Dance in the Liturgy

[There were over 50 errors in the above piece and I had to edit them to make it readable. However some remain because I did not know the correction to be applied.]

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[There were over 50 errors in the above piece and I had to edit them to make it readable. However some remain because I did not know the correction to be applied.]

What we learn is that Bharatanatyam came from the Hindu deity Brahma himself. This god, “the Supreme one, the knower of truth, had to meditate on the four main Hindu scriptures to be able to draw up the scripture of “natya” or drama which he revealed to one Bharata. Hence “Bharata natyam”.

Then, the deities Shiva* and Parvati pooled in with their respective dance resources. *Nataraja

The "mudras" or hand gestures used in the dance were once the very expressions used by Brahmin priests during their idol worship in the temples. “Although today the Indian classical dance has moved from the temple to the auditorium and stage, the dedication of its performers remains the same…. in India, whereGod [is] worshipped through dance forms.Bharatanatyam was and is temple artbecause its aim was the perception of spiritual identification God was worshipped in dance.

Indian classical dance is inseparably bound with spirituality in its inception, growth, development, existence, purpose and goal.” Which god and what spirituality is a rhetorical question.

To “realize the divine” in oneself and to “realize the Supreme” is Hindu/New Age spirituality.

Fr. Francis Barboza subverts the true meaning of passages in the Vatican II documents in order to justify his abuses of the Faith and the Liturgy, which like many others he calls “inculturation”.
14.3 Male dancers in the Hindu Religious Tradition by Dr. Francis Barboza svd

Gods are looked upon as the creators and experts in Natya. The well-known myth explains that the origin of Religious dance (Natya) is the result of Brahma’s meditation on the four Vedas. Natya Shastra is attributed to Bharata Muni. The Lord of the dance, Shiva taught dance to his disciple Tandu and he in turn taught dance to others on earth. One must note that in this chain of events the main characters are all male. Thus, all along, the origin, development, practice and spread of dance is by and large attained by or attributed to the male gods, gurus and men dancers. Of course there is the mention of Lasya, the dance taught by Parvati to Usha, the Apsara's dance in the Devaloka but all these are mentioned in relation to the male dance or dancers. However, one cannot forget the contribution of the Devadasis and Maharis and other women dedicated to the art of Dance in the field of its existence, growth and continuation.

14.4 Men (purush) in religious dance by Dr. Francis Barboza svd

Are Men Dancers more suited for handling Christian Themes? EXTRACT

These [see 14.3] were a few of the many technical difficulties I encountered while choreographing and presenting full dance recitals (margam) on Christian Themes. Besides the technical difficulties, initially, I had to face Social-Religious opposition and adverse criticism came from many corners especially, the Indian Catholic Press. Some of the authorities wrote negatively about, and condemned my efforts without even attending my performances. However, within a few years people’s attitudes changed to support and appreciation. Especially when the sceptics witnessed my performances and began to understand the deeper significance of my innovations…

"With Barboza a new type of man has entered the field of Indian classical dance… Francis Barboza and his spell binding singers and musicians took us on the wings of sound and dance to those distant lands, where we dwelt with superman who lived in a state of divinity. For how could an ordinary man have lived and died like Jesus Christ or Buddha or Lord Shiva? …Francis enters the stage imbued with fervor abundant belief in God, which flows over the audience in waves of ardour. This is what must have been meant when the Natya Shastra says that a dancer in this Kaliyuga must give his audience a glimpse of God. We literally see Christ and Ram and Sita in the prayer to Ganapathi*." Afternoon, Sat. April 22 1995. Bombay. [Review written by Hima Devi] *Ganpati, Ganesh, Vinayakar, the elephant-god

And so, finally we come to the question: Are men more suited to handle Christian Themes?

…However, my understanding and firm belief is that a true classical dancer is above any limitations of religion, creed and sex… Again, it is vital that the artiste ought to be well versed in Hindu and Christian Theology and the traditions of both communities.

Here Fr. Francis Barboza salutes the elephant-god. One can see that Christ is equated with Shiva, Ram and the Buddha. If Barboza was doing any evangelizing at all as claimed by him and his SVD confreres, its only effect has been to convert his Catholic detractors into brainwashed syncretists.
14.5 Sacred dance in the East and West by Dr. Francis Barboza svd

The impulse or urge to unite with God through dance has a long and involved history. It is found in the animism of primitive people, in the Gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome, India and finally in Christianity. Here, the Religion and Sacred Dance "becomes a sacrificial rite, a charm, a prayer and prophetic vision. It summons and dispels the forces of nature, heals the sick, links the dead to the chain of their descendants; it assures the fields and the tribe. It is Creator, Steward and Guardian.1

The divine Origin of Dance in India [ditto as in 14.2, page 27 top till note 13 on page 28]

Sacred dance in the West

Commenting on the changing relationship of dance and Christian religion, Nancy Brooks Schmitz writes, "Western civilisation's relationship with Sacred Dance has changed with the evolving theology of Christianity and in interpretation of Biblical sources. The first five centuries of Christianity firmly established ritual Church dance as a way of expressing joy, a way of salvation, and a way of praise. The most common acceptable form of Sacred Dance was in imitation of the angels although other forms did exist. Early Christian dance served as a living experience of the mysteries of the faith and of the joy involved in its revelations. 30.

