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Dance: A Language of Worship and Love in Bali

by Heather Carr |

Asia, Bali, Contextualization in Missions, Indonesia, Oceania

bali dancers

Trace the roots of dance in worship and you will find some of the most beloved characters of the bible. David danced in the streets at the recovery of the ark of the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14-16). Miriam, after narrowly escaping Pharaoh’s wrath, rejoiced at the freedom of her people with song and dance (Exodus 15:20). Today God’s people still rejoice through dance at his mighty power and love.

The people of Bali have found new ways to interpret the traditional dance that permeates their culture. Balinese dance is not just an art of graceful movement, but also a means of communicating a rich message. Gestures of the body convey ideas and emotions. The Christian community of Bali has transformed these age-old methods into an expression of devotion to God. Each part of the body is symbolic of a different thought or idea. The thumb, which traditionally stood for wisdom, is now a symbol of God’s wisdom and providence. The ring finger, once understood as beauty, is now interpreted as God’s grace. The pinkie, historically symbolic of trust, now represents God’s faithfulness and eternal life.

Body parts are not the only means of interpreting Balinese dance. The movements themselves also hold meaning. Symmetrical movements once stood for the balance between good and evil. Now when the Christian Balinese move in graceful symmetry, it is understood as God’s justice and mercy, judgment and grace. Psalm 150 bids us to praise him with tambourine and dancing.

Click the video below to see one of the many traditional Balinese dances.

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