'When I listen to music, I pray about it and ask the Lord, 'Is this something You want me to do? Give me the steps to go along with it,'" says Steve Beard, director of children and youth ministry for Bayview Baptist Church. This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the church will celebrate ten years of liturgical dance ministry. "Liturgical dance is sacred dance to spiritual music," Beard explains. "We start off with a praise-and-worship segment through dance. In the opening segment, we're kind of symbolizing the goodness of God and the whole thing about the love of God." Beard's troupe is composed of 18 dancers who are between the ages of 6 and 19. The dancers will don ceremonial dancewear put together by a congregant who is a seamstress. "Some of the outfits are more angelic looking and allow for flowing movements," says Beard. "The dresses are usually flared; they really flow, especially when [dancers] turn, and add grace to the dance."
Though dance styles will vary (Beard incorporates jazz, modern ballet, and combinations of African and Caribbean movements into his compositions), the music is consistently gospel. "The praise team opens us up musically," says Beard of the church's choir. One song, "The Prayer" by Yolanda Adams, is often performed as a duet by two lead vocalists. "A lot of our choir members read music, but if we have people who are not able to [read music], they are not put aside; they just have lyric sheets," says Beard.
Gospel music can be traced back to spirituals, which are the musical ancestors to blues and jazz. According to negrospirituals.com, some of the first spirituals, inspired by African music, were called "shouts" and "were accompanied with typical dancing, including hand clapping and foot tapping." Traditional gospel music and dance encourage improvisation, as each new move or vocal outburst is seen as the physical expression of God.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many gospel musicians such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, and Thomas Dorsey gained secular popularity, as did gospel groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Swan Silvertones. Carrie Sanchez, a representative from San Diego's House of Blues, says of their weekly Gospel Brunch, "It is hard to tell how many of our guests are religious, but...everyone gets into the spirit, waving their napkins in the air, singing along, and sometimes even dancing onstage."
Gospel music has been adapted by other genres. Rock bands like P.O.D. (Payable On Death), Third Day, and Evanescence are played on gospel radio and television stations. One of the most recent styles to be claimed by hip-hop is gospel. The organization Holy Hip Hop states as its mission, "To take the gospel to the streets through the global proliferation of spiritually enlightening Holy Hip Hop ministry -- music and entertainment glorifying Christ."
Beard welcomes the nonreligious to his church's events. "I'm glad that they're there. It's an opportunity for us to witness for them, to share about Christ, by allowing them to be able to see us and what we do."
Beard views dance as a form of prayer. "Psalm 149 summons those who are 'children of Zion' to praise God's name 'in the dance.' King David 'danced before the Lord with all his might,' as related in 2 Samuel 6:14. Miriam led the people of God in a joyful dance of praise after the crossing of the Red Sea. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Glorify God, therefore, in your body and in your spirit.'"
One of the more lively numbers will be performed to the song "Midnight Cry," in which the chorus proclaims, "When Jesus steps out on a cloud to call his children / the dead in Christ shall rise to meet Him in the air /and then those that remain shall be quickly changed / at the midnight cry, when Jesus comes again."
For this tune, Beard shares, "There will be a whole lot of jumps and kicks and flying." -- Barbarella
Bayview Baptist Gospel Dance Troupe presents:
"Jesus, My All and All...My Soul Says Yes!"
Performance and celebration:
Thursday, November 16, 7 p.m. and
Saturday, November 18, 3 p.m.
Black-tie gala and silent auction: Friday, November 17, 7 p.m.
Bayview Baptist Church
6134 Benson Avenue
Cost: $15 Thursday and Saturday;
$35 for Friday
Info: 619-262-8384 or www.bayviewbc.org