I Have to Do Research – Where Do I Start?

Lots of us research things, whether it is researching views on a particular Bible passage for our Bible Study Group, researching the historical or social background for a dance or other artwork, finding out what people in our church would like to have included in our Sunday services, or an online search for information on different brands of washing machine.

The following are some questions you need to ask before you start:

First Question: What question(s) you need the answer(s) to?
You may be like me – I often find it hard when I am researching online. What question do I need to ask to get the information I need? Being clear about the question will help us to look in the right places for answers (or help Google to find the answers we need!). If my research involves asking people for their views, then I also need to give them very clear simple questions; if my questions are not clear, the people being surveyed will be confused about how to answer, and I will end up with a survey that was a waste of everyone’s time!

Second Question: How am I going to report on this research?
Am I going to produce a series of focus questions or a short paper for the Bible Study Group, a dance or other artwork, a summary for the church newsletter, or a hand-written summary of features of the best washing machine?

Questions when your research involves people:
For an academic research project involving people, there are a lot of ethical questions that have to be answered before the academy will give permission or funding for the research project. But I think we can learn something from this, even if we are not doing academic research. These ethical issues are really about respecting people: things like asking permission from leaders or elders, making sure you survey a wide range of people, ensuring that people’s names and photographs are not included in the final report unless they give permission, allowing people to opt out if they don’t want to answer a question (or even be involved).

Whatever you are researching, these are important questions to answer before you start. I pray that God will bless and lead you as you look for answers.

— Dr Debbie Bright (New Zealand)

Header image: By Matl – own work (photography), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3758023


Thinking about knowing

In my books I discuss at least 19 different ways of knowing (see http://www.brightbooks.co.nz). My thinking about ways of knowing has, of course, continued since I wrote the books. I see knowing as occurring in many ways, in many different situations and contexts, and often on several levels at the same time. Because of the non-verbal and ephemeral nature of most of the ways of knowing that I have already attempted to identify, I struggle in this blog to find the words that best describe or delineate the ways of knowing that interest me the most at this time, and what happens when different ways of knowing interact. Thus, when I am considering the intersection, the interaction, between ways of knowing operating at the same time, I struggle even more to express myself verbally.

For instance, I can think about the impact of just two different ways of knowing operating at the same time: spiritual knowing and dance-making as a way of knowing. If I dance only thinking about the individual steps and shapes of the dance, the experience for witnesses may be limited to sensing only the mechanical, the technical, the physical production of steps and patterns. If I demonstrate a high level of skill, witnesses will admire and express amazement at my skills, but they may not be otherwise affected by the dance.

On the other hand, as is often the case when I dance, if my spiritual knowing is in action at the same time as I engage in dance-making, then a completely different experience is created both for myself and the witnesses. In this instance, my spiritual knowing and my dance-making as a way of knowing are interlinked, entwined, interwoven. The resulting experience for those who witness the dance is also likely to be enhanced. The witnesses may feel connected, inspired, changed, even though they may not be able to verbalise what was different for them.


Costa Rica (2015)

The above discussion is, of course, rather simplistic, since there will always be numerous other ways of knowing being accessed at the same time; ways such as cultural knowing, presentational knowing, and the very complex area of embodied knowing. Thus, as I consider knowing and how it occurs, I think about the intersections between different ways of knowing, the multi-layering, the interactions and how one way of knowing informs, enhances and intertwines with another way of knowing. As I think about ways of knowing, art-making as a way of knowing, and specifically dance-making as a way of knowing, I also reflect on how a group dance can become a collaborative way of knowing. As each dancer accesses her or his ways of knowing and blends these with performance tools such as timing, spacing and peripheral vision, a new entity is created, an experience is created that effects  both by the dancers and the witnesses.

For Christians, there are a number of added elements. When we dance for God, whether in worship or in any other area of dance ministry, spiritual knowing will also always be present. In the photograph accompanying this blog, I am leading a group of dancers in spontaneous dance, during a worship service in Costa Rica in 2015. Thus, in this dance, ways of knowing included dance-making as a way of knowing, embodied knowing and collaborative knowing. But all were flavoured by the prophetic leading of God (one aspect of spiritual knowing).

Copyright note: The photograph is taken from the ICDF Costa Rica Facebook page (and, therefore, is already in the public arena).

— Debbie Bright

A theology of duality?

In the latest Network Leaders ‘cyber-chat’ session, ICDF network coordinators reflected on some topics relating to Christian dance. Debbie shares her thoughts about the influence of ‘duality’…

Is a Christian Dancer a dancer who happens to be a Christian, or a Christian who happens to be a dancer? If it’s the former, then a high level of technical training and expertise can be expected (together with the heart of a God-worshipper, we would say). But, if it’s the latter, then the heart of a worshipper will be the key ingredient and physique, training, technical expertise and age will be less important.

Unfortunately, many in the Christian Church do not understand this distinction, and dance can be banned because dancers do not have the expertise or ‘look’ of trained professionals. I have always sought to combine both aspects and, now I am older, I am fortunate to be currently in a church where my dance is honoured and respected, even by those who do not themselves feel comfortable with dance.