However, the period in the Church history between the sixth and fifteenth century was marked by ambivalent attitudes towards Sacred Dance and dance in general. This ambivalence survived in the religious traditions of modern times. It is only in the twentieth century that dance has once again begun to find an acceptable and welcome entry into religious worship".14

Dance in the Early Church

The Greco-Roman world, before it embraced Christianity, was rooted in religious rituals among which dance was one of the main forms of expression and experience. In the first century Christianity emerged in its simple form as a religion. However, it had strong inclinations towards the worship pattern of the Jews who had dance in their religious life. Hence, these factors influenced the early Church to include in their religious celebrations and worship. Christian tradition, rooted firmly in the Scriptures, adopted the use of Sacred Dance as heritage belonging to the holy people of God. In the second century, children's chorus played musical instruments, sang and danced as a part of the services and the people danced at the end of prayer as well as in connection with Baptism.15

Historian Tertullian (2nd century) tells us that Christian congregation danced to the singing of hymns, Clement of Alexandria (+ around 215 AD) speaks of the dancing which accompanied prayer and explains its meaning: "Prayer is a dialogue with God. Even if we speak silently while murmuring or without opening our lips, we have prayed internally. God always listens to all internal conversations. That is why we raise our head and hands towards the heavens and move our feet to the last movement of prayer, accompanying the movement of our thought towards the intelligible essence. We endeavor, through that, to detach ourselves from our bodies with words, we raise our winged soul to heavens.16

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, group dance (Xopos) was very much encouraged. A prominent theologian of the Eastern Orthodox Church Gregory Nazianzus (329-388 A.D.) who was the Bishop of Constantinople advised that performing triumphant ring dances was the proper way to celebrate Easter. Another doctor of the Eastern Church, Basil the Great (344-407A.D) urged his people to perform the ring dance (Xopox). John Chrysostom (345-407) Bishop of Constantinople blessed the performance of the ring dances (Xopos). In the West, group dance (Chorea) continued to command respect and was understood in the most symbolic way. St. Ambrose (340-397) Bishop of Milan and his student St. Augustine praised bodily dance and encouraged the people to understand the dance of Psalms in a symbolic way.17 Eusebius of Caesarea (+339 AD) writes how dance was performed by the Christians to honor God. "All was filled with light and it is with smiling faces, sparkling eyes that they regarded one another, scarcely lowering their eyes, with dancing choruses, hymns in the cities and country, they honored God, the sovereign king". 18 Many feasts were accompanied with religious dances. The feast of the martyrs was celebrated with dances as Gregory of Nazianzen (+390 AD) writes "We assemble, we hasten together. This is truly a solemn celebration, pleasing to Christ. We honor or we shall truly honor the martyrs; we truly dance some triumphant dances."19 Gregory himself later calls martyrs as 'dancers of the Holy Spirit"20 The treatise on virginity which is attributed to St. Athanasius calls virgins "dancers of Christ"21 He then gives an interesting quotation "Whosoever knoweth the power of dance, knoweth the power of God. St Basil asked to St. Gregory (4th century), "What could be more blessed than to imitate on earth the rhythm of the angels?" In the 17th century, St. Isidore at the suggestion of the council of Toledo, composed sacred ritual dance for performing in the Cathedral. All these above references are compelling proof that dance in those vital first centuries of the Christian religion was used as the chief expression of ritual and worship.

Church and Dance in the Middle Ages

Dance which was a part and parcel of the religious life of the early Christian was looked down upon the Middle Ages. This attitude prevailed almost till the 15th century. Many factors led to the decline of dance in the Church. During this period dance took new directions and developments. However, it continued to exist in the Church in an ambivalent form even during the above period.

Decline of Sacred Dance in the Church

The course of the history of theatre and dance from the 5th century onwards was shaped and coloured by the philosophy, laws and rituals of the church. Although many historians tend to recognise only the restrictive influence of the church on dance, a closer look at these secondary sources themselves, with support from primary sources, reveal that the Church actually enacted a context for new flowerings of social, theatre and religious dance.24 The sanctions of the Church, attitude of the clergy, new spiritual outlook etc. were responsible for the decline and new developments in the Sacred Dance of the Church, both in its understanding and practice.

Philosophical influence

The influence of the Greek thought, especially the principle of duality; body and soul; good and evil championed by Aristotle and Plato which became part of the scholastic philosophy minimised the use of the body and senses and glorified the Spirit or the soul. This led to the emphasis on the abstract realities and suppression of all that was pleasurable and connected to the body. As a result of this new attitude and understanding, Sacred Dance lost its place and honor in the church.

Dance in the Life of the Church

Old Testament aspersions on the dance, e.g. the legend of the Golden Calf and Isaiah's condemnation of women mincing and tinkling their feet (Isaiah 3:5) were echoed negatively in the New Testament stories as Salome's supposedly lewd dancing before Herod. St. Paul, a converted Jew gave a severe doctrine of the sins of the flesh, attempted to root out such sects as the Gnostics, who had an apocryphal text in which Christ leads his disciples in dance.25 In the fifth century dance and theatre in Rome had degenerated to a spectacle of brutality and eroticism. Early Christians having suffered under these Roman excesses condemned the Roman way of life. Because dance was an integral part of Roman life, dance as a spectacular entertainment was condemned by the Church Fathers.26 Besides, the over-stress on asceticism that crept into the Church during this period discouraged the use and practice of Sacred Dance in the Church. 31.

Church authorities condemn dance

Many of the medieval theologians and church authorities condemned dancing as immoral. With the fall of Roman Empire in 470 AD, the political vacuum was filled in by the Church. Now, besides the spiritual leadership, the Church became a teacher and law giver, hence regulated all forms of activities of the people. This included legislation on dance.

