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Shall We Dance?
Bible study on dancing.

As with many things, dancing can be either good or bad depending on the details.

Dancing Defined
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines dancing as "to move or seem to move up and down or about in a quick or lively manner."

There are many forms of dancing.

For example, a child joyfully jumping around, moving in a lively and spirited manner when receiving a present, is dancing. This is similar to David's dancing when bringing the ark into Jerusalem (1 Ch. 15:29).

Usually, though, when we talk about dancing, we mean a social event where a couple rhythmically moves to music, such as occurs at a school dance or night club.

Not All Dancing Is Sinful
There are several examples of dancing in the Old Testament that weren't sinful.

Some people danced alone, some danced with the same gender in celebration, some danced for joy, and some danced to praise God.

Solomon says, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven --- a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ec. 3:1-4).

In the New Testament, we also read about dancing that's wasn't sinful:

  • Dancing figuratively represents one's joyful response to the gospel, which the Jews lacked (Matt. 11:17; Lk. 7:32).
  • There was dancing in celebration of the prodigal son's return (Lk. 15:25), figuratively illustrating the joy when a person repents.

The dancing in these passages, as they relate to people of that culture, was not sinful. And certainly, it was not the sexually provocative dancing we think of today, occurring at proms and in ballrooms.

Some Dancing Is Sinful
There are two more references to dancing in the New Testament, other than the three already mentioned.

Matthew 14:6 and Mark 6:22 tell of Herodias' daughter who sinfully danced at Herod's birthday party. The Greek text regarding Herodias' daughter's behavior denotes "a shameful exhibition of lewd dancing" (Robertson).

Bible Principles
As with many questions like this, there are four principles we should apply to determine whether a particular dance is sinful.

We are to glorify God in our bodies, and exalt Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Phil. 1:20).

  • If a dance inappropriately displaying our bodies, or includes movements unbecoming a Christian, it brings shame upon God. We can't involve ourselves with such dances.

We are to do things that are honorable and respectable in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17; Phil. 4:8), obeying God in everything we do (Acts 4:19; 5:29).

  • We must determine whether dancing in a particular fashion is honorable in our day and age.
  • For example: If our community deems a particular dance inappropriate, we shouldn't involve ourselves in the dance.

We shouldn't engage in lustful and licentious (sensual) behaviors (Rom. 6:12; 1 Jn. 2:16; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Jude 1:4).

  • "Lust" is a strong desire to sin. "Licentious" is unbridled lust --- excess, absence of restraint, indecency, and wantonness.
  • Dancing in a lustful or licentious fashion, as was the case with Herodias' daughter, is sinful.

We shouldn't engage in questionable behaviors (Rom. 14:23; 1 Th. 5:21-22).

  • We must be absolutely certain a particular dance is lawful before engaging in the behavior.
  • If there is any question about participating in the dance, we should avoid it.

"Hokie Pokie" Style Dances
As a young Christian, I remember hearing that dancing is sinful. I didn't remember hearing that certain types of dancing aren't sinful, making me wonder if my parents had led me astray, allowing me to sin in first grade when I performed the Hokie Pokie with my classmates.

Later I learned that certain forms of dancing, such as the Hokie Pokie, aren't sinful.

Such dances are mentioned by Jesus in Luke 7:32, figuratively representing a person's joyful response to the gospel, which the Jews lacked.

These dances are honorable, absent of lustful and licentious behavior, as innocent children play.

Celebratory Dances
The term"celebratory dance" refers to a series of movements performed to celebrate. It's like the movements of an athlete to celebrate a touch down or a home run.

I remember being at a birthday party of one of the children at church, where a miniature football field was set up in the back yard. We watched the boy score touch down after touch down, and do a celebratory dance after each one.

Celebrating in this fashion is not sinful, reminiscent of lawful dancing in the Old Testament (1 Ch. 15:29).

But we must be careful. As with many things, celebrations can become sinful if we incorporate licentious moves or vulgar gestures.

For example, many Christians congratulate one another with a high five when playing sports. But this honorable activity becomes sinful, if we add a vulgar gesture.

As Christians, we must ensure that everything we do is pure and wholesome, including our celebrations when engaging in secular activities such as sports.