A theology of duality

I believe there are further theological issues at work. A major one is that the theological perspective of many, leaders included, is based on a philosophy of duality. The intellectual, rational and verbal are seen as ‘good’ or superior. Meanwhile, the body, feelings, the intuitive, the non-rational and the non-verbal are taken to be ‘bad’ or inferior.

Historically and culturally, the former are often seen as a ‘male’ characteristics, and the latter as ‘female’ characteristics. These ideas come from as far back as the ancient Greeks and, more recently, from Descartes in 17th Century Europe. As a result, a belief has crept into much of the Christian church that men and the intellectual, rational and verbal are superior; but women, the body, feelings, the intuitive, the non-rational and non-verbal, are inferior.

As dance concerns the body, feelings, the non-rational and non-verbal and is most often expressed by women (in many cultures), then dance is banned within the Church. Because of the ‘uncomfortable’ aspects of physical, non-verbal dance, it is seen as something that cannot be controlled; thus, again, dance is ‘banned’ in churches.

— Debbie (AWARe Network Coordinator)

Free-to-access articles on ICDF.com

It can be tricky to find affordable academic articles and resources outside of institutional libraries and affiliations.

We are building a list of publications on the ICDF website, many free to download, which have been kindly shared by members and friends of ICDF.

Our latest additions are by academic Lucinda Coleman. She writes on ‘Conversations on the Frontlines of the Body’ (from the 2014 World Dance Alliance Global Summit); ‘Dance in the Church,’ originally published in CDF Australia’s magazine, Leaping; and ‘Exploding the Myth: Enhancing the expression of faith and spirituality through the study of dance composition in Christian tertiary education.’

Thoughts on my current dance with God

From my trip around the world last year (ICDF):
Again (still?), God is urging us to just dance. We don’t need music or words in order to dance. Just dance! Dance in worship, prayer, prophetic statements… Just dance! We are most ourselves, the people God made us to be, when we dance.

For myself:
A complex dance that weaves through my everyday work in a church-based community centre (I’m in the office now and will lead the Homework Centre with mostly young school children about 1.5 hours from now), my study, writing, research, family and household, and continuing to heal in my ankle and foot (dance is part of my therapy). And, of course, my dance classes, moments when I sense God calling me to dance in unusual places (without music or words), to worship in dance in church (with music and words) or at home (with or without music and words). I see my life as a dance and that God has made me a dancer.

How do you see your life? 

Debbie Bright

Being Alive

From the Networks cyberforum:

Like the choreography of a beautiful dance, the different ministries of God’s dance partners in the church are working together to bring God’s plan to fruition. God wants to dance with us.” (Brian Johnson – ‘Come Dance with Me’)

I am most alive in God when I dance; the rest is about recognising the dance present in everyday life as part of my life with God, and waiting to be able to dance with any part of my anatomy I can move (even if it’s only inside my head!)


Learning to Dance in the Rain

I have two plaques in my lounge. One says:
Dancing is not what I do. It’s who I am.
The second reads:
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s learning to dance in the rain.

In recent weeks these sayings have never been more true for me.

As many of you know, I travelled around the world for over three months earlier this year meeting many CDF people in a number of countries in South America, Britain, Ireland, Europe and Asia, teaching and performing dance and praying. I was also prompted to dance in prayer in many of the sacred spaces of historical Christianity, particularly in Israel and Italy. Often this dance was very inconspicuous, unless someone was really watching; sometimes it was very obvious.

AWARe Dec15 blogWithin weeks of my return home, I slipped over in the wet outside, fell sideways off the clogs I was wearing (very thick soles) and broke my left ankle (well did most of the things you can do: two bones, one chip and a dislocation!). Then, the week I was due to have the cast removed I arrived home (fortunately I could still drive an automatic car) and interrupted a burglary in our house. The burglars still got away with all our electronics gear, some jewellery, current passports, and a number of other things. So now I have no photos of my trip, unless I had emailed or put them up on Facebook earlier this year, and no original documents, as my laptop was stolen.

AWARe Dec15 blog2Yet, through all this, my experiences of God have still been through dance. No, I didn’t have any great revelations of God while I was immobile on my bed (although some people have amazing experiences in such a place), but I did develop choreographic ideas for not just one but three knee scooters (although I am adamant that no dancer in this work should have a broken limb!); similarly, I developed ideas for dance in a moonboot and on crutches. I also danced in worship in my head, and, as I gained more mobility, was able to dance using any movement I could physically manage. This final process still continues today: I have now danced twice in my own church and every day am adding dance steps that I can now manage, or at least manage using mostly my strong leg. Long ago I learned that God made me to dance. I learned that I sense God most acutely when I dance. I dance prophetically in ways that impact others and, I believe, the heavenlies. I gain personal insights and I sense God’s love, His smile and His sense of humour.

Does anyone else experience this? What other ways do people experience the presence of God? When still? When listening to music? When out in nature? With others of like mind?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

— Debbie Bright