Doug Adams says that "the Catholic objection on popular participation in dance reveals a political dimension of dancing. The superior position which clergy in the Catholic Church maintained over their laity had required that dancing together be suppressed as too equalising and revolutionary.27 The prohibition was also intended to keep the Christians from the close contact of other social classes and non-Christians. The Church authorities considered dance as the work of the devil. They decried the fact that dancing took place on pilgrimage, in cemeteries, churches, taverns, castles and town squares.28 Prohibition of Sacred Dance was intensified from 5th century onwards. "While the Church hierarchy issued edicts against dance, the priests and monks were reluctant to enforce them. In most cases they continued to ignore the edicts. The existing peculiar situation in the middle ages gave rise to two different Sacred Dance traditions in the Church.

(i) Sacred Dances tradition performed by the clergy as part of the service,

(ii) Sacred Dance tradition performed by the faithful during Church ceremonies or festivals."29

(i) Sacred dances of the clergy

The movements of the Sacred Dances performed by the clergy were ritualised. In most cased the dances were performed in conjunction with saints days, Christmas or Easter. These dances either followed a processional form or round dance form. The movements were symbolic of the theology of the Church. The congregation were merely spectators of a ritual act. During this particular period the Mass developed.30

The Holy Mass

Mass actually was a disciplined Sacred Dance. Although the Mass is a worship-centered rather than entertainment-centered ritual, it contains the seeds of dramatic elements, e.g. the singing of the Mass, the elevation and consecration of the host, procession the clergy to the Altar, antiphonal chanting resembling dialogue, the 'plot' or story of Sacred history, the often colourful costumes of the clergy, and Church's architecture which created a stage/audience separation.31

Mass is also described as a dance in slow motion.32

In the 4th century, Arius, an Alexandrian priest, proposed an overtly dramatic interpretation of the liturgy which included hymns, pantomime and dance. Though his work was condemned and suppressed by the Church authorities, gradually Holy Mass developed around this form of liturgy. The Easter week liturgical celebration was the first portion of Sacred history to receive theatrical form as early as the 7th century. The actual locations of Jerusalem were used for the dramatic presentation of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.33 In 539 A.D. the third council of Toledo issued a warning forbidding dance in the Churches during the vigil of saints' days. In the next century the council forbade the Festival of Fools with its music and dancing. However, in the same century the council suggested that Archbishop Isidore present a ritual rich in Sacred Choreography. This ritual became part of the Mass known as Mozarabe. It was used in the seven churches in Toledo and in the Cathedral of Seville. The dance involved became known as Los Seises. Its practice continued into the present century despite all opposing edicts. In fact in the 15th century Pope Eugenius II ordered this dance to cease. However, the choristers or choir boys were brought to Rome where they performed before the Pope who remarked, "I see nothing in these children' dance which is offensive to God. Let them continue to dance before the high Altar".34

In the 11th and 12th century, Sacred Dance was performed by different groups of clergy. In Paris choir boys danced on Innocents' Day, the sub-deacons on Epiphany, the deacons on St. Stephen's day and priests on St. John's day.35 With the dawn of the 13th century complete prohibition of Scared Dance was ordered by the Church authorities with numerous editions. The council of Narbonne attacked Sacred Dances in the Church in the severest terms: "Since to the dishonor of the Christian name, and in contempt of Holy things, there are performed ring-dances, as well as other improprieties, the council desires to root them out entirely, so that henceforth nobody will dare to dance in the holy temple or a church yard during service."36 The clergy eventually stopped expressive dances during the services and in the Churches, but the remnants of the Sacred Dance can be found in its suppressed form in the Holy Mass even to this day.

(ii) Sacred dance of the faithful

This second tradition of Sacred Dance was mostly performed in the processional form and at times in the ring dances. These dances took place not only in the churches but also in the Church yards and in the surrounding country side. They were performed during pilgrimage, processions, weddings, festivals, funerals and other fitting occasions. These dances were often vigorous and spontaneous. As already cited earlier, from the 6th century onwards the church tried to discourage, regulate and prohibit these dances. However, the Church did not succeed in controlling these dances as much as it regulated the Sacred Dances performed by the clergy. By the dawn of the 12th century there were extensive miracle plays mostly based on the lives of the saints. "These displayed a romantic, even sensationalist, slant and were performed in the vernacular outside the church building itself in an area established as a theatre in the round. More and more in the reading of these plays, directions for movements and emotional expression were included in the texts. English craft guilds, with Church support, presented the famous Corpus Christi cycle of plays from 1379 to the 16th century. Also called Mystery plays, these plays were performed two months after Easter and involved pageantry, Bible stories and legends and miracles. Actors were paid, minstrels were employed and elements of farce and comedy were included. The increasing independence of drama from Church liturgy and control was becoming clearly evident. In the late 14th century morality play developed, a theatrical genre wholly outside of the Church itself. These plays told the story of a single Christian in allegorical terms based on the conflict between good and evil. The devilish figures once again contributed humor, slapstick and satire with the Church itself often the butt of their mimicry."37 32.

The process of Sacred Dance becoming a social and entertainer were apparent in these gradual developments. With the starting of the reformation in 1517, the Sacred Dance receded further from the Church and its liturgy. The leaders of the Reformation were highly critical of the Sacred Dances in the Church. At this juncture the Church authorities were firmly emphatic regarding cessation of all dances. Therefore "dance barred from the Church and the churchyard, began to manifest itself either as a theatrical entertainment or as a folk art. It was only in isolated areas that dance remained a part of religious worship of the people. Thus it was that the dances of "Los Seises" in the Cathedral of Seville or the Processional dance around the Altar at Echternach, Luxemburg which existed into the present century as remnants of medieval Christianity"38 Dance which was a religious expression of faith became a source of light entertainment for the people. In the villages dance became a means of socialisation and unification in the form of folk-art. The increased industrialisation and urbanisation took the people further away from the spontaneous expression of one's faith. The religious celebrations deteriorated to a mere ritualised form which was anti-festive and joyless in spirit. As a result, dance became a means of entertainment for the urban people and it traveled from the Church and churchyard to the dancing-halls and ball-rooms. In the background of this state of the society a movement called Shakers was started in the Church.

