To dance or not to dance

Nazarene church policy vs. universities’ handbook

By Melissa Luby

No dancing. It’s the now-mostly-defunct rule that we all know and joke about, the rule that all people with two left feet are lobbying to keep.

The current position of the Nazarene church is that “All forms of dancing that detract from spiritual growth and break down proper moral inhibitions and reserve” are prohibited. But recently, two of our Nazarene sister schools – Eastern Nazarene University and Northwest Nazarene University – hosted their first school dances, which leaves us at Olivet wondering: What should our position on dancing be?

For years, we’ve danced (pun intended) around the no-dancing clause. The word “dancing” is practically a swear word on campus: the “d” word. Even performers in school musicals never practiced “dancing,” but rather “choreographed stage motion.”

I personally am not against dancing. In the Psalms, dancing is seen as a type of praise, a physical manifestation of the joy that comes from the Lord. And I think that’s exactly what older versions of the Nazarene manual referred to when they allowed dancing only as “interpre- tative worship.”

Junior Erin Stephens agrees. “Dancing is just another form of expression like music, cooking, or painting,” she said. “Dancing is not inherently good or evil. It’s how you approach it that makes it God-glorifying or not.”

At the same time, I think all of us can agree that there are types of dancing (Miley Cyrus, anyone?) that are clearly inappropriate for Christians. Brian Shaw, a sophomore who performed as a dancer in Olivet’s production of “The Music Man,” put it this way: “When it comes to dancing, it’s one thing to be moving to music and another to be moving seductively.”

The difficulty against making a rule against dancing is that it is subjective. What I may consider to be perfectly appropriate may be scandalous to you. And what you do as an act of worship, I may interpret as a brazen act of heresy. It’s difficult to draw a line without compiling an entire list of taboo dances for young Nazarenes to memorize.

For me, it comes down to personal responsibility. When you’re dancing, ask yourself what your motivation is. Whose eyes are you trying to catch? God’s or a member of the opposite gender? Would you be comfortable dancing in this manner in front of your mother or your future spouse? Dancing is much like modesty: It’s about putting others first and trying to keep our brothers and sisters in Christ from stumbling. Shaw agrees. “It’s about taking the considerations of others into account,” he said. “If it affects others negatively, avoid it.”

For Stephens, whose sisters are ballerinas, dancing is a gift from and a glory to God. “When I see [my sisters] dancing, it is like peeking into heaven,” she said. “They are sparkling, whirling visions of God’s joy. It always makes me smile, and I know that it makes God smile too.”

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