I just love to go out dancing.
And yet there are so many things that interfere with a great dance experience.
For one thing, I’m a musician. So that makes me particularly sensitive to the quality of the music. Is the groove right? Are the musicians having a good time together? Is the sound mixed correctly?
And then there’s the dance floor. As a tall woman with a large “wingspan” and a lot of enthusiasm, I tend to take up space. I was dancing at a social event at a large conference last fall. Rarely have I heard a better band. Problem was, the floor was just jammed with happy dancers. My body’s impulse to express that fine music was confined to shuffling my feet within a 3-foot-by-3-foot square. Sigh.
Finally, much of the dancing that happens in this culture happens in bars. Those environments often feel toxic to me. I don’t like being around drunk people, especially when they are crashing into people on the dance floor and spilling beer on our shoes.
One night in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had a dancing experience that met my very high expectations and then some. There was a fine and funky band with lots of shiny horns, a great groove, and a divinely inspired singer. The floor was inhabited by a small group of joyful dancers.
On one of the breaks, I told the trombone player that his band had turned that club into a veritable “Temple of Sweat.” The phrase stuck with me and I began to conjure a story – and then a song — about a mythical place by that name. What would happen there? Who would be our host?
Soon I began to “see” it – the Temple of Sweat – tucked away down a forgotten alley and hosted by an elegant, elderly man in a white suit named Deacon Gray.
I imagined a wild place where people danced with sacred abandon.
Brothers and sisters, here’s a call to worship
In a temple of a different kind
Here’s a place where you can free your spirit
And shake your body ‘til you lose your mind
Here’s some water; here’s a thirsty towel
Here’s a place to ease your troubled soul
Here’s an extra shirt – you might get wet
When you worship in the Temple of Sweat….
Yesterday I found another Temple of Sweat at Dance Church.
Yep, Dance Church.
It’s held at a local folk dance center every Sunday. There’s a DJ curating tunes and dozens of people from all parts of the human family. Kids tear around giggling. Trained dancers trace elegant arcs with their limbs. Hula hoopers fill one corner. Grey-haired elders mingle with dread-locked young adults. Some people skip around the margins on the floor while others move subtly in place, eyes closed.
In the midst of that joyful crowd of dancing humans, I realized that I’d found one more Temple of Sweat. A wholesome, sacred, and playful place where ….
…women shimmied and the men were shaking
Moving everything from head to toe
Sin and shame were nowhere to be met
They never show up at the Temple of Sweat.
….and feel free to DANCE!