Shakers: It is a common name given to the group which styled itself as "United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing." These Christians used dance as a vehicle for greater spirituality. This group of the Christian community was started in New York in 1776 under the leadership of Ann Lee. "By 1823 the songs, music and dances used in Shakers worship were inseparable forms expressing praise, joy, need or union with God.... All the movements of the dance, the shaking, falling, rolling and whirling were a means to loosen the bodily ties, the sins, and the faults to cause a purification and simplification of the spirit."39

Hasidism: By the 17th century Judaism, the parent religion of Christianity and Islam also had lost the use of dance in their worship and prayer. It was only in the beginning of 18th century a revivalist religious movement in Judaism led by Ball Shem Tov, called Hasidism stressed the use of dance and singing in their prayer and worship. This movement which was started in Poland spread throughout Eastern Europe, was in opposition to a very scholarly Judaism which preceded it."40 "Hasidism shifted the emphasis from study to prayer, from head and thought to heart and emotion. As such it developed a technology and a psychology of devotion unparalleled elsewhere in Judaism. Central to this methodology was the use of movement in prayer.41 "The worship dances were led by the Rabbi of the congregation by way of gesture and voice modulation. The circle dancing or 'Mechol' which symbolised the circular relationship between man and God, did not always necessarily move counter clock-wise and there was no limit to its participants. When the circle became too crowded another circle would form on the inside; when there was no room for a massive circle dance, the movements would switch to a 'rikud', jumping up and down in the same place symbolic of ladder climbing, until the whole room would pulsate joyously".42 This movement was very active in the 18th and 19th centuries and brought about important changes in the religious life and attitude of the Jews. Sacred Dance in the 20th century

Analysing and explaining the state of Sacred Dance and its place in society at the beginning of the 20th century, Nancy Brooks Schmitz writes, "Sacred Dance was nothing more than a relic of the past and a hesitant awaiting of the future. To most people dance was inconceivable as an expression of the holy. Elements of dance appeared in the Church preserved only as relics of the past. These elements were rituals devoid of real meaning. In fact, life itself, so fractionalised between the spirit, the mind and the body, was devoid of real meaning. With this disintegration of the personality, man had lost an important key to happiness-his humanity. The dualism of medieval Catholicism and the Reformation Churches had given impetus and energy to the development of a higher, more refined culture at the expense of the individual personality. Modern man, a hollow shell, his body, mind and spirit were no longer connected, he was dehumanized and isolated not only from others, but also from himself. Thus man of the 20th century strongly yearned for unity of life, for harmony. It was this search for unity which helped him rediscover the true essence of the dance as an expression of the spirit".43 With this background dance as religious expression failed to get its impetus and birth from any religious group. Contrary to the past, this time Sacred Dances received the impetus and rebirth as a way of escape from the existing theatre and classical ballet of the West. Isadora Duncan was the one who actively brought religion into her classical ballet dance and demonstrated that dance could be a 'Holy pursuit of the highest beauty' and a means to develop higher spirituality. She considered dance as the highest expression of religion".44

In the second and third decades of the 20th century Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn gave a fresh release of life to religious dance not only by bringing it on the concert stage but also into the churches. Already in 1917 Ted Shawn presented entire Church services in choreographic patterns. In 1947 a dance school, "Church of the Divine Dance" in Hollywood was founded for imparting training in Sacred Dance and for the promotion of it in the society. This new development also paved the way for the modern dance in which the dancers hold that dance is not only the expression of the religious life of man but total being of his. Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, Jose Limon, etc. are a few of the many who have developed the above trend under the banner of 'Modern Dance'

Mormonish: The Mormon Church which was founded by Joseph Smith in 1839 is formally called the 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'. Dance was so prominent in this group of Christians that a 'Time magazine reporter in 1959 called them the "dancingest denomination."45 They aim at the increasing of spiritual heritage of dance, art, music, literature, dramatics, etc. and experience and share the same with others. Brigham Young, the successor to Joseph Smith wrote, "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, music, dancing and with prayer of praise and thanksgiving." There are many active groups from this denomination like Mutual Improvement Association (MIA) who started the dance festival in 1928 which is continued to the present, the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association (YWMIA), the Brigham Young Academy of Dance, Provo Utah started in 1890 which became a University in 1913. 33.

Besides many performing groups like BYU International Folk Dancers started in 1956 by Mary Bee Jensen, "Ballroom Dance Team" in 1960, "The Theatre Ballet" in 1968, "Dancers Company" in 1976 under Dee Einterton and Pat Debenham have all originated from the "Brigham Young University". Sacred Dance of the Mormonism is related to the total man and not just on one aspect on area of his life, i.e. social psychological, religious etc. However, the stress is being laid on the religious life of man. At present this denomination of Christianity is still active in the United States of America.

