complex meters, propulsive rhythms and a percussive attack. Since it resembles the gumboot dance of South African miners, some people theorize that it came to the United States directly from Africa, but Mr. De Frantz said the two forms simply share African movements.
Stepping can vary from the sexually suggestive to the reverential, and until recently step teams were segregated by sex.
PRAISE dancing began in Baptist churches in the late 19th century, a descendant of the ring shout, a religious dance of West African origin. Traditional praise dances are performed in a circle or as processions, sometimes accompanied by bugles and drums, with the performers carrying flags and banners. In contemporary praise dancing, participants, often in an ecstatic state inspired by their belief in God, determine their own movements. Ailey used elements of it in his masterpiece ''Revelations,'' as did Talley Beatty in his work ''Southern Landscape.''
Praise dance has recently developed a lively second life as a highly choreographed concert dance, and along with step dancing has become popular with community organizations as well as church and school groups. Curtis Farrow, a Gospelfest producer, said, ''There's been an explosion of interest among Hispanics, Asians and whites, who now make up 25 percent of the audience at the tri-state events.''
Like Mr. O'Neil's 231 Step Academy Team, Michael Gary's Acrodanse Theater Company, a modern dance troupe from Perth Amboy, N.J., that performs praise dance, was a champion at last year's McDonald's Gospelfest and will be returning this year to defend its title.
Before a recent performance at the Nicholas Musical Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., Mr. Gary, 41, talked about praise dancing, which he first saw as a child at his grandparents' church in Virginia. ''I use gestures and movements I recall from that time in my choreography,'' he said. ''There's never any set style or technique in praise dancing. It's about worshiping God in your own manner.''
To a recording of John T. Kee singing ''Praise Him,'' Mr. Gary and his 15 dancers, who range in age from 10 to 25, walked gracefully onto the stage. The female dancers wore brightly colored dresses, the male dancers white shirts, dark pants and vests. The subdued opening gave way in minutes to jubilation, as the dancers swirled about the stage, leaping and turning with their arms outstretched in gestures of worship.
''There are some elements of ballet and modern dance in the piece,'' Mr. Gary said later. ''But basically it's jump and shout, old-time, foot-stomping religion. There's nothing like it.''
Mr. O'Neil, 33, also sees a power in liturgical dance. He started stepping as a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University and gravitated to the secular variety that was popular on campus. Now he teaches a more religious form to his students.
When he started teaching at School 231 in 1993, he said, ''I saw the crises for the kids -- the temptations of the street and the lack of direction.'' A year later, he formed a stepping group, Nubian Gents, as a way to promote discipline and self-respect among the students. Today that group tours Africa, Asia and Europe. ''If these kids hadn't joined that team, a lot of them would be in gangs,'' he said.
A half hour into the rehearsal, Mr. O'Neil asked his young charges, ''Need a break?'' They sank to the floor in exhaustion. Gospelfest rules stipulate that routines can only last three minutes. It was going to take a lot more rehearsing to get theirs down to that.
''I don't mind the work,'' said one team member, Jeffrey
Princivil. ''It helps keep all the negativity around me out of my life.''
A version of this article appears in print on June 2, 2002, Section 2, Page 24 of the National edition with the headline: DANCE; Stepping and Stomping in an Old-Time Gospel Mood"
Click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM0xaSsDYUE&ab_channel=GMADoveAwards for a YouTube video of Kirk Franklin's "Reign" that is mentioned in this article.
Click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI0rb37Zb6Q&ab_channel=VIPMassChoir-Topic for a YouTube sound file of John T. Kee's song "Let Us Praise Him".
This may be the John T. Kee's song that was mentioned in this New York Time's article as ''Praise Him".
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