Husband and Wife
I'm sure we realize there's nothing sinful about a husband and wife dancing in private. As a married couple, they are permitted to physically enjoy one another's company (1 Cor. 7:3-4).

The question that some Christians ask, is, "Can a husband and wife dance in public?"

I believe, for several reasons, the answer is "no."

First, married couples dancing in public can easily result in lustful desires within people who are watching (Rom. 6:12; 1 Jn. 2:16; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Jude 1:4).

Second, the example set forth by married Christians dancing in public would encourage other Christians to dance, possibly encouraging young Christians to engage in sinful dances at school (1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7).

I can imagine teenagers watching married people from church dance at a social function, maybe even a potluck where everyone is present. This would be very discouraging to them, especially to those who might be deciding whether to go to the prom.

Third, married Christian couples, dancing in public is not honorable in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17; Phil. 4:8). Not long ago, a large number of people in the religious world believed it was wrong for married couples to dance in public. And today, many Christians hold to the same belief.

Fourth, Christians are to hold fast to what is good, abhorring evil and abstaining from every form of evil, while never doing anything that's questionable (Rom. 12:9; 1 Th. 5:21-22; Rom. 14:23). As such, I believe it would be wrong for me to dance with my wife in public.

Father-Daughter Dances
Certain forms of dancing between a child and parent aren't sinful. For example, playful dancing, such as a father swinging a three-year-old child to music, is not sinful. But other types of dancing with a parent, or anyone else, are sinful.

The typical father-daughter dance is with girls up to age twelve.

Lately, though, Father-Daughter Purity Balls have become popular. At these balls, young ladies between nine and eighteen years old, are escorted by their fathers, grandfathers, brothers, or uncles. Mothers are also invited to attend the ball, and sometimes whole families attend.

During the purity ball, young ladies pledge to remain pure, and the fathers pledge to protect their daughters in the area of purity, while also remaining pure in their own lives as men.

Questions that some Christians ask, are, "Can a father and daughter go to a dance?" and "Can a father dance with his daughter at her wedding reception?"

I believe the answer to both questions is "no."

For the reasons previously outlined, regarding husbands and wives dancing in public, I don't believe fathers should dance with their daughters in public.

  • It can encourage lustful desires of people who are watching, even though the father and daughter remain absolutely pure in their thoughts and motives.
  • The example set forth would encourage other Christians to dance.
  • It's not honorable in the sight of all men --- brethren.
  • Christians are to hold fast to what is good, abhorring evil and thus abstaining from every form of evil.

Additionally, I believe the lesson a father teaches his daughter, when taking her to a father-daughter dance, is not the correct lesson.

I remember when Pam and Andrea were in Brownies, and the organization had a father-daughter dance. Of course, the girls being children, and not knowing the Scriptures because of their youth, wanted to go.

After reviewing the Bible principles associated with the issue, knowing I needed to tell the girls the reason for my decision, the thing that stuck out most was the precedence I was setting, and the lesson I was teaching.

It wouldn't be long till I had to deal with homecoming and prom. Now was the time to begin teaching them about dancing.

In a nutshell, this is what I told the girls: It was okay to goof off and have fun with dad, doing silly dances around the house, and one day they could dance in private with their husbands. But we shouldn't go to father-daughter dances. Before long, they'd have boys asking them to dances at school, and they'd have to say "no," so they shouldn't start going to dances, not even with dad.

Wedding Receptions
Along the same lines as father-daughter dances, some people justify dancing at wedding receptions because a bride and groom's first dance is "pure."

As already explained, there are a number of reasons why it would be inappropriate for a husband and wife, or father and daughter, to dance in public.

Perhaps more than anything, such dancing would encourage sin.

If a bride and groom dance at their wedding reception, everyone else would be encouraged to dance, perhaps in the same way, slow dancing while holding each other close.

Can you imagine a couple from church getting married and dancing at the reception? Can you imagine the father of the bride dancing with his daughter? Then can you imagine the elders slow dancing with the bride, followed with slow dancing with all the women at church? Then can you imagine all the teenagers slow dancing with each other, just like the bride, groom, and elders? Then can you imagine the elders slow dancing with the teenage girls, and the elders' wives slow dancing with the teenage boys?