Sacred dance in the contemporary Church

As already cited earlier, Sacred Dances began to be accepted in the Christian circles from the beginning of the 20th century. The Protestant Church authorities indirectly accepted the use of dance in their worship and prayer by the very fact that it was tolerated, at times encouraged and even participated in by them. As early as 1925 these Churches began experiencing the return of dance in their worship.46

The Catholic Church too with the Vatican II (1965) has thrown open the doors of Sacred Dance. Commenting along this line, the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication points out that the "artistic expression both for its own excellence and for what it does for man should be highly appreciated. Of itself, beauty ennobles the mind that contemplates it. The work of the artist can also penetrate and illumine the deepest recesses of human spirit. It can make spiritual reality immediately by expressing it in a way that the senses can comprehend. And as a result of this expression it is a way that the senses can comprehend. And as a result of this expression, man comes to know himself better. This is not only a cultural benefit, but a moral and religious one as well."47

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of America in 1978 had the following paragraph in one of the documents: "processions and interpretations through bodily movements (dance) can become meaningful parts of the liturgical celebrations if done by truly competent persons in the manner that benefits the total liturgical action."48

With the direct or indirect approval and encouragement of the Church authorities and clergy, a new impetus and active involvement by the people in the worship, the need to express freely the religious experience of the faithful has led to the increasing use of dance in the Western, Australian, African, Asian and other Churches of the present day world.


The historical survey shows the development, growth, decline, use and misuse of Sacred Dance down the centuries both in the East (India) and in the West. There are many important similarities and differences. The original aim, purpose and goal of Sacred Dance in the East and West is Spiritual. Dance was centered around the Sacred places (i.e. temples in India and Churches in the West). The sanction, approval and disapproval of these authorities affected the practice of Sacred Dance in the Socio-Religious context. Though Sacred Dance was mis-used in India Religious authorities wouldn't condemn or forbade it because of its structural context, whereas in the West this was done by the Church authorities which had the power and sanctioning authority. Whereas solo dance and prominence in the East, the West stressed on group dancing. This trend is in keeping with the theological understanding, that in Judaism and Christianity, God encountered his people in a congregation i.e. salvation is achieved in a congregation; worship is conducted in a congregation. Hence Sacred Dance tended to be exteriorised. Whereas in the East salvation is personal i.e. God encounter each devotee personally. As a result of this, Sacred dance in the East has become very personal and interiorised besides highly religious. Hence the East retained its dedication and religiosity inspite of the misuse and degradation and the West lost the same to a great extent. In India the different areas of human life, i.e. social, philosophical, spiritual etc. are closely knit, whereas in the West they are compartmentalised. This is another reason that the original vitality and spirit of Sacred Dance was lost. Sacred Dance in the West having the above characteristics tended to be more social and entertainment oriented. In the East though Dance was used at times for entertainment, due to its intrinsic qualities the dedication of the Dancer and the socio-religious context of Indian Society, it retained its sacredness. As pointed out earlier, in the 20th century there is a marked trend to look to the East in order to turn Sacred Dance into a more interiorised and religious experience. In other words, to have the oriental spirit and aura in and around it. Catherine Golouini Valerie Henry from the West have stressed this aspect of inferiority in their solo presentations. What is needed at present is not copying 'East or West, but to dance or sing what we have experienced. For experience what we believe, we believe what we live.


1. Sachs C. World History of the Dance New York. Wsd. Norton & Com. Inc. 1963.

14. Nancy Brooks Schmitz, The Changing Relationship of Dance & Religion. Ed. Dennis J. Fallon & Mary Jane Wolbers, Focus on Dance, (AAHPERD, Virginia, U.S.A. 1982)

15. Ida F. Chadwick, Dance, an agent of 'Ekstasis' Ed. Dennis J. Fallon and Mary Jane, op. cit., p.6

16. Stromata 7,7; Patrologia Latina, Ed. J. P. Migue, 16,508 B.Eng. Trans Luchan Deiss & Gloria Weyman, Dance as Prayer (World Library Publications Inc. Chicago 1979)

17. For details refer Doug Adams op. cit. pp. 32-36

18. Eusebius Pamphili, Historic Ecclesiastique, X.XI.7. Also see G. Bardy in Eusebe de Cesaree. Historic Ecclesiastique, Coll. Sources Chretiennes, 55 (Paris: Le Cerf.1958) p 120 Eng. Trans. Lucian D & Gloria Weyman op.cit.p.15

19. Oratio 11, 5; Patrologia Graeca, Ed. J. P. Migue 35, 837 C. Eng Trans. Lucian D & Gloria W.op.cit.p.15

20. Oratia 35, 1, Patrologia Graeca, op.cit.36.257 B. Eng. Trans. Lucian D & Gloria W.Op.Cit.p.15

21. De Virginitate, 25, Patrologia Graeca op.cit.28, 281A.

24. Lynn Matluck Brooks, The Catholic Church and Dance in the Middle Ages, Ed. Dennis J. Fallon & Mary Jane Wolbers, Focus on Dance X Religion & Dance (AAHPERD, Virginia, USA, 1982) p.9


25. Ibid p.8

26. Nancy Brooks Schmitz, Who dances not knows not the way of Life, the changing relationship of dance and Religion Op. cit. p.13.

27. Congregational Dancing in Christian Worship, op. cit. p.35

28. Lynn Matluck Brooks, The Catholic Church and Dance in the Middle Ages, op. cit., p.10.

29. Nancy Brooks Schmitz, Who Dances Not Knows Not the Way of Life op. cit. p.14

30. Ibid. p.13

31. Lynn Matluck Brooks, The Catholic Church and Dance in the Middle Ages op. cit. p.10

32. D. Attwater, Ed. A Catholic Dictionary (New York 1962)

33. For details refer Kirstein L. A. Short History of Classical Theatrical Dancing, N. York, Dance Horizons, 1969. Also Bevington D. Medieval Drama, Boston Houghton Mifflin Co.1975.

34. Nancy Brooks Schmitz Who Dances Not Knows Not the Way of Life the changing relationship of dance and religion op. cit. p.14

35. For details refer Backman E. Louis, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and Popular Medicine, London 1952, Allen & Unloin p.51.

