When I first saw liturgical dance, it struck me as weird. But ironically, after I share with you what exactly I was involved with regarding "dance," you may well say, "Are you kidding me? And you're calling liturgical dance weird?" Well, yes. And of course I'll explain.
Dance within a worship service is predominately self-focused. No matter how much we want to say we're "doing it to glorify God," the bottom line is that when people dance, others watch. Blame it on our entertainment-soaked culture, but people cannot help but watch other people dancing. Very few times have I been brought into a worshipful place by watching someone else move their body.
There are a few who were involved, as I was, with intercessory dance; and now question it. I'll try to explain: There is the worship band on stage, and there are people who stand either behind them or on the side of the stage, who "intercede" for the worship band. Intercessory prayer is praying for someone else. The biblical verse referenced for this type of prayer comes from Ezekiel 22: 30, I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. (NASB)
The worship intercessors would pray for the musicians, that they would keep their eyes upon glorifying God (versus themselves) and that they would be protected from any attack of the enemy. While praying in this way, some of the women would start moving their bodies. Some would simply lift their hands up while rocking back and forth. Others would do peculiar movements that weren't quite dancing. I found two videos that illustrate this. The first one has a woman standing behind the keyboardist, lifting her hands and then placing her hand on the back of the musician as she prays for him. (I'd say this happened more for keyboardists or guitarists who were sitting down.) The young woman can be seen at the 1:35 mark:
Then there were times when this happened, when a woman looked like she was doing something called The Crane Dance:
Yeah. I was involved like that.
So now you can have a good laugh when I say liturgical dancing is weird.
Here's why I say it: the liturgy, to me, is sacred. It's precious. It is not a platform for us but a pedestal for God. The liturgy is the time when we step away from the world, from ourselves, and focus completely on God. To me, there really is no other place given to the sacred and holy as the liturgy. The world has taken away modesty, respect, and reverence. Who else deserves this and so much more than God? And when He appeared before men as fire or something indescribable, they fell upon the ground in fear. Where are the times in our lives when we can focus upon God like that? Because He indeed is in our midst.
Stillness is vastly underrated in our worship. I will admit this: there is a tribal element in those videos and all worship services like them. In other cultures, tribal dance is often accompanied by a hallucinatory drug and the dancers go into a trance. Sometimes this happened to me. (No drugs.) However, there were times when I did enter into deep worship but only because I was fiercely intentional about it. I've danced throughout my life, everything from club dancing to international folk dancing to ballroom dancing. I knew that kind of dance was fun. I didn't look at worship as being "fun," nor did I want to encourage it. Fun is superficial. It's important to enjoy life, but worship is not a pursuit of frivolity. Worship is to be the expression of a grateful soul for the mercy of God. That goes so much deeper than "fun."
I'll also state the obvious. 90% of those involved with dancing are women. We had a few men, but overall, the women are dancing. One of the justifications for this type of dancing comes from 2 Samuel 6:14, And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. (NASB) David was dancing in joy because he and his army had retrieved the holy Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been absent from Israel for twenty years. (There is much about the Ark that is fascinating. It is quite worthwhile to study its significance.) I would say that something as monumental as God's proof to Israel of His protection and providence would be well worth "dancing with all one's might" when it was returned.
My point is that this was a specific incident during a specific time that such energetic dancing was mentioned. From my studies, I have never come across an occasion in the Bible where dancing was done within the Holy of Holies. I can't even recall dancing being a part of a temple's outer court within Jewish worship. This is why I believe that any kind of dancing is simply not appropriate within a liturgical service. It's good to know I share the same beliefs as Cardinal Francis Arinze.
As was mentioned in the above link, liturgical dancing can open the door to New Age thought. When I was involved in the prophetic movement, there were some very strange beliefs that came through the dance. If you listen carefully to the videos above, (and there are many more on YouTube) you will hear things that are simply goofy.
I'm reminded of children when I watch these videos. Children play, they do silly things, they fall down and then get back up. But I am struck that such activities are full of the flesh. We, as God's people, as the Body of Christ, are called to discipline the flesh. Somehow I'm not getting that message when I consider things such as liturgical dancing or prophetic worship and intercessory dance.