Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 26, 2004
Dance for the glory of god
Christian women turn dance into their prayer
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Using dance to worship is more or less foreign to Western culture, even though it has been around since the early days of Church.
But now there is a growing movement of mostly Christian women trying to reclaim dance as a means of worship.
Nancy Olthuis, for example, began dancing in church in 2000 after God told her to use her dancing gifts to worship him. She had been a belly dancer for 25 years before she heard God's command.
Since then, the Anglican woman has been dancing strictly for the glory of God in church, at her place of work, in the Way of the Cross, and in other public and private places.
She is also a Pilates instructor and teaches creative movement, a blend of dramatic and interpretive dance.
Praise the Lord
Now Olthuis, a graphic designer at The King's College, is coordinator of the Edmonton chapter of Christian Dance Fellowship, a fellowship of amateur and professional Christian dancers who use dance to praise the Lord.
"We are Christians doing dance," she said. "We are not doing a different type of dance than the world is doing - we are doing ballet, we are doing jazz, we are doing modern.
"We are doing the same dance, but with a different focus. People should see something about the greatness of our God when they see us dance."
Recently, Olthuis and other dancers from across Alberta, got together to learn new skills and compare notes at the Canadian Christian Dance Fellowship conference, which the Edmonton chapter hosted. Some 30 people, including beginning and professional Christian dancers, attended the six-day event at Providence Renewal Centre.
"Everyone (in attendance) is a dancer of various levels of ability, from people just starting out to professional dancers," clarified Olthuis.
"What unites us is our love of the Lord and our Christian commitment and our desire to reclaim dance for God's glory."
The conference offered something for everyone, including workshops on jazz, ballet, modern dance, highland dance, techno-flagging and intercessory dance.
"Dancing in the secular world can be very self-focused, where the attention is on me," Olthuis said. "In Christian dance the focus is entirely on Him."
Dance is also used to communicate, according to the mother of two. "God uses dance to communicate truth about him that words can't express."
Worship in dance has been around since the early days of the Church. Its use in modern times began in the 1940s and today continues to gain acceptance, mostly in Protestant denominations.
A prayer to God
At the conference, Johanna Cardinal, the Christian Dance Fellowship's national coordinator, led an interactive workshop on intercessory dance. She divided participants into small groups and asked each group to create a dance using a prayer that she wrote some time ago.
"It's a prayer to God that I wrote," she explained.
"It talks about the presence of God in the valleys and the mountains."
Cardinal, a ballet dancer since childhood, joined the Christian dance movement about seven years ago in Valleyfield, Que.
"I think dancing is a prayer in itself," the Anglican woman said. "We are using our bodies to express our love for the Lord.
"It's really words expressed through movements."
Dawn Hancock, a member of Edmonton's Westend Vineyard Church and an instructor of interpretive and worship dance, took Cardinal's workshop because she is interested in intercessory prayer.
She interpreted Cardinal's prayer with grace and delicacy drawing praise and admiration from her peers.
Hancock has been dancing at her church and other events for the last 15 years. She feels she can communicate more fully with God through dance.
"For me, movement is prayer," she said. "That's how I worship God."