36. Ibid

37. Lynn Matluck Brooks. The Catholic Church and Dance in the Middle Ages, op. cit. p.11

38. Nancy Brooks S. Who Dances Not Knows Not the Way of Life, op.cit.p.16

39. Ibid pp.16-17. Also refer Andrews Edward Dening. The Gift to be Simple. (J. J. Augustin N. York 1940)

40. Milgrane, Abraham, Jewish Worship, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1976, p.507

41. Clifford Trolin, Movement in Prayer in a Hassidic Mode, sharing Company, Texas, 1979

42. Laraine Catmul, Jewish Religious Dance, op. cit. p.42 Also Lapson D." The Hasidic Dance The Jewish Dance compiled by Fred Berk, N. York, Exposition Press 1965.

43. Nancy Brooks Schmitz, Who Dances Not Knows Not the Way of Life op.cit.p.18

44. For details refer Duncan Isador’s "Dancing in Relation to Religion and Love, Theatre Art Monthly 11, August 1927 pp. 584 - 93

45. Dancingest Denomination "Time", 22, June 1959. Also for details refer Georganna Ballif Arrington, Dance in Mormonism, the Dancingest Denomination Ed. by Dennis J. Fallon and Mary Jane Wolbers Focus on Dance, Religion and Dance (AAHPERD, Virginia, 1982) pp.31-35.

46. Taylor Margaret. A Time to Dance, Philadelphis, United Church Press, 1967

47. Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio 1971 p.55

48."Environment and Art in Catholic Worship", Washington D.C. American Conference of Catholic Bishops 1978.

[I was tired of correcting spelling and other errors in the above piece to make it readable. For example, I don’t believe that there’s a term “Mormonish”, see page 33, for the Mormon sect]

Fr. Francis Barboza appeals to every shred of religious dance evidence that he can find, from the Hasidic to the Early Church, from the Mormons to the Shakers, in order to bolster his case for dancing in the Church. But the Mormons and the Shakers are sects and not even proper Christian churches. Again, the priest’s assertion that “a movement called Shakers was started in the Church”, page 33, is intentionally misleading. The Shakers or Quakers had nothing to do with the Catholic Church.

And, despite his extensive research, Fr. Francis Barboza has not been able to provide evidence that at any time in its 2000-year history the Catholic Church unambiguously approved liturgical dancing. There were certainly NO pagan dances and NO “solo” dancing permitted in the Church, both of which are the specialties of this priest. In fact he himself provides us with more evidence of the Church coming down heavily on religious dancing than the opposite.

He deftly dodges the Vatican II Document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy note that the Church “sometimes even admits ... into the Liturgy” only “[w]hatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error”, see page 2. Without the slightest shred of doubt, Bharatanatyam falls into the category of superstition and error, or worse.

Fr. Francis Barboza also very convenient avoids reproducing any of the strong post-Vatican II condemnations by the present Pope himself and a few Cardinals of dancing both in the Liturgy as well as by an ordained priest as we have seen in this article, pages 1 to 13. Dancing, religious or otherwise, “cannot even take place in strictly liturgical areas, such as the sanctuary.”

But from the photographs above, we have already seen that these very same abuses are being perpetrated in parishes all over the world and that priests themselves are, more often than not, the dancers; or it is they who invited the performer[s] or permitted the abuses despite having a mandate to prevent/stop them. Not only is the sanctuary of the church violated by laity and priests alike dancing around the altar, one may witness people dancing on the altar itself, see the photograph on page 15. In the following pages, we will meet other Francis Barbozas, Indian priests who do Bharatanatyam recitals in the sanctuary. 35.

Watch Fr. Francis Barboza on YouTube do the Bharatanatyam in front of the high altar

14.6 Francis Barboza ensemble

At Musica Sacra International Marktoberdorf 1996, "dancing the life of Jesus with Hindu Bharata Natyam Dance"

The record is clear and straight: Fr. Francis Barboza SVD adapted Hindu customs and rituals”.

He performed in temples and gave recitals on Hindu themes, as comfortable with the avatars of Vishnu as with Shiva [the Chidambaram temple, the deity Nataraja, and the “OM”].

The Bombay Times of April 7, 1995 carries a photograph of Fr. Francis Barboza SVD in a dance pose and quotes him as being resolved within that Krishna and Christ are but two forms of one god.

Despite that, Fr. Francis Barboza was well supported by his SVD fraternity as is evident from an article on him published in their mission magazine Word India, issue of January 1999.

At their Gyan Ashram in Andheri, Mumbai, and at their centre, Atma Darshan, Fr. Francis Barboza used to teach Bharatanatyam till he left the priesthood, married a Hindu, a dancer herself, and settled in the US.

Fr. Francis Barboza literally danced his way out of the priesthood [and presumably the Catholic Faith], so much for his "“ministry” being “effective” in evangelization through Bharatanatyam" [pages 21, 22].


3. Fr. Charles Vas SVD, Sangeet Abhinay Academy and Gyan Ashram, Mumbai, Maharashtra.

A bhajan singer, he directs an SVD institute where priests teach and perform temple dances like Bharatanatyam and Odissi; Enneagrams and eastern meditations such as yoga and vipassana.
1. Rev. Dr. Charles Vaz wins Kalakar Puraskar [Mangalorean Catholics November 1, 2008]

MANGALORE, October 31, 2008: Rev. Dr. Charles Vaz who is an exponent of Mumbai has been selected to receive Kalakar Puraskar Award given by the Goa based Thomas Stephen Konkani Kendra, Karwal Gharanem and Mandd Sobhann of Mangalore jointly. The award carries a purse of 25,000, a citation plaque and a memento.

