The choreography and performance of religion: power and ritual within American Pentecostal worship practice

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sarah Jeanette Dove (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jill Green

Abstract: Over eight weeks and within four different churches, I observed American Pentecostal worship in Columbus, Ohio and Greensboro, North Carolina through the lens of dance. Specifically, dance is used as a means to discuss cultural practices that are not regularly associated with or interpreted as dance. Using the docile bodies theory by Michel Foucault, this research expands upon the way that bodies are conditioned to practice correct behavior as a part of Pentecostal worship. This study draws upon the postulations of Judith Butler in discussing gender performativity. Additionally, a framework suggested by Susan Leigh Foster to use dance, specifically choreographic practice, as a means to examine and dissect cultural phenomena is utilized. These theories allow for a rich and diverse explanation for the action of collected and individual bodies within cultural practice. Using these combined theories to interpret Pentecostal worship, this study isolates the roles of power and ritual as directly related to ideas of choreography and performance in dance. This research discusses constructions of power through spatial positioning and social conditioning as related to the choreographic process. It then examines ritual action as performed behavior in direct relation to the power that has been enacted. From the positioning of bodies in space, to the actions of those bodies, the focus of this study is the demystification of spontaneous acts within Pentecostal worship in the U.S.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Choreography, Dance, Pentecostalism, Performance, Power, Ritual
Dance $x Religious aspects $x Pentecostalism

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