I’ve heard that using Christian as an adjective is a dangerous business, the confusion of what constitutes Christian music, what is a Christian banker, how can you tag something as Christian and something else as not? Is it the people engaging the activity, or the nature of that activity?
When it comes to the type of dancing I’ve got in mind, no confusion should endure. A similar phenomenon can be witnessed by those without a firm theistic world view but it only ever an imitation of the masterful art form. This is dancing in a circle.
Dante missed a circle out of his literary masterpiece: the Christian dancing circle.
Last night I was at a wedding, and I had a dance. I should confess to my enthusiasm for dancing far exceeding my ability to keep time or coordinate the various parts of my body that might move with speed, and across and over the dance floor. I can be quite the hazard on the dance floor. But I love it.
The band strikes up, a few brave, eager, foolhardy souls, take to the floor, start to move – hopefully in time with the music. In due course others join, they take care not to dance with anyone in particular, not wishing to seem too forward. Instead they dance by the side of others they know, mixing carefully between guys and girls to communicate their interest in dancing as a fun activity rather than anything more untoward.
Because Christians can have fun. That’s important to note, it’s crucial to be aware that fun is not premised on alcohol consumed or as a path towards romantic entanglement, but plain harmless fun. And that means dancing in circles. As well as not wanting to explicitly dance with any one person in particular Christians also like to include people. I mean it, try dancing so badly that you get excluded from a Christian dance circle. It’s tough, I should know as by all legitimate standards I should be shut out of every dance circle going, but they keep on including me.
It also means the circles get larger and larger until they consume the entire hall, with groups merging to emphasise the inclusive, non-romantic nature of dancing. And then some fool decides to try and break up the circle by dancing in the middle and everyone misses the cue, thinks they’re trying to perform, show off their moves, impress someone (not in that way, they’re Christian after all). Maybe the manoeuvre does its job, the circles downsize, maybe vanish altogether for a few frantic beats, but the cycle of circles goes on.
I jest, I joke, I poke a little fun. But on the way home we got talking about it. And I reckon two things go together to cause they kind of dancing I’m mocking (all the while aware I engage in it). Firstly, there is a reluctance on the part of guys to dance with a girl lest her think he’s interested, and secondly an inability to dance and a self-consciousness about it which can be hidden in a group.
The girls want the guys to dance with them, not as part of pulling some moves and trying to hit on them, but to dance with them. They appreciated the guys who took their hand and twirled them around. And maybe the answer is to get some lessons, hire a hall, have some practice, get over the awkwardness, and learn to dance. Maybe at the next wedding I’m at I’ll grab a partner and dance together, confident in my dancing whether or not it is any good, and have more fun dancing with them than I would on my own or in a cirle.
Because as someone said, what would you rather do, dance in a group or dance with a girl?
And that brings it around full circle to why this isn’t as easy to sort out as we might like. We’re not consistent. On occasion when I’m dancing with a girl it’s part of the fun, meaning nothing but enjoying ourselves and acknowledging that dancing with someone else is more fun than dancing on your own. And yet at other times the movement between you and another is a symbol for a grander dance that is taking place. Sometimes it is about more than the moves.
When I put out my arm to drew a girl onto the dance floor and break the monotony of the circles of swaying (and out of time clapping to break the awkwardness), what are the words unspoken as one hand takes another?
Perhaps the same as any awkward dance of two people, in life as on the dance floor. On my own I can largely do as I choose, I slightly self regulate, I try not to hurt anyone, I have standards which I sometimes maintain. I am myself, I am unhindered, I am not beholden. Yet when I am with another my choices recede, in life as in dance, what we do is affected by each other. We lead not only ourselves but the other. We interact, we ebb and flow, we give and take.
We sacrifice the freedom to do exactly what we might wish for the chance to do it with another.
I can go on dancing alone, making a spectacle of myself, casting aside the shackles of my inhibitions, and dancing like David before the Lord. Actually, not quite like that.
But we embrace the confusion, allow things to be a little awkward, the dance could be something more than moves, or it could just be that. Would we rather go on dancing alone, or alone in the circle of others, and maintain the order and understanding of the meaning of our moves, or allow chaos to reign, and where there is chaos there so often is beauty.