Fr. Vaz is the founder of the Sangeet Abhinaya Academy of Mumbai and is a music director... Fr. Vaz is a well known scholar of music and is also an academic. He joined the Society of Divine Word in 1959 and became a priest in 1976. He later continued his study of divinity in Pune. He also continued his education in Music and learnt Guitar and Piano. He also mastered the Hindustani Music under the tutelage of Pandit Vishnu Digambar and his disciple Ramakrishna Joshi.
Fr. Vaz attained his doctorate in philosophy from the Miraj based All India Gandharva Music University* for his theses "East Meets West". He also has a degree from the Trinity College London in Western Music.
He has produced more than 39 cassettes and CDs in Konkani, Hindi, Malayalam and Telugu. The Sangeet Abhinaya Academy he fathered has now been merged with the All India Gandharva Music University in Miraj. He now teaches music and dance to several hundred students.
He will be conferred with the Kalakar Puraskar at Kalangann in Shaktinagar in Mangalore on November 2.
2. Sangeet Abhinaya Academy, Mumbai

263 Casablanca 1/2, Opp Shree E-Punjab Gymkhanna, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri (E), Mumbai 400093. Tel.: (022) 28221709, 28380525. Mobile: 09820342448. Email: EXTRACT

Sangeet Abhinay Academy of Gyan Ashram, Andheri East will be completing 25 years of its illustrious existence on July 27, 2005 said Rev. Dr. Charles Vas SVD in a press conference held at Andheri East on 1st July 2005… Its aim is to reach out the universal message of peace, love and harmony through the rich medium of music and dance…

"Since past over 10 years the academy is also a college of Music and Dance accredited to Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal*, Mumbai, imparting quality training in various disciplines of music and dance to people of all ages and walks of life, enabling them to acquire recognised degrees," said Fr. Charles to the press people. "While celebrating Silver Jubilee, the Sangeet Abhinay Academy has also an ambitious plan of setting up the college in its own premises with the view of its future expansion and growth." announced Fr. Charles.

See also
3. Dr. Fr. Charles Vas S.V.D. A singing visionary and a dancing missionary EXTRACT
An evangelist through dance! A bhajan chanting Christian priest! That is what Dr. Fr. Charles Vas is who preaches "God experience through song and dance."

Dr. Fr. Charles Vas is the director of Sangeet Abhinay Academy - a religious institution of song and dance in Mumbai.
Harmless, so far; but in 2008, Fr. Charles Vas SVD is still professionally associated with Fr. Francis Barboza who has left the SVD congregation and the priesthood years earlier.

4. February 20, 2008 EXTRACT

"pls. note today 14.30 CET 30 min on SAT Bibel TV giving rare footage of legendary Guru Gyan Prakash Dr. Francis Barboza, Dr. Charles Vas of Sangeet Abhinay Academy, Mumbai

Sangeet Abhinay Academy is accredited to a Hindu institution that promotes Bharatanatyam.


Gandharva Mahavidyalaya is an institution established in 1939 to popularize Indian classical music and dance…

Indian Classical Dance: Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Odissi [the underlined are links to Internet pages]

6. Destruction of Catholicism in India EXTRACT

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of attending an "Anticipated Mass" at a Jesuit Parish in Bombay where Father Charles Vas S.V.D. performed a Pagan Liturgical Dance in front of the altar in a semi-naked state aka "Bharat Natyam Style" on the Second Saturday in August 2005. See more on page 22.


In Mumbai, while sitting in on one of Fr. Vas's vocal lessons, I noticed that one of the songs he was teaching had the word Shaam in it. After asking Fr. Vas whether this was the word for "night," he said that I had misheard it, and it was actually Shyam, another name for Lord Krishna, one of Hinduism's most popular gods. 37.

When I asked him why he was teaching a Hindu worship song, he replied that this was just for instruction, and that some ragas were set only to lyrics of a devotional nature. In other words, in teaching this particular raga, he had no choice. He had no reservations about learning or teaching Hindu devotional songs for the purpose of mastering Indian classical music. He considered it wrong, however, for a Christian to compose and sing songs in devotion to other gods (Vas, 1999). For Charles Vas, the purpose of learning Indian music is to praise Jesus Christ.

Most Protestant Christians and even some Catholics would not agree with Vas. Viju Abraham*, for example, expressed alarm when I told him about Vas' practice.

*director of A.C.T. (Association for Christian Thoughtfulness), Mumbai
8. Gyan Ashram / [poor English, punctuation mistakes are theirs]

Founding of the First Indian Catholic Ashram 1948

The inspiration of Mahatma Gandhiji (1869) at a Hindi Prachar meeting at Indore in 1935 in which Fr. G. Proksch was also a participant, triggered off the gigantic task which he accomplished for the Church in India during the following years.

Inspite of adverse surroundings and circumstances, Fr. G. Prakash realized the need to establish an abode to proclaim the message of the gospel to the Indian tradition. Fr. G. Proksch wrote, "Today I met a man who is able to hypnotise, because he is the image of a man of God. His life bore the seal of the ancient Ashram ideal. He seems to move between "Tapasya"= self discipline his successful proclamation. With these two ideals of self-discipline and sacred meditation he established the "Gyan Prakash Ashram". Life in this "Ashram" meant a chaste community living, a never-failing warmth of understanding to all persons, simple living with contemplating on the Sacred Scriptures culminating in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

The specific aim of this Ashram was the Proclamation of the Word in Indian art and form in a way that was true to Indian culture and understandable to Indian people. This was the Ad Gentes initiated as early as in the year 1935 by Fr. G. Proskch.

