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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

August 9, 2019

Dancing at Mass

evelyn @ 2:03 pm

Recently our Parish Hymn-chooser included a new one on her list, Laudate 889, ‘Jesus Christ is waiting’, tune Noel Nouvelet, words by John Bell. She liked the melody, as did I, but I warned her it wouldn’t be approved once our priest reached verse 3: ‘Jesus Christ is dancing, dancing in the street’. Sure enough, it was rejected and sent to join ‘Lord of the dance’ on the Forbidden Hymns list. It will never be heard in our church unless we are assigned a dancing priest like the one in the Father Ted series.

If singing about dancing is awkward, I find the idea of actually witnessing dancing at Mass positively cringe-making. It isn’t like dancing in the church hall which, whether it be a children’s competition or a general knees-up, is quite a different matter.  But in church … and at Mass … oh no.

Yet it happens. For example, the famous Buenos Aires tango:

And only other day I saw the following online video of a dance performance during the Agnus Dei at what looked to be quite an important Mass in Germany.

Oddly enough, I rather liked the music. But having a dancer prance and pirouette in front of the altar was positively embarrassing (I did think some of the celebrants were trying to keep a straight face).  No matter how talented the dancer was, it was the wrong place and the wrong time. Dancing for an audience is a ‘look-at-me’ thing, quite inappropriate at Mass where attention should surely be focused elsewhere. After the dancer had finally floated to a conclusion, the gear-change crunch as the main celebrant reverted to the normal course of the liturgy was almost audible, and a most welcome relief.


The only way dancing at Mass works is when everyone does it – not looking for admiration, but as an unselfconscious part of the proceedings in a particular culture where dancing is the norm. This of course happens in Africa. My friend Frances, who visits friends in Tanzania, says dancing at Mass there automatically replaces walking – for everyone. They all dance up and back to give their offerings or receive Communion, Frances among them (‘You just can’t help joining in’, she says). She loves it, and I can see why, from this link which she has sent me of Mass in a village she knows:


But please, please, don’t let’s have ballet dancers performing to an audience in middle of Mass. It’s creepy, and makes me want to reach for the sick bag.


  1. Ha Ha! Couldn’t agree more! I thought the dancer was trying to get his simmit off! In Africa, of course, dancing is very much part of the culture, but in these cold northern climes, not so much. I do think things are changing, though. People here have started to hug each other, for instance, much more than they did when I was young. (Cringe! Cringe!) Hugging at the sign of peace – a subject for another day perhaps?

    Comment by Frances — August 12, 2019 @ 3:48 pm

  2. Agree hugging is over the top these days. It can be dangerous, too, if the huggee is old and frail and the hugger strong and enthusiastic.

    I did do a post about the Sign of Peace some time ago (“… the sign in question can vary from the newly-weds’ Smooch of Peace, through the friendly Bear-hug of Peace and the assertive bone-cracking Grip of Peace to the distant and barely-touching Slither of Peace …”) but all this was observed from the gallery. No-one dares approach me when I’m at the organ, poised for the Agnus Dei. It’s great to be unhuggable!

    Comment by evelyn — August 13, 2019 @ 12:01 pm

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