At what turned out to be a “Dance, Stretch & Relax” class I taught to seniors at an assisted-living facility last week, I couldn’t help but notice how the 80-and-90-something-year-old participants came alive in a really big way immediately upon moving their bodies. Apparently, before our class began, the seniors had just finished sitting through a program that included a segment that didn’t particularly thrill them, so moving their bodies was the perfect remedy for shifting them from feeling bored and sluggish to active and invigorated.

While we typically exercise to a dance song or two midway through our weekly class, we danced to five songs at this previous class. Since I could sense at the beginning of class that something was asleep within them that needed reawakening pretty quickly, I decided we would begin class with dancing this time. My senior friends loved the instruction to move their shoulders, obliques, legs, and feet in dance fashion. We even repeated the warm-up dance song that included doing the twist. That got their bodies ready for some good stretching, and then we danced to another song followed by another and another before we returned to stretching and then concluded with relaxation.

The image of those in this age group energetically swaying and stretching their bodies is still so fresh in my mind; I keep smiling at the thought of it. While dancing in class, some of the seniors even drifted around the room, moving like young children. The freedom that dance ignites led two ladies to team up and create a little synchronized dance playfulness of their own. And when I danced on over to another section of the room, letting the music direct my steps, one lady diligently studied and imitated my moves while basking in a freedom all her own.

There is a sense of freedom that gets released when dancing, a freedom that’s not limited to any particular age group, which this senior community proves to me week after week — and especially the way they ‘let go’ at our previous class.

Dance Choreographer/Teacher Flic Manning explains on that “dancing is liberating for a number of reasons.” She says:

1. Dancing is moving your body. It does not require words – and therefore the ‘social’ pressures you may normally feel in expressing yourself are gone. You are less likely to censor yourself when you are moving – once the movement is done, it’s done. When you speak, however, you can analyze it a million times before you’ve said anything. It’s a completely different part of the brain working to express your feelings.

2. It is like a form of meditation – quite literally you are channeling what is in your mind into your body, making it a freeing experience.

3. It is a form of exercise that releases endorphins – which change your brain chemistry so that you feel in ‘ecstasy’.

4. You are usually absorbing yourself into some sort of music and so naturally this also has an emotional effect on how you feel.

Above all, dancing is liberating because it gives you the ability to express yourself without fear.

You can break whatever boundaries you want, wear what you want and listen to what you want – it is a place to exist with minimal judgement. So for those few minutes or moments – you are liberated.”

To Manning’s list, I add: “…and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). “For in Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

So just what does the Bible say about dancing?

Psalm 149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
Ecclesiastes 3:4  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Psalm 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
Jeremiah 31:13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
2 Samuel 6:14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.
Psalm 150:4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

See more dance-related Scripture here.

My Dance of Gratitude

I recall when God protected my family in that amazing way that only He can during a serious highway car accident that resulted in our jeep being totaled but not us, thank God!!! The day after the accident, when more deeply processing the extent to which God had covered us, my spirit cried out to Him for the way I could best thank Him for His saving grace. “Dance!” is what I heard…and continued to hear, which led me to online search for a praise dance class in my area. Suddenly, a related message from a friend appeared out of the blue. She was requesting I check out a link to Effortless Christian Dance. At the time, this friend had no knowledge whatsoever about my family’s car accident or about my search for a praise dance class. But the link she sent was totally connected to my search. This friend’s information directed me to Christian dance classes only about 10 minutes away from my home. In a state of awe, I immediately called Effortless Christian Dance for more information. Then, the following day and for the next month, I attended each and every Effortless Christian Dance class that was available: Tuesday & Thursday at 7:00 a.m. AND 7:00 p.m., and Saturday at 7:00 a.m. Nope, I didn’t miss a beat for the entire month. Using dance as a means to praise God, Effortless Christian Dance provided the sacred space I craved to thank God for His saving grace and numerous other blessings, and look how this picture turned out after my first dance class.

Penny and God's gloryThere is power in dance! There is praise in dance!

Today’s Praise Dance

As much as I enjoy exercising, every now and then there are days that my body and mind feel indecisive about just what type of exercise to do, like today. I put in one workout DVD this morning and knew that wasn’t it. I then got on my exercise mat for a brief Pilates workout, but after about three minutes of that, I knew that wasn’t the one for today, either. It was almost like I was resisting exercise today. However, after writing this blog, my body knows just how it wants to move today. It wants to dance. It wants to praise Him with dance.

Pausing…I’m off to dance along with a dance workout that’s in my DVD collection.

About 30 minutes later, I’m back….sweaty and invigorated, and feeling free! Yes, dance was just the exercise I needed today. And tomorrow I’ll be dancing again with the seniors.

We will praise Him with stretching and dancing!