Guru Gyan Prakash as he was commonly known by his Indian name claimed that the gospel message in India would not make any impact on the Indian people as long as this message was imported from Europe. When he came to India in 1932 he had no Bhajans=Hymns or Kathas (=sacred narrations) to preach like the century old Gurus of India. This forced him to study Indian languages. Hindi and Sanskrit, the sacred literature of the Hindus, the Vedas Upanishads and Puranas. He learnt a number of different folk dances, folk songs and a series of ragas of Indian music along with different Indian instruments like the Veena (=Harp) and sitar, warod (=Flute). During a number of which he attended with Mahatma Gandhiji, he was able to discuss the thinking of Indian people and their culture. This was again another missionary approach by Fr. G. Proksch. The establishment of an Indian form for the people in India and make available Catholic literature and material presented in Indian dance and music for the missionaries working in India.

Fr. G. Proksch found little or no support in the early days; there were bishops and priests and even his own confreres who doubt his intentions and feared that he was turning Christianity into Hinduism; moreover this missionary method and idea did not conform to what other missionaries were busy with. Being convinced of this method, he finally got a temporary approval of his religious superiors and with the interest of an Indian priest Fr. Valerian Gracias, experimented in presenting Christian themes in Indian art and form.

The themes and context of the dances and dramas depicted the conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death, a series of great. Hindu dramas like Ramlila and Mahabharata, besides these, there were Catholic themes focused on the unending love=Anupam Prema) Christ the good shepherd(=Mesphal Bhagwan) the promise of the Messiah, his life on earth, his suffering and death on the cross, the triumph of the resurrection with the ascension to heaven as conquering death and darkness. One reads in history of his first public presentation to an audience of 30,000 people at the Marian Congress held in Bombay in December 1954, where he depicted the Marian Mystery in six scenes: paradise, the fall, the shout of lost humanity, the promise of Mary, the immaculate conception and the annunciation; thereafter in several other mission areas of India, where the Good Shepherd theme became very popular; several performances in Europe, and the presentation of a special ballet, performed by 300 dancers and 250 musicians and 1000 singers, prepared for the XXXVIII International Eucharistic Congress at Bombay, in the year 1964, which was attended by Pope Paul VI, presented to an audience of 60,000 people. It must be acknowledged that for the first time, Catholic hymns were sung in Hindi in the Churches of Bombay and elsewhere, many of whose words and melody are tracked back to Fr. G. Proksch. The most famous were the hymns Shri Jesu Bhagawan and Tera Nur Jagame Huwa Hai Fr. G. Proksch can rightly be called the greatest pioneer of our times.

The Gyan Ashram, Andheri, Bombay

George Proksch wanted to give mission work another dimension. His name is Gyan Prakash, Gyan meaning knowledge, knowledge of Christ and Prakash meaning light/revelation. Song and dance is his material, he tries to religiously educate the Indian people." This was a remark of an eminent guest at the Gyan Ashram after the performance of the Mesphal Bhagvan during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress. Fr. G. Proksch had already founded a Catholic Ashram and had given precedence for this kind of a missionary method in India. This ashram once thought of as a novelty in Catholic circles in India soon became a reality of great significance.

Life in this ashram equally called for tapasya penance a centre living, an option for simplicity in food clothing and demand a meaningful silence. 38.

The personal study and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures a swadhyaya, in Catholic missionary perspective this was the study of the Holy Bible. The sacrifice and offering to the Almighty upasna was the celebration of the Holy Eucharist Sewa Prem was expressed to all who entered the ashram with the motive to bring them closer to Jesus Christ. Besides this meaningful way of life another aim of the ashram was to train lay persons to proclaim the gospel message of salvation in Indian form for the people in India, and to make available Catholic literature and material presented in Indian dance and music for missionaries working in India. To facilitate this work Fr. G. Proksch received an affiliation from the Lucknow University toward academic degrees in Indian music. The ashram was also seen as a learning centre which attracted non Catholic to learn Indian dance and music and these skills were used to present biblical themes. One reads in the history of the ashram that examinations were annually conducted by a professor from the Lucknow University Music College, and for the year 1968 there were more than 35 students.

The Ashram Way of Life

Life in an Ashram is no new way of spiritual asceticism in India. It was traditionally the place where a hermit lived where his disciples gathered around him. One reads in history that Indian sages pursed their spiritual search in this way for centuries in the past, and in recent times the classical example of Swamy Vivekanand may be cited in the non-Catholic Indian context, who after his concept of God and the ideal of Ramakrishna’s work founded an order of monks. The monk who was previously known as Naren initiated 140 spiritual centres, where more than 600 members were obliged to religiously meditate, to study philosophy and serve humanity.

It must be admitted that the form of the ashram in India has undergone changes. As against the beginning when ascetics sanyasis renounced the world, went into the forest, lived in solitude and contemplation with the Almighty in prayer and penance, to today’s ashrams which vary from single men living in caves or one room huts to others like the Ramakrishna Mission and the Divine Life Society, where the disciples undergo a formal religious training. Some centres, like the Belur Mutt and Sivananda Ashram, have more than a hundred sanyasis living in a community. They run colleges, hospitals, and printing press and send their members even to Europe and America to propagate their ideology.

The quest for the Almighty has always been part of the Indian mind, even several centuries before St. Benedict wrote his rule describing the purpose of monastic life as being to seek God there were hundreds of ashrams throughout the length and breadth of India, where men and women lived in the greatest simplicity under obedience to their guru spiritual guide, and dedicated themselves totally to this yearning and longing for the Almighty. Their spiritual yearning drove them insatiably to plunge into the interior mystery and to seek the inaffable presence of the Almighty.

Life in an ashram demands tapasya penance, which is the basis for ascetic living, making a basic option for a simple way of life, in food and clothing, and maintaining a meaningful silence. It demands a personal study and understanding of the Holy Scriptures swadhyaya to absorb its contents and make it one’s own.

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