The history of praise dance dates back to biblical times. The first mention of dance in the Bible is in the book of Exodus when Miriam, sister of Moses, took a tambourine and led the women of Israel into a dance after witnessing the parting of the Red Sea. They expressed joy and celebration in their dance after witnessing God’s great miracle on their behalf.
Other Biblical records of dancing occurred after David slew the giant Goliath and the women sang "to one another in dance" (1 Samuel 29:5). King David also danced before the Lord, as he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, recorded in 2 Samuel 6:14 of the Bible. In his writings found in the book of Psalms, King David has many references to dancing as a form of worship to God. One such reference that remains popular in teachings today is "Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp" (Psalm 149:3).
The New Testament gives just a few direct references to dance. However, deeper studies into the original language of the New Testament suggest more references to dance than originally thought. Closer examination of the Aramaic language which Jews spoke, reveal the word for 'rejoice' and 'dance' are the same, in such references as dancing and leaping for joy (Luke 6:23) as well as 'dancing in the Spirit' (Luke 10:21).
During the first 500 years of the Christian church, praise or liturgical dance remained an important part of church gatherings, due to its Judeo-Christian traditions. Christians were accustomed to celebrating in dance at worship and festivals because of the Hebrew traditions of dance.
The history of praise dance takes a dramatic change during 16th and 17th centuries. The Roman Church organized the movements of the priest into something more "formal." By the 18th century, praise dances became scarce in the churches, with the exception of the Shakers where religious dance remained part of their worship.
Israeli Folk Dancing
Since the establishing of Israel as a nation in 1948, resurgence has developed of the national Hebrew language and of Israeli folk dancing. The Israeli dance is being widely used as an expression of vibrant praise dance both in traditional Jewish churches and in Christian’s services as well.
Contemporary Praise Dancing
With the renewal of the church in the twentieth century, dance began to find increasing acceptance in the worship services of the church again. It has a rich and biblical tradition. Dance offers a range of forms and expressions in worship, from carefully choreographed dramatic presentation to the spontaneous worship and celebration of individuals and congregations of all ages.