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Unformatted text preview: Dance and Worship in the Pacific Islands: A Comparative Study with Implications for an Emerging Ecumenical Consciousness Kelly Johnson-Hill* Dance permeates virtually all aspects of Pacific life. Dances occur at births, coming of age rituals, marriages, aiid even occasionally at funerals. However, the relationship between dance and the Church has been, at best, a cautious one, and at worst, a hostile one since the arrival of the missionaries in the nineteenth century. This article will highlight the wealth of sacred themes found in the dances of Fiji, Tonga and Kiribati respectively, and propose practical suggestions for the incorporation of these dances into Protestant worship in an ecumenical, multicultural Pacific setting. Is Cultural Dance "Christian"? A discussion of the incorporation of cultural dance into Christian workship must begin with a brief overview of the aesthetic issues pertaining to such an innovation. Little has been written by Westerners concerning the cultural aspects of liturgial dance. This is likely due to the fact that Western liturgical dancers have tended to utilise modern dance techniques, rather than the folk dances of their European cultural heritage. Many Western writers therefore wrongly Kelly Johnson-Hill is a graduate of Otago University in New Zealand, currently ministering In Pacific Islands. 362 Asia Journal of Theology presume that there is a universal "Christian movement vocabulary"' which can be applied to all Christian cultures. This viewpoint reflects cultural nearsightedness and an under-appreciation of the plurality of the contemporary Christian world. J.G. Davies is one such writer who has contributed to the development of a "Christian movement vocabulary" for use in the Western Church. At first glance, it would seem that these movements, closely affiliated with those of modern dance, are "culture-less." On closer examination, however, one discovers that Davies has borrowed heavily from movements articulated or implied in the Old and New Testaments, in ancient Middle Eastern iconography, and in the Shaker tradition. 2 It thus becomes apparent that dance can never be totally divorced from cultural influences. If the "Christian movement vocabulary" developed by Davies and others incorporates movements from the varied cultural sources listed above, there is indeed no valid reason why other "Christian movement vocabularies," incorporating the dances of other cultures, could not be developed for use in worship throughout the non-Western world. Denominational Considerations Although this essay is primarily concerned with the role of dance in an ecumenical worship setting, brief attention must be givent to the denominational backgrounds of each of the cultures under consideration....
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course MUS 333 taught by Professor Bingham during the Spring '08 term at SUNY Fredonia.
- Spring '08