By Mary Jones
What is prophetic dance?
There are many different ideas about what the term "prophetic dance" means. Some people use it to refer to any spontaneous dance in worship. Others are just unclear about what prophetic dance is or if, indeed, there is such a thing.
Prophecy, in the biblical sense, is for the forthtelling of God's word for a particular situation and people. It can refer to past, present or future. In both Old and New Testaments there were particular people called to be prophets and in the letter to the Ephesian church prophets were one of the five ministries (Eph.4:11). But Paul also encourages us all to seek to prophesy to order to edify the church - for people's strengthening, encouragement and comfort (1 Cor.14:1, 3-5).
Dance and movement are a language of communication as are words, music or visual art. Therefore, when dance is communicating God's word for a particular people and situation it is prophetic. It can be choreographed or spontaneous just as the prophetic in word can come through either a prepared or a spontaneous message.
Certainly in the New Testament we have no teaching that prophecy comes in any other way than the spoken word but in the case of Agabus a powerful part of the communication was his action with the belt (Acts 21:10). Dance and movement are not always easily understood or interpreted and will, therefore, usually have words of some kind teaming with them. The words may be in the song, spoken word before, at the same time or afterwards. In some cases the movement expression may be closer to speaking in tongues, with the interpretation being given either by the dancer or someone else.
There are some differences of emphasis and outlook amongst those who write about prophetic dance. Judith Rock in Performer as Priest and Prophet contrasts the two roles a dancer/choreographer plays in worship. "The priest", she writes, "consolidates, guards, and sanctions, reminding the community of its history, traditions, and achievements; and the.. prophet, ..judges and challenges, reminding the same community of its failures and calling for a more righteous future" (p.81). She goes on to say that because prophets speak into particular situations a (choreographed) dance which is prophetic for one congregation may not be perceived as such by another. "If a dance surprises us, challenges us, or helps us see something new, it may be, for that performance and in that place, prophetic." (p.82). Aimee Kovacs, also a dancer and theologian but from a Pentecostal background, writes in Dancing into the Anointing that "Prophetic dance is spontaneous dance that is inspired by the Holy Spirit and danced by a single person or by a group of people. It is a dance where the mind of God is expressed so that the congregation not only hears the message from God, but also sees the message."(p.59). "The prophetic dance", she says, "should follow all the rules of prophecy. The only difference between the spoken prophecy and prophetic dance is that one is a verbal communication whereas the other is speaking through body language." (p.64).
Some involved in the prophetic movement write about prophetic worship. David Swan quotes Psalm 68 which describes a procession of musicians, singers and dancers coming into the temple. "Prophetic worship", he writes, "synergises the anointings of various ministries. Prophetic worship entails more than just singing and making music. During prophetic worship, intercession is offered, spiritual warfare is waged, prophetic power is released, anointed sounds are produced and creative words are spoken and sent forth. Glory, life, light and spirit are thus transmitted." (p.52) "Prophetic worship synergises the elements of music, singing, dance, mimes, prayer and voices of the congregation to create a powerful corporate expression" resulting in "an amplification of the spiritual power released" (p.57). Dr Bill Hamon in his book "Prophets, Pitfalls and Principles" (p. 199) defines prophetic praise with dance and sign as "Physical movements that are inspirational and anointed by the Holy Spirit and many times accompanied by prophetic song... It is used in praise, adoration and worship to God which can in itself bring in the prophetic mantle (1 Sam.18:6). It may be spontaneous or choreographed...At times, it may communicate divine thoughts, ideas and purposes - a visible expression of what God is saying." This worship would obviously contain elements that we could not strictly call prophecy but these writers are using the term in a broader way and perhaps more akin to the descriptions of prophesying in the time of Elijah. They are looking at the communal experience which allows, encourages and calls down the expression and reception of what God is wanting to say to his people gathered in that particular place. Despite different nuances, all writers are agreed both from biblical writing and experience that prophecy communicates God's word and spirit in a particular situation.
Despite some people's usage of the term "prophetic dance" which is more in line with the broader picture just described, in the more specific sense not all spontaneous dance is prophetic. The dance may sometimes be directed to God in praise, worship, prayer or intercession or it may be directed to the people for the purpose of healing, teaching, evangelism or prophecy. The same will be true of a choreographed dance. However, not every individual or group will have a calling or motivation equally in all these areas. Those who feel led to prophesy in dance and find that God's anointing is strong as this leading is followed, with the prophetic being expressed in both word and movement may have a particular calling as a prophet. But as Paul encourages all to seek to prophesy, all those who express themselves through dance can be encouraged to prophesy in movement as well as with words.