God and Dance

SD Ballet

Terrie and I attended the San Diego Ballet’s “Evening of Jazz and Dance” yesterday.

It’s always inspiring to see people doing creative things excellently, like young people with fluid and sinuous movements.

But since I’m a theologian, my thoughts inevitably turn to theology.

During the performance, it occurred to me that there is an important analogy between God and dance (and music). Dance is a matter of form–tempo, rhythm, motion but above all the form of the body, its shape, its posture, the arrangement of head, hands, and limbs, as in a painting composition.

As form, dance is not about something or the expression of something. It simply is something. It doesn’t re-present something, it simply is presentation. When we see dancing, we don’t seek something behind the movement, looking for a meaning. The motion that we see is the whole thing.

There is, then a wonderful superficiality in dance (and music)–not superficial as in shallow, but superficial in the sense that everything lies on the surface, available for seeing.  We see the motion and hear the sounds, but not in order to get at something deeper.  There is nothing deeper; the motion and the sound are the depth.

There is a tradition in theology, going back to Aristotle, that thinks of God as form. Like dance, God is not about something or the expression of something. God simply is. As in dance, there is nothing behind God that would provide the real meaning of God. As in the experience of dance, in encountering God we experience the reality itself, not a reality being mediated to us by an expression.

With God, the divine form, given in the movement of revelation, is not the re-presentation of something behind the revelation or deeper.  The form lies right on the surface of revelation’s movement.

You can learn a lot from dance (and music).

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