Though I grew up as a Christian and a dancer, my first experience with consciously worshiping through dance happened in college after I had joined a dance ministry team.
My first performance with the group was a Christmas event with a local ministry in the Chicago suburbs. Rather than dancing to a recorded track, we performed with a gospel choir and a full orchestra. For as many times as I had been on stage, I had never shared it with more than one or two musicians. Live music of this scale promised to make for an impressive production.
And it was, but not for the reasons I was expecting. Being my first event with the team, I went onto the stage focused, with a performance mindset, and as the orchestra began and the choir chimed in, I felt the worshipful atmosphere envelope me.
I say and, not but, because what I realized here was that the two actions weren't opposed. The best way for me to participate in this overwhelmingly worshipful experience was to perform. I kept in step, counting out eights in my head, and at the same time, I felt profoundly connected to the worship that was happening around me. The intentions of the dancers, the musicians, the singers, and the worshipers in the audience were all set in line, going directly up to God. I praised God from a different angle that day, and I realized God was doing a new thing in my heart.
I still chronicle that night as one of the most worshipful experiences of my life, yet even as it was happening and as I pondered it afterward, I had some doubt. Was it really my experiencing God that made this instance so powerful or was I just caught up in the music or the excitement of being on stage?
As this performance was the beginning of three years of being deeply involved with this dance group, I have mulled over these thoughts again and again. I am always faced with the question, "What is worship, then, if this isn't it?"
I have always been told that worship is not any certain special action but an attitude of the heart—a true definition, albeit nebulous. I know that with this definition, dance can easily fall within the realms of good, pure worship, but so could any number of things. When did it just become a game of naming things what they aren't, and when was it truly transforming the manner in which we do things to glorify God?
God began to reveal to me how I very easily categorized some styles of worship as good while others I instantly marked for review. The further I thought it all through, I saw that much of what I had understood of worship, I had learned from the church.