Holy Dance

You’ve heard of the “Holy Grail” which is a vessel that serves as an important spiritual cup. In literature, it is described as a dish or stone with miraculous powers. It is said that the “Holy Grail” can provide happiness, eternal youth or even infinite abundance.

Now, taking “Holy” in a different direction, namely our feet, history tells us that there are countless countries that believe in sacred ceremonies of dance. These ceremonies are culturally handed down and preserved by all generations in that country. A holy dance can be about the essence of God/Ghost or Spirit and take place in religious rituals.  It is believed that by the providence of God, certain powers can be bestowed on those who believe in him. It is up to man to spread God’s eternal wisdom through the act of these sacred dances. In doing so, spiritually, it brings good luck, prosperity, good crops, good health and even rain to those believers and their communities. Here are some countries and cultures that totally embrace sacred and holy dance as a means of worship.


Mexico: Our Lady of Guadalupe – The Spaniards brought the dance to the New World during colonial times as part of their worship. In 1531, according to historic teachings, the Virgin Mary appeared in Mexico to a poor Aztec Indian named Juan Diego in Mexico, and she told him to call her Our Lady of Guadalupe. After that, the Matachines became an integral part of this celebration. The Matachina dance, or “Danza de Matachines” (Spanish) is explained to be a traditional dance among most Indian Tribes as “The Dance of the Moors and Christians” and is the first masked dance introduced by the Spaniards. Now they are a society of North and South American-Indian dancers who perform ritual dances. And even though dance steps may vary among tribes, the dance formations are similar to past dance steps. Masks are always used with the style changing from village to village and tribes. With elaborate colorful costumes and masks, the Matachina dance depicts religious conquests of Christ or God, the Holy Trinity. Through this dance you sense the struggle between good vs. evil with good always winning out. There is a deep spiritual connection portrayed in this dance and a strong bond that the people have identified with for hundreds of years.


Japan: Bon Odori is a dance performed to welcome the holy spirit of the dead. This dance and the music that accompanies it is different in every region of Japan. The movements and gestures in a Bon Odori dance often depict the history, work or geography of the region. For example, a coal mining area could show movements of digging, pushing a cart and hanging a lantern in the dance. Bon Odori dances can also use different utensils to show the different work or current event situation often depicted. Some utensils used can be fans, small towels and wooden hand clappers. Sometimes it can be a lighthearted dance, simple in nature, where the local community is wearing straw hats with flowers on them as they dance. I like how delicate and direct this dance is. Even though it is a spiritual dance of the dead, it is all about living and objects used in daily life.

Africa: Ritual Dances have always been an indispensable element of life in African society. Ritual dances bring communities together and help individuals to understand their roles in relation to the community. In spiritual rituals, dance helps people to understand and remember their role in relation to the divine. Dance in social ceremonies and rights of passage have helped keep community life vibrant, contributing to a sense of security, safety and continuity. As the shape of communities has changed with the passage of time, with alterations in the political climate, and with the application of economic factors, some specifics in the role of dance have also adapted and changed. Today African dance still remains an important supporting element in the spiritual, emotional and social well-being of African society. Although African dances vary and change according to the community, there is an overlapping theme in all the dances reflecting joy, love, sadness and hope. All of the dances express emotion in the deepest way.  Most of the traditional African dances will be portrayed in either ritual dances, ceremonial dances or dances expressing local life and history. No matter which African dance is being danced, it will always be in a sacred, emotional, and honored manner.

I have only touched on a few countries/cultures that express dance in a holy way.  There are many more countries that embrace traditional dancing through faith, spirit, and legacy.  The beauty of traditional and spiritual dancing is its ability to raise identity and a sense of cultural awareness to this ethereal type of dancing we may normally not see very often.

Thought Of The Week:

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart  –  Helen Keller


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website https://slowmotiondancevideos.com/