Tambourine dance is most often practiced as a form of liturgical dance in the Christian religion. Tambourine dance incorporates rhythmic use of a tambourine, which can be decorated with streamers or ribbons, into choreography that exhibits elements of modern dance and balletic movement. The dance is considered a form of worship that is sometimes included in Christian services. Ordinarily a group dance, tambourine dancers generally aim for an overall effect and mood of unity, joy and celebration.
Tambourine dances, because they aim to communicate a message of unity in faith, are most frequently choreographed for groups of dancers. Circular formations, as well as call-and-response sections, are commonly used basic choreographies in tambourine dance. The movements of tambourine dance emphasize the upper body and arms, treating the tambourine as an extension of the body. The feet and lower body are used for spins, twirls and traveling movements of the tambourine dance. Tambourine dance steps make use of large, graceful, seamless movements. In a circular formation, dancers might spin and twirl together as they move in a circle, a formation that requires extensive practice and coordination to successfully execute. A call-and-response section involves several bars of choreography from one group of dancers, followed immediately by a "responding" group of dancers that, facing the first group, takes elements of the first group's choreography and reinterprets them to create a species of dance conversation.
Use of the Tambourine
In liturgical dance using tambourines, the tambourine should be seen and incorporated into the choreography as an extension of the dancer's body. Because it is difficult to seamlessly incorporate foreign objects into an activity that makes demanding physical use of the body, practice is necessary to ensure the quality of the performance. The tambourine should be held in a neutral position so that accidental sound is not produced. The tambourine should also be struck with a thumb or cupped hand -- "slapping" the tambourine with a flat hand does not produce a pleasant sound and stands in stark contrast with the fluid movements of liturgical dance. Dancers might move the tambourine to a number of different positions over the course of a dance -- over the head, above shoulder height, at their sides or behind them as they spin. Dancers are also advised to avoid looking only at the tambourine, and instead encouraged to shift their gaze from the tambourine to the audience as they deem fit.
Liturgical dance wear used in tambourine dance is designed to match the fluid movements of the choreography. Long, full, floor-grazing skirts and long-sleeved leotards in a monochromatic but bright color scheme are often used. Because tambourine dance is frequently liturgical, dance costumes are generally modest, covering most of the body while allowing near-total freedom of movement. Liturgical dance wear should follow dancers' movements and enhance the fluidity, grace and overall spectacle of the choreography; it should not showcase specific characteristics of dancers' bodies or restrict their movements.
Tambourine dance is frequently choreographed to contemporary Christian pop or rock music. The message of contemporary Christian music is one of worship, unity and joy, which fosters a similar mood in the dancers that can be infused into the tambourine dance's steps and movements. However, it's just as easy and common to choreograph tambourine dance to instrumental or classical music. Live music can also be used in church venues where an organ or worship music group is available. The tambourine dance can be incorporated into services in place of a hymn or sermon.
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