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Document Details :

Title: Dancing between Heaven and Earth
Subtitle: Understanding Sacred Dance from a Mystical-Theological Perspective
Author(s): VLOEBERGS, Sander
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 43    Issue: 4   Date: 2020   
Pages: 352-371
DOI: 10.2143/LS.43.4.3289101

Abstract :
This article seeks to address the gap in theological studies on the discordant relationship between dance and the Catholic Church. To understand this relationship, I study two historical cases, analyzing the conceptualization and valorization of sacred and liturgical dances from a mystical-theological perspective. The first case study starts with Gerardus van der Leeuw’s theological and appreciative writings on Isadora Duncan’s pioneering dance practice. I then consider Cardinal Ratzinger’s criticism of the sacred and liturgical modern dancers following in Duncan’s footsteps. I argue that the mystical tradition had a remarkable and dominant influence on the twentieth-century language of self-reflection, for modern dance as well as for the Catholic Church. The second case study analyzes the work of the mystic John of Ruusbroec and the writings of Thomas of Cantimpré, hagiographer of the dancing saint, Christina the Astonishing. Seeking conceptual clarity, I turn to the latest developments in the academic field of mystical theology. I identify key concepts of the mystical tradition that could have prevented dissonance between dancers and theologians. Dance, I conclude, deserves a legitimate place on the theological agenda, if we can guarantee genuine collaborations between dancers and (mystical) theologians.

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