Thinking about this, I can hear the kids exclaim, "GROSS!"

Something may be pure, but when displayed in public, encouraging other people to sin, it's suddenly defiled. This is the case with several aspects of a married couple's relationship.

Ballroom Dancing
Not long ago, many religions taught that ballroom dancing was sinful. But today, things have changed. Not only do many churches condone ballroom dancing, they also offer ballroom dancing in their buildings.

The waltz is one of the mildest dances, which epitomized ballroom dancing years ago. But that's changed. Today, erotic ballroom dances have grown in popularity, like the tango, samba, and salsa.

Sultry dances like these define ballroom dancing today. A person can investigate a ballroom competition on TV, and immediately understands that present-day ballroom dancing includes overtly sexual, vulgar expressions.

Eroticism of Ballroom Dancing
Ballroom dances such as the tango and salsa are erotic. In other words, they arouse sexual desire. Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus, a Clinical Psychologist, wrote an article for in which he uses ballroom dancing to teach lessons on intimacy and sexuality. In the article, he has a section titled "The Dance Of Sex" and says "Love-making is similar to ballroom dancing" (

On, one lady describes her fascination with Salsa by saying, "I've made the remark to my non-salsa friends that it is like having 'safe' sex, I mean really fantastic sex" (

In Broowaha, an online citizen newspaper, Joan W wrote an article titled "The Dirty Little Secret of Ballroom Dance." In it she says,"It's dirty little secret is that men do ballroom dance for sex and money and women do it to get a husband. . . . With more than a dozen women for every male, the odds favor the men. Men quickly figure it out and soon sleep with every woman there. . . ." (

Of course some people disagreed with the article, but some people responded very honestly, revealing truths we should know about ballroom dancing.

One respondent said, "I'd heard that about ballroom. It even looks sleazy on TV."

Another person said, "I agree with Joan. Over the years it sure seems the male teachers and male dancers had an affair with every woman at the dances. . . ."

Another person responded, expressing the reaction most men would receive from their wives if they wanted to start ballroom dancing. "When Dancing With The Stars first came out I asked my wife if ballroom was something she was interested in us doing. She gave me that long cool direct look she had so perfected many years ago and flatly and dryly said, 'I catch you doing that ballroom dancing and you'll be lucky if all I break is your leg. . . .'"

Perverts At Ballroom Dances
You expect to see perverts watching erotic dances, and that's exactly the case with ballroom dancing.

Jean Kim, with the Harvard Medical Area Ballroom Dance Club, wrote an article on etiquette titled "Simple Rules of Ballroom Dance Etiquette."

Writing about do nots for men, Jean has a section titled "The Pervert" and says: "Wandering hands, indiscreet stares, stalking, unwanted advances, men who circle the dance floor checking out women and the list of lecherous behavior goes on and on and on. You know who you are. You are fooling yourself if you think that we don't (Simple Rules of Ballroom Dance Etiquette, Jean Kim, Harvard Medical Area Ballroom Dance Club,

Swing Dancing
Although swing dancing is technically categorized as ballroom dancing, I often hear it referred to differently, as a dance popular with young people today. But like ballroom dancing, it has a sexual component we can't ignore.

Swing dancing dates back to the 1920's, when people began dancing to the swing style of jazz music.

Swing dancers display fascinating feats of athleticism, but also incorporate sensual movements in the dances. Some girls wear short dresses that fly in the air when they jump, sometimes turning flips in the air, and sometimes wrapping their legs around the boys in sexual positions. And other girls wear tight, low cut outfits that are very revealing.

Responding to an article on swing dancing, one person reveals the sexual component to swing dancing. "Swing is sex. Swing is making this move fit this music at this moment. . . . In contras you get to flirt; in folk dances you get to posture. In swing you get it all. Swing isn't just sex, but what swing does is give you prolonged contact, intimate contact, with one other" (

Christians Shouldn't Ballroom Dance or Swing
Dance There are many reasons Christians shouldn't ballroom dance or swing dance. Perhaps the most prevalent reason is that the dances are sexually explicit, as indicated in comments above. As such, Christians shouldn't participate in the lustful and licentious activity (Rom. 6:12; 1 Jn. 2:16; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Jude 1:4).

