Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Students work on acceptable dances"

Recently I saw an article on The Detroit News' website that i thought was interesting - apparently the definition of "appropriate dancing" and "inappropriate dancing" has now become an issue of school policy in some places. The high school in question is located in Bangor Township, Michigan, and apparently enough students are upset about the school's definition of appropriate dancing that this year's prom is in jeopardy. So now the student senate is trying to come up with a list of dancing rules that will be acceptable to both the administration and the students.

I'm probably more sensitive to this issue because I grew up being taught that Christians should never dance in public, except, perhaps, for a very obscure idea of "dancing in worship". Now, as a youth pastor, I've had to wrestle with what I should communicate about dancing to the teens i work with. It hasn't come up often, but what do you do when you're playing music at a bonfire and all of a sudden the whole group starts dancing? You think how glad you are that the bonfire is almost over is what you do.

It could be simple enough to just tell kids that their mind and their intentions should be pure, and that they should dance in a way that reflects that purity. But without specific guidelines, each student has to come up with their own idea of "pure dancing," and I'm not sure that it's fair to expect students to do that if the majority of their dancing "role models" have no interest in purity. For instance, how could a person figure out for themselves what "pure speech" is if they've never heard it modeled for them?

But then, if we try to define it, it's a fast slide to legalism. The body becomes divided into "ok parts," "not ok parts," and "questionable parts," and the art form of dancing becomes limited to a list of acceptable moves. We start counting inches and points of contact.

Maybe it really should be handled like we handle language? There are certain ways to speak that can be clearly communicated as inappropriate. Perhaps the same is true of dancing. But just as we teach our teens pure speech by letting them hear us talk, perhaps the only way to teach teens pure dancing is to go chaperone their dances and let them watch us dance.

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