About Theology of Dance
When people first hear about Theology of Dance they are often skeptical. What does dance have to do with Theology? While some of our methods of teaching are new, the program is actually a continuation of a long tradition within our faith of understanding the spiritual and the divine through the analogy of romantic love. This tradition is what St. John Paul II called the Theology of the the Body. More on Theological content
We are a Catholic ministry and our teachings are in conformance with the Catholic Faith, yet we also have a very strong ecumenical outreach and regularly work with people outside the Church.
Theology of Dance on the Web
A list of some websites where TOD has been a contributor
What We Do
Dance Lessons that have a short talk on Theology of the Body at the start, followed by dance lesson and practica. We teach both out of our studio in suburban Lisle and out of churches.
Dances We work with your parish, school or group by providing lessons in the weeks leading up to the dance, then we can DJay the dance with a church appropriate playlist as well as lighting and decorations.
Presentations on the Theology of the Body that use the Body in a chaste and Beautiful way.
Retreats that include a combination of Theology Talks and dance lessons
Who We Work With
Everybody who can dance. We work with teens, young adult couples and the general parish population
Why use Theology of Dance
Reason 1: It Helps Us Understand Our Faith
We don’t teach theology of cooking, or hiking, or baseball, because these things are not about being male and female in the image and likeness of God. Dance is a way to create art using the human body, which our faith tells us is God’s masterpiece, the crown of creation.
Dance comes in different forms. and any good dancing is holy, but one form stands far above the others in terms of theology: Ballroom dance. Theology of Dance is perhaps better called the Theology of Ballroom Dance because, as CS Lewis noted, ballroom dance is a stylization of courtship. Courtship in turn is the expression of being male and female in the image and likeness of God. Outside of the sacraments, I can find no activity is more theological than ballroom dance. When we learn to do ballroom dance, our body becomes theological and reveals the truths of our faith to us.
Reason 2: It Helps Us Develop Virtue
It is very difficult to grow in virtue if all you ever do is listen to talks on it but don't receive practical training.
By teaching the body to express the spirit, dance restores, at least partially, a connection damaged by the fall from grace and helps us live with excellence. We say that it re-integrates the body with the spirit.
One virtue in particular that dance helps with is chastity. Many people associate chastity with not having sex, or not having the wrong kind of sex. Part of chastity is indeed avoiding sinful behavior, but it is much more much more.
Dancing is so helpful learning in learning chastity because it is literally learning how to bless with our bodies. When you learn to dance you of course learn to avoid doing the wrong thing, but far more importantly you also learn the right things to do! When learning to dance the man or woman continually drills into his or her body the right ways of relationship, while stripping away the wrong ways.
This is West Coast Swing, a partner dance that is very interpretive and can be done to a wide array of popular music. We teach many dances, including Waltz, Foxtrot, East Coast Swing, and Cha Cha.
Many times we will precede a lesson with a talk. This was part of a series of talks & lessons we did at St. John Cantius in Chicago.
Explaining TOB through Dance
It's one thing to talk about the Theology of the Body, but it's even better when you can see it. This shows how we can integrate dance into a theology talk.
Reason 3: It Has an Effective Teaching Method
Dance teachers don’t sit people down and talk to them for a few hours, then expect them to have mastered the material. Such a teaching method is superficial.
Dance teachers begin by demonstrating the pattern or technique, then breaking it down step by step while the students copy the teacher. Then we work on the same material the next week, and the week after. We brush up on the basic patterns on a regular basis and polish them up. Returning to the same patterns and techniques again and again is required to dance properly. Not only that, but this kind of instruction can proceed at the student’s pace. A student is able to retake the same class or work on the same material until she gets it. This method allows the students to grasp not just basic pattern geometry, but also the nuances of connection, styling and balance.
This same learning model I find works equally well for teaching theology and spirituality. In confession, the average person comes back with the same sins, telling us they need consistent help and growth in a specific area to faithfully follow Christ. The person needs help with the basics. In order to overcome a sinful behavior making sure the students have a solid foundation before moving on is important.
In addition, because they have the model of dance to reflect on, students realize that they need to do the same with the theological, and welcome the need for repetition.
Reason 4: It Is an Effective Means of Evangelization
We often talk about beauty as being the way to spread the faith, but the beauty of the faith seldom reaches those outside of the church.
Theology of Dance allows us to bring the beauty of the faith to outside the church. If someone is out dancing at a restaurant or festival and looks good doing it, they get asked about it, including where they learned. When they hear that the person learned dancing at Church, they are often surprised. They often will attend the lessons at the church and get to know Christians.
Sherry Weddell of Forming Intentional Disciples talks about the need for threshold experiences. These are places or events where people who would never consider being a Christian or part of a Church can safely encounter the Christian life, as well as places where those taking the first steps to discern following Christ can safely check it out that way of life. Dances and Theology of Dance lessons can provide this kind of experiences that allow such seekers to have a long running positive experience with the Christ way of life that will make that transition easier.
Reason 5: Dancing Builds Community.
Many times, especially at schools, churches and wedding receptions, there is a “dance” where no one actually knows how to dance, and so there is no actual dancing going on. The reality is that such a dance is not one community, but rather consists of a lot of little groups sharing the same room but not connecting outside their own little groups.
But when I go to dance, either I know everyone and interact with everyone, or I look to dance with new dancers as well as with people I have not danced with in a while. Within one dance I know them (at least as dancers!) and I trust them. Knowledge and trust, building connections with new people, strengthening connections with those we know, all of these build community.
One of the problems we have in building community is that we naturally gravitate to others that we feel comfortable with. Most people do not have good conflict resolution skills, and so we rely on conflict avoidance, staying around the people who feel are safe. But dancing is very different. People are put into pairs and then taught how to have good relationship. In fact, when a person first begins dancing the relationship is mostly conflict or an effort to avoid conflict. Lessons teach us how to connect without conflict.
Financial Aid Policy
Our primary mission is to evangelize and train Christians in the Faith and to spread the Gospel. While we like to be paid to teach, we never want a person to not attend a group lesson or retreat for a lack of money. When attending events please explain the situation before the event and we will typically reduce or waive the lesson cost. For events hosted by churches, schools or other groups we will reduce or waive the fee if asked.
We often do one time events for free. Ongoing events will always require some financial support.
For private lessons we will reduce cost. We typically will not waive the entire cost.
When travel greater than an hour is required we will reduce or waive teaching fees, but still require our travel, lodging and food costs to be met. We are not picky about lodging and food.
Please note, this is based on need. We already provide excellent quality dance instruction for less than the average industry cost, and we do need those who can support our ministry financially to do so. Futhermore, if you would like to donate to TOD please contact us- your help is greatly appreciated!