What is the official catholic ruling on liturgical dance?


I personally am a Charasmatic Catholic. I have been respectful to others and not been obnoxious about it because I go to a traditional church. I have seen some churches with liturgical dance, and I am drawn to it, but I thought that it was considered inappropriate for catholic mass. Can someone clarify this?


There are specific times during the liturgy when dance is permitted in a way which is culturally acceptable and is directly approved by the Ordinary of the diocese: the Archbishop, Bishop, or Apostolic Administrator. These times fall during the processional, offertory, the time between the prayer after communion and the final blessing, and the recessional.

These are the normal time to allow for dance during the Mass (usually these are cultural or tribal dances dances). That being said, I am unaware of the exact ruling of liturgical dance during prayers said during the mass such as the Our Father, Sanctus, Great Amen, etc. I believe these are on a case to case basis and requiring the direct approval of the Bishop.

The rule of thumb when it pertains to liturgy is: “When in doubt, call the diocesean Office of Liturgy.” They can always tell you the litugical rules for the diocese and offer specific answers regarding individual dispensations, like liturgical dance, from these rules.


The Instruction “Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy” of 29 March 1994 at http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdwinclt.htm includes:

“42. Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by hand-clapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.”


In 1975, the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship issue “Dance in the Liturgy” and wrote about liturgical dance as applies to western culture:

“…the same criterion and judgement cannot be applied in western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses…For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatsoever: That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desecralizing elements, and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations”


Thank you for that quote from the CDW. It matches my own ideas on the subject exactly. I have only once been present at a Mass that included dancing – just one dancer, female, but for me that was already one dancer too many.


Hispanic culture in our parish incorporates traditional dance as part of processions. It is not unbridled or profane at all.
The point is, this kind of dance is in line with the traditional piety of that culture, is not innovative or boundary stretching. That is the dividing line. Culturally appropriate, unifying the culture of the people with the liturgy in an authentic way.


I think they are going to allow the Twist, the Hand Jive, and The Swim, but the Mashed Potatoes, the Hully Gully, and the Hustle are definitely Verboten.:rofl::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::sunglasses: AND NO DISCO!!!

I just couldn’t resist; I’m so bad…


Well I did not ask to start an argument over my attraction to liturgical dance as the beautiful thing it can potentially be if done properly. I dont find it a joking matter at all, and I think a reform allowing certain dance ministry could help revive the stagnant hearts of those in the pews. But I am not going to push for something that is not sanctioned by the church. I have some respect for their views even if I disagree with them.


Sorry Nichole. It is just that with all the cross fire about the priest scandal, I felt like a laugh. I’m old enough to remember the days immediately after Vatican II and the ridiculous shenanigans going on at masses. It was funny and tragic at the same time. I personally see no room for dance at mass, and would avoid any mass that incorporated it. Dance in other area of Catholic life, if that’s your thing, like Nike says, Just do it.


What makes a person in the pew someone who has a “stagnant heart”? How can someone be said to have a “stagnant heart”?

It does upset me a little when those who do not express outward, emotional enthusiasm at Mass are viewed as being somewhat lacking and that they ought to express themselves with more enthusiasm at Mass.

I don’t have an issue with people liking an emotionally enthusiastic style of worship, but it is not for everyone. There is nothing wrong with quiet worship, God hears our prayers regardless of how loudly or energetically (or not) we express them.


Anyone prohibiting disco can’t be all bad . . .




I agree, I am a reserved person by nature. And while the liturgy at the abbey where I normally attend Mass is very beautiful and in a cappella Gregorian chant with incense, pipe organ prelude and recessional and at the offertory after the offertory antiphon, it is also sober and reserved. As a contemplative it takes me much closer to God than exuberance. Nothing against those who prefer a more exuberant form of worship, but I do not myself seek it out and it would put me off.


That sounds like a beautiful liturgy, you are fortunate to be able to regularly attend Mass there.


I have never seen liturgical dance (whatever it is…) happen nor knew of its existence before reading about it here in CAF. So I honestly wouldn’t know.


I’ve seen it in Rome at the World Oblate Congresses, on the day Africans were responsible for the liturgy (music, etc.). It was as allowed, during the entrance and offertory processions, accompanied with song and colourful costumes. It was clearly cultural and ingrained in them, and an expression of deep but joyful faith, as the liturgy allows. It was very exuberant but also restrained in the sense that it never went outside the boundaries allowed by the norms. But seeing the same behaviour among my cultural group would seem very odd to me unless at a parish with a very large expat African population.

It was an eye-opener for me. The first Congress in 2005 was the first time I experienced so many other cultures in the liturgy (or for that matter all in one place at the same time); it made me acutely aware and proud of the universality of the Church, while at the same time not imposing an overbearing uniformity. While my preference is rooted in my own culture, francophone, Latin and Western European, it was enormously rewarding to be exposed to African and Asian approaches.

We were also treated to Orthodox Vespers and Anglican Evensong, both also very beautiful in their own right.


I never said everyone was like that, but a lot of people go just because they have to, not because they enjoy being there.

I am a little offended by everyone making fun of my attraction to liturgical dance frankly, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it, there is no need for you to take what I said personally either. It wasn’t a personal attack.


I am not quite as old as you are, Im only 39, I have not seen all the ridiculous shenanigans, but that is not at all what I am talking about here. I am talking about reverance and beauty in the expression of dance in the liturgy, not shenanigans.


The James Brown episode in The Blues Brothers shows dancing in church which is in every way unexceptionable. But we must bear in mind that, in this case, our experience is enhanced by Hollywood casting, choreography, camerawork, and editing. In real life, I still prefer to attend a dance-free Mass.


As I said, I am not going to be drawn into an argument over this issue. I believe what I believe and your pictures of some movie aren’t going to change my mind.


I’ve read through the entire thread, and I don’t see anyone making fun of your attraction to liturgical dance.

You received some excellent information from Church documents regarding when and how it might be allowed, and why it is not generally allowed. The fact that some people don’t share your opinion of its beauty and usefulness in the liturgy does not mean people are making fun of you.

You’re new around CAF. You may as well know now that even the most serious of discussions here have moments of levity. It’s best not to take them personally.

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