The 129 Papal Audiences
Tabor Life Institute
Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish
Women of the Third Millennium
Katrina is a longtime national speaker on TOB and a dance instructor
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Fr. Thomas Loya, Theology of the Body Speaker
What is the Theology of Dance and why is it important?
Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness...
God created mankind in his image;in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Christianity has a story. It starts with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a community of three persons who love each other perfectly. In this perfect love God creates an entire universe, including mankind, who alone on earth has the ability to choose to give himself away- that is to love. This world God made was beautiful and perfect. Yet man,led by the Devil, chose to reject God, and in doing so marred creation and lost much of his ability to love.
To save us Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took on a human body, lived among us, died for our sins, and rose again. In doing so he redeemed us from our sin and opened for us salvation. That process is not yet complete- it will only be so when he returns and God recreates the world so it is even more beautiful than it was in the beginning. We will be raised from the dead and be given a new, glorious body.
In the meantime, we as Christians we are called to learn how to love. It is not merely enough to want to love. We must actually learn the skills to necessary to do so. One of the sources we can look to in learning how to love is Sacred Scripture. Another is the examples of holy persons- saints, whether officially named so or just a person whose holiness shines like the Sun. But one source has often been neglected-the human body as male and female in the image and likeness of God.
The Human body and it alone has the ability to make the invisible visible, the spiritual and the divine.
Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body 19.4
Christians know that the body is good; otherwise Christ would not have taken flesh and dwelt among us!
The body, as male and female, through romantic, married love becomes the sign of God's love for us.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.
While it's true that as sinful, imperfect people we can hurt others by the way we use our bodies, the deeper truth is that we are called to use our bodies to love one another, to bless one another. In our culture we can fall into two traps, often at the same time! We can believe only as a sexual relationship can we exchange physical touch and emotional intimacy. The other trap to live online, relating only through our mind. But we need to be able to both- to have mature relationships that are emotional, intellectual and physical. When we are in physical proximity we can hug one another,to look and marvel on our surroundings, to share food as well as our mind. We are not merely rational, but also relational. We need to learn how to love with body and spirit.
"And this parallel between the Church and the Ball (a dance) is not so fanciful as some would think. The Church ought to be more like a ball than it is like a factory or a political party…[dance]exists to stylize something which is natural and which concerns human beings in their entirety; namely, courtship.
CS Lewis, God in the Dock
Which brings us to dance. A picture is worth a thousand words and just a few moments of dance creates
thousands of pictures. If you understand the language of the body and
the art of ballroom dance then you have access to an amazing theological library. Through dance we can come to understand and experience God's divine plan
of love not merely with our heads but with our entire body. While a complete understanding of the
theology of dance can take a lifetime we can give a brief definition. Ballroom dance is both an art form
and a relationship, and it's a stylization or symbol of romance and courtship. That means dance has both a literal and
symbolic meaning. Dancing literally is learning how to contemplate your
partner in the spirit of the music. It serves as a powerful analogy for loving your neighbor and for
being a loving spouse. It's a beautiful sign for loving Jesus Christ with all your heart, all your mind
and all your strength. And it's one of the most amazingly clear signs of the Holy Trinity, the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.
That may sound great, but why should the average person care? Because if dance is worth a thousand pictures than it can allow us to understand amazing truths quickly and effectively. Here is just one of many examples. When we watch dancers flow across the floor, they move with great freedom. They connect, break apart and reconnect with grace. This is because they follow the first rule of good connection in dance, never use your thumbs. Most beginners instinctively try to grasp their partner because they are afraid of loosing connection. By holding on they have a feeling of security. Woman hold on to know that they won't loose their partner and men hold on so they can force the woman through the patterns. However many patterns are impossible when the couple grasp each other, and if they try t force the pattern someone (usually the woman) can get hurt. Finally it feels bad. Using your thumbs makes dancing boring, uncomfortable and dangerous.
To find the freedom, beauty and comfort of the dance the partners must let go of each other. But in letting go so much responsibility enters into the relationship. Because they are no longer relying on their hands to maintain connection they must connect using their entire body, and not merely once but continuously. To not use thumbs men's both partners must freely choose each and every moment to be in relationship with their entire being.
This is symbolic of our relationship with God and with neighbor. When we attempt to cling to a person (by being jealous, manipulative or overbearing) we find that the relationship is boring, uncomfortable and dangerous. We see that people are trying to love one another with only a small part of themselves. They are trying to take from the experience. To not use your thumbs in relationship means to have poverty of spirit; to seek not to possess the other person but to bless by continuously giving of yourself. To love with your entire being.
What People are saying about Theology of Dance
I’m still floating on the fun of an AMAZING date night Saturday: a
Theology of Dance Retreat, featuring profound theological insights,
fun dance classes, a great group, and an open dance party! What an
incredible job of using dance to offer life-changing
perspectives on how men and women dance with each other in relationships;
how souls dance with God; and even how God dances within the Trinity.
Olivia South Milwaukee, Wisconsin
What a great instructor you were for us at the conference, leading
200 students and keeping them engaged in the
lesson and moving! It's also a new level of dancing expertise. You are
the Theology of Dance master!
Coordinator, National Catholic Singles Conference
"I admit I was skeptical at first, and I dance, but you had me convinced after 5 minutes. I was blown away."
Colleen, Catholicfest 2013
"A fabulous night! ... I learned more at his class than I did at any other of the reputable dance classes I've
been to over the past few years. He is a skilled professional!"
Ben, Warrenville, IL
"Everything Theology on Tap should be!"
Doug, Archdiocese of Chicago Theology on Tap 2013