Gospel music concerts are usually expressive, energetic worship explosions of individual spirituality embedded in group soundings. These soundings can be vocal, instrumental or various combinations of both. In the past, some African Americans included dance during worship as a necessary component--without it--one's experience would be incomplete.(1.)
Today, such communal and " free"dancing continues in specific Black denominations. However, the Ring Shout in the twentieth-first century continues to be supplanted with a new dance aesthetic of "Praise Dancing" and on occasion "Praise Signing."(2) Praise dancing as religious expression is organized dancing performed by dancers whose training spans the gamut from classical ballet training to modern jazz to Holy hip hop and crumping. And, ensembles are diverse,crossing denominations, gender and ethnic groups. A must see troupe of young African American male praise dancers to look for are: the Testimony Kids.
The Testimony Kiddz dance style is derived from the urban scene. They take crumping, aware of it's historical development as a way to express controlled physical anger through dance "battle" movement, and turn it into celebratory praise.(3) The group's style is dynamic and inspiring. Nathaniel Dwayne O'Bryant is the Youth Outreach Director and a dance instructor. The choreography fills the music with a very palpable anointing. For a look at their unique style click on and watch
Testimony Kiddz 08
Also for a street ministry-in-community video of the group watch:
Testimony Kiddz "Taking The Cross To The Streets Preview"
The Testimony Kiddz are part of San Diego Young Artists Music Academy Inc, started by owner, founder, and director George Hill, a retired navyman. Hill and his wife began to cultivate their dream to help kids while driving through neighborhood streets, looking at kids doing graffiti, seeming to need a way to channel frustration and artistic creativity. Their hearts filled with desire to help. They moved from desire to agency and founded the academy.(4)
Hill noted that the academy's program is a vibrant materialization of his wife's vision from the Lord. It is a center that not only gives young people a positive space to "be," but also offers tutoring and supportive moral guidance. The Music Training Center also provides instrumental lessons, dance lessons, and vocal training in a children's choir called the MADA Choir.(5)The choir performed at San Diego State University's 2010 Gospel Fest along with the Testimony Kids and many other seasoned choirs and soloists. The MADA Choir's performance and behavior was exemplary. The positive, supportive influence of the academy's owners and artistic directors was apparent in the children's exciting yet peaceful poise during their presentation. And, this large exuberant choir incorporated well organized group movement into their performance!
Look for praise dancing at the next Gospel concert you attend. These dancers have made a commitment to use their gift of beauty through movement to glorify God. Sacred music and dance are alive and well in San Diego; both find twenty-first century expression through the artistic creativity of groups like the Testimony Kiddz.
1. Southern, Eileen. "The Antebellum Period: Rural Life." in The Music of Black Americans: A History 2nd ed.(New York: W.W. Norton,1983)Pp169-171. Southern discusses the importance of "the shout" or Ring Shout in historic rural populations' religious worship practices.
2. Sign language blended with graceful dance movements performed to sacred music (often Gospel music)
3. The troupe's leader Nathaniel Dwayne O Bryant is quite knowledgeable about the world of crumping. A nationally ranked professional/competitive crumper, his life blossomed with deeper meaning after,"I found greater purpose when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior."
4. George Hill had such faith that he talked to Virgil Gordon about renting a space on their present site before the ground was broken in 1996.
5. MADA stands for Music Arts Development and Achievement
D. Fisher (Delores Fisher)