Faces of Wesley: Cassandra Lawrence, Peacebuilder, Student Council Officer, Non-Profit Communicator, M.Div. Student
Liturgical Dance as Spiritual Practice – Summer 2020
WTS: What will students experience in your course this summer?
Dr. Hoover: Students will be able to explore how and why liturgical dance is integral to spiritual disciplines.Dance itself is a discipline but students will be able to see how movement can be incorporated into it.
WTS: How will this course work online?
Dr. Hoover: Students will be able to access lectures asynchronously and there will be one evening where we will come together at least once to meet each other and check in.
WTS; How long have you been ministering through dance?
Dr. Hoover: Since September 2001.
WTS: Theology of the body is very much influencing your approach to liturgical dance, is it not?
Dr. Hoover: Could you explain what theology of the body is and its impact on your dancing and your teaching.Yes, embodied theology, e.g., embodiment, has been and continues to be influential on my approach to liturgical dance, simply because one must look at liturgical dance holistically and not as a moment in a worship service where dance is presented. In short, embodiment is essentially the state of being (according to Gregg Allison) and an awareness of your entire being. Because of the utilization of the body in dance, my approach is two-fold.
First, it should be noted that many, if not most, of us have a love/hate relationship with our bodies and the Church (capital “C”) has perpetuated that with biblical teachings. This may seem accusatory and broad but the church doesn’t always focus on the humanity of Jesus, but rather, focus on his divinity. And because of that, the church may not view the body as positively as it could (there are more reasons). As a result, my study of embodied theology has given me permission to be accepting of my body and my humanity. Embodiment has also heightened my awareness as a woman of color, an awareness that my body is not always seen as worthy or valued. Womanist and historical theologians such as M. Shawn Copeland, Beverly Mitchell, Kelly Brown Douglass, etc., have impacted my theological stance.
Second, there is a perception that one must have a particular type of body to be successful, not only in the world of dance but in general. And because of those perceptions and dichotomies, bodies – particularly black bodies – experience shame and rejection. And I am here to say that dancers come in all shapes and sizes. It is my hope that the study of embodiment helps to destroy those perceptions which are harmful and toxic to one’s development as a liturgical dancer.
WTS: There may be students thinking, "I have never taken a dance class in my life. There is no way I could do this class!" What is your reaction to that?
Dr. Hoover: Students are not required to have dance experience but are required to have a willingness to try something new and be willing to see how expansive this art form is, not only within the church but with individual dancers.
WTS: How does exposure to liturgical dance expand the pastoral tool box for students preparing to be pastors?
Dr. Hoover: I believe that this exposure will help pastors experience worship in a different way. For those who may not have seen dance ministered in a church setting before, I am hopeful that they see something new. For those who are already exposed to liturgical dance, I am hopeful that they see liturgical dance as something more than a space-filler or something that is to only be presented during a youth, Christmas or Easter service. I am also hopeful that pastors will understand how the creative process is much like crafting a sermon. There is an exegetical process of sorts that goes into the creation of a dance and I want pastors to explore that. I believe that all of the above will give pastors the permission to have greater expectations when it comes to worship.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Wesley Theological Seminary is currently offering online courses only until further notice. Please check back at this website for further information on class status.
We are currently accepting applications for Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Study and Master of Arts programs, as well as our Doctor of Ministry degree programs. If you would like to try a class, our all-online Summer term registration is now open, with some classes starting May 26.
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