Square Dancing
Square dancing began as a form of folk dancing. But recently, young people have reinvented square dancing, retaining some of its traditions while dancing to modern music.

Square Dancing: Touching
One of the things we need to understand is that square dancing involves touching: holding hands, and swinging your partner while holding tight.

As a matter of fact, square dancing is promoted as a means of touch therapy, and physical and cognitive stimulation (Pasadena Weekly, "Dance Party" by Sarah Wang, 01/05/2006,

Denise Mann, promoting Square Dancing, says, "And the touching in itself can be beneficial to health, according to studies conducted at the Touch Research Institute in Miami, which showed that regular touching can reduce stress and depression and enhance immune system function" (Mid-Willamette Area Federation of Square and Round Dance Clubs, "Don't Be a Square -- Dance!" by Denise Mann,

Square Dancing: Sexual Component
Many people criticize Christians' values regarding dancing, especially square dancing which they believe is innocent.

But anyone who thinks square dancing doesn't have a sexual component, with girls wearing short skirts that fly in the air, and boys holding girls tight when they swing, is either uninformed or dishonest.

The insurgence of same-sex square dancing, promoted by groups such as the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs, is evidence that there's a sexual component to square dancing. If there isn't, such clubs wouldn't exist, for obvious reasons.

As further evidence, I remember young men at college taking square dance class. There's a reason boys like to go to class, dancing with the prettiest girls and swinging them around while holding them close. I think the reason is obvious.

I found information from one man about his boyhood thoughts regarding square dancing, similar to young men in the college square dance classes. "Square dancing is so much more fun than rock and roll dancing. For one thing you get to hold every girl in the place in your arms, as you follow the caller when he says 'Swing Your Partner.' This is so much more erotic than the exhibitionist, narcissistic dancing of the rock and roll era" (

As such, Christians shouldn't participate in square dancing. It's a lustful and licentious activity we should avoid (Rom. 6:12; 1 Jn. 2:16; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Jude 1:4).

Line Dancing
Line dancing is a group of people dancing in one or more lines, usually facing the same direction, while executing the same choreographed movements without any physical contact.

Line Dancing: Marching Band, Clogging, Parades, Musicals
As with many things in life, some line dances don't have sinful components, while others do.

For example, some high school marching bands do band dances that are decent and wholesome. The movements aren't sinful, the music isn't sinful, and the environment isn't sinful. Christians can participate in this activity as band members, as long as sinful activities aren't incorporated into the dance.

Clogging is another example of line dancing that's not necessarily sinful. A person on a high school clogging team wouldn't be sinning, unless the dance team incorporated sinful movements, which I've never known to be the case.

A military unit in a parade, such as the ROTC, doing a series of synchronized movements is technically a line dance. As with clogging and band dances, the activity is not sinful unless sinful things are incorporated, which is usually not the case in my experience.

Musicals, such as performed in high schools, often incorporate line dances. Like band dances, clogging, and synchronized movements in parades, these dances aren't necessarily sinful. But it's my experience that dances in musicals are becoming increasing licentious, in which cases, Christians can't participate.

Line Dancing: Country
When we say line dancing today, we usually mean country line dancing.

As with the other types of line dances already mentioned, country line dancing can be free from licentiousness. But often, that's not the case. I've seen some high school country line dance teams that are no more sinful than the marching band doing its band dance, but that's not the norm.

Country line dancing often occurs in places Christians shouldn't go, such as bars and clubs. As expected, people in these places tend to dress immodestly. And after a few drinks, their movements tend to become licentious.

Christians And Line Dancing
Many line dances are similar to the righteous dances in the Bible, which we explored at the beginning of this study. The activity is not necessarily sinful, unless sinful activities are incorporated into the dance.

We must be very judicious when engaging in any form of dancing, because it can be easily abused and turned into an unholy activity.

Some line dances such as band dances, clogging, and synchronized movements in parades are easily discernible as to whether they're sinful.

Pop cultural dances, such as country line dancing are often times sinful. Not only because of movements incorporated into the dance, but also because of the place where such dances are performed.

Reminder: Children and Married Couples
While we continue exploring different dances, we need to remember the things we studied regarding young children and married couples.

