Dance as embodied prayer...

I wonder how many references to DANCE there are in my spiritual vocabulary? How many songs have helped give shape and form to this spirituality, too? When I was very young I can remember watching early episodes of "American Bandstand" and being enthralled by the ways young bodies could move to the rhythm of a song.  Everyone looked much happier than the people I knew at church.  Later, my Aunt Donna, would teach me some of the line dances of the early 60s - another embodied prayer - and I soon I was doing the stroll. It was an easy jump to the twist, the pony, the mashed potato and watusi.

I couldn't get enough of the Dovells - You Can't Sit Down or Bristol Stomp - and I was unglued when Dion and the Belmonts got the crowd doing the stroll. Major Lance and "the monkey" felt like a mystical experience to me and I used to fall down laughing at the pure exuberance of "the limbo."

I remember playing an instrumental version of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas' song, "Dancin' in the Street" as the "postlude" at a youth worship celebration.  And then there was the time my buddy Ross played Zappa's "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" as part of another worship encounter. For the longest time I didn't realize that dancing was a part of the early worship life of my Jewish forebears but rejoiced when I made the connection between Miriam and Moses and David and Bruce Springsteen, Sly Stone, Little Eva and Grace Slick.  
When I saw my first Russian ballet, the connections between body, beauty and spirit just grew deeper.  (Not so much "liturgical dance," however, as that is all too often sentimental and sloppy - although I've seen some that has reduced me to a pool of tears.) Put Alvin Alley working out Nina Simone's take on "O Sinner Man" and I was just jello.  But my world was changed forever the first time I saw Springsteen during the "Born in the USA" tour in Detroit and he pulled a young woman from the audience and they rocked to the house to "Dancing in the Dark."

And so it keeps getting deeper:  the more songs about dancing that grab my attention, the more I find myself needing to listen.  They keep pushing me towards an embodied spirituality.  When I was a kid I used to watch Soul Man Number One - Mr. James Brown - every time I could. He knocked me out... and still does.
Whether it is free form a la Grateful Dead - or something more intense and focused like the brothers in Cameo - or even the wild street scene of break dancing and now hip hop - it is all sacred to me.  I once wrote about the Holy Spirit working through both Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley back in the day; their bodies not only broke down racial barriers, but they also celebrated the joy that can take place when the spirit embraces the flesh.  So here are a few tracks that are just... outta site!

This is a total favorite...

And who could forget one of the best EVER!

And this wild and fun reworking of my current favorite...


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