Sunday, January 6, 2013

Choosing the Best Music for Dance Ministry

Lately, the Holy Spirit has been dealing with me about music, the real meaning behind music, and how to choose the best music for liturgical dances. This all began with a question from my aunt. She asked me, "Why is Gospel music so depressing?" I couldn't give her a good answer, other than some gospel music will minister to people and other gospel music will minister to the Heavenly Father. As I began to listen to my favorite CD's the Holy Spirit would say "listen." It was as if I could hear the lyrics of the music so clear. The words began to speak to me and I understood why certain gospel songs would give certain feels, stir up emotions, or bring you into the presence of the Most High.

Gospel Music vs. Praise and Worship


From the negro spirituals, hymns, the blues sound of Thomas Dorsey gospel to the contemporary gospel, and praise and worship genre of gospel music; there are many choices of music to listen and dance to. We know that gospel music is forever evolving to stay within the popular culture of today, making its music relative to all people, not just the body of believers. It has long crossed over in to the secular music industry; however, what remains is the message. There is a message within the gospel music that can sometimes be obscured with a mixture of lyrics, sounds, and rhythm that some might call secular.

It is important to know that there is a between the sound and message of gospel music, and praise and worship music. It will help you select the right music to minister in dance and help determine your choreography as well.

What is gospel music?


Gospel music is a genre of Christian music that has its traditions in hymns. It is categorized by powerful vocals and lyrics representing the testimony of Jesus. Traditional gospel music infuses sounds of a Hammond organ, drums, and bass guitar with choirs and lead singers. Sometimes it only included solo artists. In today's market there is something for everyone. Now you can find contemporary sounds, urban, hip hop, gospel blues, and southern gospel.

What is Praise and Worship Music 


Praise and worship music is a genre of Christian music that is gaining in popularity as most congregations are becoming aware of the expression of praise and worship. It is crossing over into the gospel circuit as gospel artists are beginning to have praise and worship style songs on their CD's.  For example, Mary Mary has a song called I Worship You that is in keeping with their urban contemporary style of gospel. Also, Canton Jones, a gospel hip hop artist, shows that he knows the power of praise and worship in his song Worshiper.

How to Choose the Best Music for Dance Ministry


copyright2013 katina davenport liturgical dancer
Choosing the right music for dance ministry is important. Why? It will help you convey the right message through your movements. Your praise dance movements does have meaning, and so does the lyrics within the song you choose for ministry. Let's take a look at some popular dance ministry songs from Billboard and YouTube of 2012; and some songs that you may have never heard of before that can be used for dance ministry. Let's take a look at some of their lyrics (without infringing on their copyrights), find the true meaning of the song, and find a corresponding dance.

Take Me To The King #11 on the Billboard charts for gospel songs, performed by Tamela Mann has been one of the most popular dance ministry songs of 2012. With 413 search results from YouTube (plus and minus a few tribute videos to the song), ministries all over this nation grabbed this song and ministered with all of their beings.  It was ministered by soloists and in dance ministry teams. In my own area, I have viewed many sermonic solos and dance ministries as they sang or danced to this song. This song stirred up something in the emotions of the believers. For those that have been hurt in church and in life, it ministered to them. Noticed that I said to them. This is a song that is supposed to minister to the emotions so that the body of Christ can find emotional healing and forgive, so they can stand before the Heavenly Father with a clean heart.

If this song was used to dance a dance of worship then the message of the song and the dance was probably filled with mixed emotions for the congregations. This song should be used to minister to the congregation with your emotions and movements reaching towards the people and very interpretative.

Awesome #2 on the Billboard charts for gospel songs, by Charles Jenkins has been the second most popular song all year. By far it was the most played song of that year, other than Let the Church Say Amen, which was #1. Although Awesome was a very popular song, it did not reach the same popularity in praise dance ministries as dances were uploaded to YouTube 84 times (plus and minus tributes and covers).

Awesome is a song of declaration. It makes a statement of declaration about the Heavenly Father. David said to declare HIS glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among HIS people (Psalms 96:3). This song is doing just that.

