Classical dance forms

I am from India. Here we have a vast number of classical dance forms. At the root of these forms, they are all devotional in nature. One example is Bharatnatyam. People in west may be acquainted with the art objects called the dancing Nataraj which is basically statuettes of the Hindu God Shiva in dance poses.
Indian Catholics sometimes become students of such dance forms and even participate in performances. Family members attend such performances. On the face of it, this definitely looks like idol worship and should be anathema to the church.
On the other hand, we often have similar dance forms used for example at church functions or sometimes the entrance procession before a high Mass. There are priest who are expert proponents of bharatnatyam dances and nuns teach their wards similar dance forms. The Catholic religious proponents justify this by saying that they focus their devotion to Jesus and their dance is a worship of Jesus. That sounds fair too.
What should the exact Catholic position be?
We face a similar dilemma when it comes to yoga.

I know with yoga it comes down to intention. There is nothing wrong with stretching and relaxing and praying. But if you do it intending to follow the spiritual teachings of yoga then it’s in conflict with Catholicism.

I imagine the same is true for the dance.

Thank you. Yes, that’s what I felt too. It is the intention of the heart of the concerned individual. Only God has the right and ability to judge the heart.
But I’m looking for other perspectives as well. For instance, in yoga there are positions that represent sun worship. Could I use the position while focusing on God and effectively turn it into worship of God?

Someone else might be able to better answer the question you raised here. I just wanted to add another thought. I’ve been doing yoga for a couple of years but I learned the, I suppose what yoga practitioners would call, “watered down Western version”. Basically, none of the spiritual aspects of the positions were taught in the class that I took, only the poses and the breathing techniques were taught. So I guess I never had to worry about it being a form of centering praying or worshiping gods. Maybe that’s something you could consider doing? Take all the spiritual aspects out of it and only use the exercise and breathing techniques. As for focusing, the instructor of the class I took when I first picked up yoga always used to say, clear your mind and don’t think of anything - just focus on what you’re doing so you don’t topple over and knock down the people around of you.

We have taken pagan days of celebration and turned them into Christian Holidays. Sooo, I guess the intention could justify the dance. My only question would be; why would we want to? :shrug:

I agree that what matters is our intention. Yet, there continues to be a vocal bunch - even clergy - who insist that doing things with pagan origins like yoga will conjure up a host of demons. It is distressing, and requires discernment.

A very valid point when it isn’t part of your native culture. I ask the same question why people in the West want yoga and Indian spiritual gurus.
However, the answer to your question would be that we are part of Indian culture. That has been our culture long before our ancestors embraced Christianity. So these dances are seen more as cultural than religious. While me or my wife would not want to either participate or even watch, (we find them thoroughly unenjoyable to be honest) many Indians, regardless of religion might like it. The question has come to me from one such Indian Catholic.

I see your point. I would think that each individual would need to search their own soul as to why they cannot let go of these customs. Why people in the West want yoga and Indian spiritual gurus; I can only assume that they fail to seek a deeper spiritual growth through our Lord Jesus Christ. God alone is enough.

Let me elaborate a bit of how this affects us Catholics here in India.
In India, everyone has a religion. In many personal information forms like school and college admissions, etc. we are required to declare our religion. Most often, our names identify our religion. So from the Indian perspective, every John Smith is Christian.
People here read hyped media reports about famous personalities like Steve Jobs, George Harrison or John Lennon being disciples of Indian spiritual gurus and understand that enlightened people in the West are turning away from Christianity(since they believe these people were Christian to begin with) to Hinduism. Makes it that much harder to give them the Good news.
Sorry I’m drifting off topic.
Coming back, Yoga and many classical dance forms are steeped in spirituality and we should not forget that. I believe your earlier reply is very appropriate about how we Christians have turned pagan feasts and customs around. Thanks.

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