Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

October 14th, 2007

Lutherans Don’t Dance, or Do They?

Posted by christina in Web Columns

I was born and raised Lutheran, the next generation in a long line of Lutherans on both sides of the family. I share blood with Lutheran ministers in the Missouri Synod, and for those of you in the know, that is about as Lutheran as you can get.

My children are genetically half-Lutheran, being that their father comes from an equally long line of Episcopalians. I’ve been hanging around my husband’s family for almost 20 years, and although I wouldn’t say I’m fully bi-denominational, I have learned to be comfortable in an Episcopalian church and to not constantly compare my tradition to theirs.

Besides, we have one huge thing in common — we all stand absolutely still while we’re worshiping, singing, or praising God in any way. The Episcopalian monikers of “God’s Frozen Ones” or “God’s Frozen Chosen” seem equally applicable to my Lutheran heritage.

It was May of 2006 and my then 3-year-old daughter, Allyndreth, had already well established her inherent love of music, movement and rhythm. (I am in awe of the ways she can move and manipulate her body. I never quite got my limbs to be anything less than gawky before, during or long after puberty. I have often wondered if I was given an extra rigid set of bones when body parts were being handed out. ) We were at a choir concert at my parents’ Lutheran Church when Allyndreth felt the urge to dance. She went right to the middle of the aisle in a Lutheran Church and started dancing to the choir music!

Stiffly, I reached my arm into the aisle and tried to pull her back to our pew. She took a few steps in our direction, but didn’t stop dancing. I didn’t know what to do. I cautiously scanned the faces of the people sitting near us, carefully moving only my eyes, not my head, for fear they would see I was gauging their reaction. The only face I was really able to read was my husband’s, which clearly said, “Make her sit down.” Of course, without moving my head I couldn’t see the people behind us, who I was sure were mortified at the freedom this child was being given and were undoubtedly whispering behind my back about how I was a bad mother.

That choir piece ended and my daughter sat down, albeit it still in the aisle, and I thought, “Oh, good. She got it out of her system.” But then the next choir came up to sing and they had guitars and drums with them and I groaned, “Oh, no.” Sure enough, they started smiling and rockin’ out about Jesus and my daughter started rockin’ out right along with them. With the more contemporary style of music, I felt a little more at liberty to turn my head slightly and see how the people behind us were reacting to the little girl in the aisle. No one was whispering, but no one was groovin’ to the music either. Not even another child. Once again, I tried to persuade Allyndreth to sit down in the pew, but realized that I would be unsuccessful unless I physically rose from my seat and went and got her in the aisle. My repressed self would NEVER get up during a concert, so I sat there and started praying for the night to be over.

The concert finally did end, and I sheepishly stood up and collected our things, hoping to make a quick get-away with my family out the side door. Another exchanged look with my husband confirmed he was thinking the same thing. As I turned to collect my daughter, I saw she was surrounded my audience members, praising her for her dancing and saying that they, too, wished they could get up and dance.

The arts advocate in me was immediately in conflict with my strict adherence to all things Miss Manners. Shouldn’t anyone who wanted to dance feel that they could get up and do so? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate form of self-expression, as well as sending a huge compliment to the musicians that they had hit their mark and, literally, moved another person’s soul? But we’re supposed to sit quietly at a choir concert so that everyone can enjoy it, right? What message do I give my daughter?

I’m still struggling with this question a year later. I have continued to let my daughter dance and groove when the spirit moves her. I know that her time to do this when other people will accept it, no doubt thinking that it’s cute, is limited. I also hope to give her the emotional strength to get up and dance beyond when it’s “cute.” I’m just working on mustering the strength to smile encouragingly instead of ducking under the pew.

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