I Wont Go Back #6 on the Billboard charts, by William McDowell is a testimony song. With 111 search results from YouTube (plus and minus tributes and other videos that showed up in the results page) it appears to be another song that is has been very popular among praise dancers. This is a song that details a testimony. It will minister to the congregation helping them to remember their own testimonies. It is not a worship dance. All the movements in this song will demonstrate the praise dancer's testimony.

From these examples of the most popular songs in the country in 2012 you can see the true meaning of the message and how to convey it through your dance. Now let's look at some songs that may be a few years old and others that have come out in 2012 that are not on the top 20 of the American Billboard charts for gospel, but are just as powerful and can help you choose the appropriate song for dance ministry.

Songs of Intercession and Prayer


These particular songs can be used for prayer dances. I have had the opportunity to prepare a prayer dance. A prayer dance requires song lyrics that convey intercession. For the dance that I prepared I ministered to Jason Upton's song Teach Me How to Pray. All the movements centered around prayer, and the many prayer postures one can take.

Also, you will find songs of intercession from Shekinah Glory Ministries from their song The River of God as the lyrics speak of asking God to open the skies and release HIS rivers.

Israel Houghton has a song from his 2012 CD titled Jesus At The Center Of It All in the song More And More. A dancer might covey prayer through kneeling, praying hands, bowing, and being prostrate on the floor. Although these are worship movements, these movements can work well with prayer dances as well.




Songs of Praise and Celebration 


Finding songs that convey the message of praise and celebration may be obvious at times; however there are times when you will have to listen all of the lyrics to really get the message. For example, Holy One by Dorinda Clark Cole is a song that is an expression of praise. One may not be able to tell if the song is a song of praise right away, even though the beat is uptempo. Listening for who the song points to and how the song points to them is important in knowing the meaning of the song. It references lifting up the name of the Holy One in exaltation therefore it is a song of praise.

Other songs such as Hallelujah by Spensha Baker which is a remake of the Clark Sisters song is a simple praise song that is also celebratory. Oh Give Thanks by Judith Christine Mcallister is a recognizable song of praise (thanksgiving falls under the same category). All movements should express praise with hands lifted, jumps, turns, and even with flags banners and streamers.

Songs of Worship


Worship songs are not just the slow song after the fast song. Worship songs minister back to God, telling HIM how great HE is. The song will not tell a testimony or have words that reflect back to HIS creation, which is us. These songs are all about HIM.

Israel Houghton's song You Are Good is a worship song, and it is also a praise song. Movements can reflect the expression of praise and worship through bowing, lifting of hands, leaps, and reverence. The reason this song is considered a worship song is because the song tells God how great HE is. The only difference is that everything is done faster. Another example of a faster worship song is Holy by Judith Mcallister. The tempo speeds up at the end of the song.

Songs of Warfare


There are praise and worship songs, and then there are warfare songs. Usually you will know these songs from the key change from major to minor. One great example of this song is Reclaim Your Mountain by Shekinah Glory Ministries. It is in a minor key and the rhythm of the drums can set you into the mindset of marching into battle. The lyrics speak of reclaiming your territory in battle.

Movements in songs do not always have to mimic fighting, but the movements should be strong and powerful.

Prophetic Songs


Prophetic dancing should go with prophetic music. You can't have one without the other. Prophetic songs are those that are birthed out of worship and the Heavenly Speaks back to the worshipers in song. This can happen in a church service, at home, or in the recording studio. In the song Come up Here from Jason Upton he begins to prophetically sing about what he sees in a vision and what he hears the Father say. Prophetic dance movements should be very interpretative and spontaneous. Whether you are interpreting the music or the lyrics the voice of God should be seen as you dance.

Just from these brief examples you can see that all gospel and praise and worship music is not created equal. All dancing should reflect the message of the song.

This is not the entire list but this should give you a good idea on how to choreograph your dances from the message of the song.

References
Billboard Top Songs of 2012


©2012 Katina Davenport all rights reserved 




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