All of a sudden, everybody is dancing.
Fans who are excited to be back at sporting events are dancing in the stands. Protesters who show up for rallies are dancing in the streets.
People are dancing in TV commercials when their pizza is delivered on time, when they’re excited about their new couch, and when their car loan is approved. Currently an ad for a retail service that helps “you be you” shows a woman dancing while mowing her grass – an activity not generally endorsed by landscapers.
There are Kleenex Moment Dances like the one earlier this year when former Indycar driver (and now owner) Sam Schmidt danced with his daughter Savannah at her wedding. Schmidt was paralyzed in 2000 when his car hit the wall during a practice run. He sustained the same spinal injury as Christopher Reeve.
Doctors said the 35-year-old father of two would be lucky to survive five years. Instead, with the help of an innovative exoskeleton on his legs, he surprised Savannah and her entire wedding party by standing in her presence for the first time in 21 years. Rising to his full 6’1” height, he took her hands. The DJ played Daddy, Dance With Me. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The biggest surge in moving one’s feet has come via TikTok, a social media platform that encourages users to create short, personalized videos of singing, comic routines, and dancing – happy dancing, innovative dancing, and embarrassingly awful dancing.
According to Lisa Jones, a culture reporter for Mangoful.com, one of the primary motivations to dance using the TikTok app is to be seen. You may even become a celebrity. “Some TikTok famous people are getting hundreds of thousands of views per day per video!” she exclaims.
“Dancing on TikTok can help you feel part of the major changes and trends that happen on TikTok every week – even every day. Mostly, though, it is about getting views.” That is, how many followers can I attract – people who are willing to admire me, imitate me, or at least notice me?
Jones recognizes that dancing, which is inherently fun and upbeat, is a great way to keep an audience’s attention. But the TikTok attention span is brief. If you invent a new dance, it “could have an entire week or month of TikTok fame before it fizzles out for something new.”
Fame isn’t what it used to be.
Dancing in Bible times was primarily a way to express joy. Great rabbis danced. According to Jewish teaching, angels danced. And God anticipated that his people would dance in the last days. Mixed-gender dancing was unknown, and even to this day in the most traditional Arabic cultures public dancing is an activity specifically reserved for groups of men.
In the Old Testament, however, it seems that everyone is invited to the celebration.
Immediately after God rescued his people at the Red Sea, Moses’ sister Miriam “took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women following her, with timbrels and dancing.” (Exodus 15:20)
The prophets describe the coming joy of God’s reign with these words: “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13)
The author of Ecclesiastes declares that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (3:4)
The psalmist even calls the entire congregation to get up on their feet: “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” (Psalm 149.3)
The most famous dance sequence in the Bible, however, happens at the high water mark of the reign of King David. Israel’s greatest monarch arranges for the Ark of the Covenant – that would be the sacred box that the fictional Indiana Jones would pursue one day – to be carried up to the Temple mount in Jerusalem. Thousands of people shout and sing during the procession. David, losing himself in joy, flings off his outer clothing and dances “in a linen ephod” before the Lord “with all his might.” (2 Samuel 6:14)
The king is essentially dancing in the street in a nightshirt – the kind of thing one might do at home late at night with all the shades pulled. To say the least, it’s a memorable moment for the monarchy.
When David returns to his palace later that day – “Honey, I’m home” – his wife Michal expresses shock at his lack of decorum. All day long she’s been thinking, “Lord, I hope no one is seeing this!”
But David doesn’t care. All day long he’s been thinking something else: “Lord, I hope you’re seeing this – and that you know how much I love you!”
That’s the big difference between TikTok and the king of Israel.
TikTokkers are dancing before the world, hoping someone will notice and make them feel significant. David was dancing for an audience of One, secure in his conviction that he was treasured by a God who would never let him go.
We can join him.
With hope in our hearts and joy in our feet, we can get up and dance.