"And we shall learn through the dance": Liturgical dance as religious education

Kathleen S Turner, Fordham University


Over the years liturgical dance has been recognized as possessing unique potential and power in translating and transmitting ideas of faith within the Christian tradition. Yet, liturgical dance is not a regular component of worship services in most Christian congregations. This absence is a loss. This dissertation addresses the power and potential liturgical dance has in nourishing the faith life of congregants. The driving question for this dissertation project is what are the characteristics embedded in liturgical dance which identify it as religious education within the church as a community place of learning? This question prompts the investigation of the many characteristics within liturgical dance which render it as religious education. This qualitative research applies an interpretive naturalistic method while employing two methodologies: semi-structured interviews and arts-based research. The purposeful samples include ten interviews from persons who have been affiliated with or affected by the use of liturgical dance as a teaching tool within the life of the church. The arts-based methodology reveals the presence of certain aesthetic qualities that infuse the inquiry and its writing. Liturgical dance is the focus of the arts-based activity and although there are associations with both music and written text, the dominant presence of dance classifies this as arts-based research. The study is divided into six chapters. The first chapter outlines the structure of the study, while chapter two explores the use of dance, music, and word as teaching tools during the Antebellum period of the African slaves, and the Shakers. The third chapter examines the validity of arts education as a source of learning, and dance as a way of knowing. Chapter four explores the theories of education and aesthetic education through and by experience, while defining the church as a community place of learning. Chapter five reviews the historical use of dance from the Old Testament and appraises its usage in the 21st century Christian church utilizing research from the interviews and text. Chapter six outlines four formats of practical application to be utilized both inside and outside the church that display the divine partnership found between liturgical dance and religious education.

Subject Area

Dance|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Turner, Kathleen S, ""And we shall learn through the dance": Liturgical dance as religious education" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3554041.