For example, it would be wrong for high school students to square dance, tightly holding each other and swinging around. But, a first grader could participate in a square dance activity that wouldn't be any more sinful than the Hokie Pokie.

Also remember that married couples may privately engage in the dances we're talking about, because they're permitted to physically enjoy one another's company (1 Cor. 7:3-4).

School Dances
Most middle school and high school age children anticipate going to a school dance. The peer pressure is so great, it can be one of the most difficult decisions a young Christian makes.

Recently, though, some school dances have become so vulgar, many students are turned off.

One student vented her frustration after attending a homecoming dance. "Anyways the point is that dancing has continually gotten worse over the years. It started with girls just shaking their hips and Elvis making pelvic thrusts and has moved to full on sex on the dance floors (at least they've kept on their clothes, so far). It is really disturbing to see girls bending over for guys and afterwards saying that it was nothing, 'just dancing'. Come on now, its not just dancing" (

Sexual Dance Movements Are Not New
As we've already seen in this study, sexual movements are in many styles of dancing, dating back hundreds of years in our culture.

In a sermon on dancing, David Banning gives three examples of the sexual components of modern dance:

  • Mick Jagger, lead singer for the Rolling Stones, said "All dancing is a replacement for sex." (Rolling Stone Magazine, 4/19/79).
  • The Little River Band said in the chorus of their hit song, Lady, said: "Lady, you're there on the dance floor making me want you somehow."
  • What about this letter to Ann Landers way back in 1987, long before "Freaking" was popular. A wife wrote complaining about her husband dancing with other women and made this observation: "I trust him, but I just don't think God meant for a man and woman to rub their bodies together in slow dancing with anyone except their own spouses. Am I normal to feel jealous?" (Kilgore Hearld News)

Unfortunately, sexually explicit dancing in schools is worse than ever.

Grinding / Freak Dancing
The most popular dance in schools today is grinding, also called freak dancing.

This style of dancing imitates sex acts while the participants' clothes are on, often with girls rubbing their buttox against a boys genitalia.

Now you may think I'm getting graphic with the description. But our school age children hear about this style of dancing, and sometimes see it at school, so we need to address it.

David Banning, in her sermon says, "Put simply 'freaking' involves imitating sex acts on the dance floor, heterosexual and homosexual."

  • "It looks like sex, but it's dancing." (Catherine Gewertz, Education Weekly)
  • "Many describe it as simulate sex with clothes on." (Cindy Kranz, The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Grinding / Freak Dancing is Fornication
Fornication is a sin:

  • Fornication is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19).
  • Fornication shouldn't be named among the saints (Eph. 5:3 ).
  • Christians who engage in fornication defile themselves, falling short of God's grace and selling their birthright (Heb. 12:15-16).

Fornication denotes "illicit sexual intercourse" (Vine's).

  • Intercourse denotes "physical sexual contact between individuals that involves the genitalia of at least one person" (Webster).

Since grinding (freak dancing) involves contact with at least one person's genitalia, it's a sexually immoral act. Personally, I believe it's fornication, though some people disagree.

Dancing Partially Satisfies Sex Impulses
Sexual acts are involved with several types of dancing because, "Dancing is an exciting and pleasurable recreation as it affords a partial satisfaction of the sex impulse. Dancing, in fact, is such an erotic stimuli that it even works for boys and girls as young as the age 11" (Dr. Rita Hollingsworth, cited by David Banning in his sermon "Footloose: Is it Really Wrong to Dance?").

Christians Shouldn't Attend School Dances
School dances have become so vulgar that some schools are canceling them. Such was the case in 2006 at Aliso Niguel High School, where the principal canceled all dances because of an outbreak of freak dancing.

Christians shouldn't attend school dances.

  • The dancing doesn't glorify God and exalt Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Phil. 1:20).
  • The dances aren't honorable and respectable in the sight of all men (Rom. 12:17; Phil. 4:8).
  • Extremely lustful and licentious (sensual) behavior is present at the dances (Rom. 6:12; 1 Jn. 2:16; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Jude 1:4).

I hope this information helps you apply principles from God's word, when deciding whether to participate in a dance.

Most forms of dancing are sinful and should be avoided, but some aren't. It's our responsibility to know the difference, and "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).