Flags and Banners – what does the Bible say?

Throughout history flags and ribbons have been used in many significant ways – declaration and proclamation, worship, battle and celebration. Flags have become increasingly popular in churches to demonstrate freedom of expression and encourage other people to experience and try out dance and moving with their faith.

Flags and banners themselves have no power. The significance is in Scripture and what they symbolize, God ‘inhabits the praises of His people’ and brings the kingdom in when we choose to take them up in faith.

However, I feel strongly, that flags and banners should not be picked up lightly. There is a lot more power in them, than people realise. They are vehicle to talk to God, to communicate, worship and share your heart. Be aware of this, as you choose to move with them.

Let’s try and understand them a bit more…

What are banners used for? Historically in the Bible there were 4 different levels of relationship to flags and banners –

  1. They were a people and a people belonged to God – there was Israel’s banner of God being with them. They housed the Ark of the Covenant, with them morning and evening. It was a symbol of God saying I am with you, just like we have the Holy Spirit.
  2. Demonstration of military and fighting force – each tribe had one rallying point for the fighting men of the tribes. They could look to the horizon and know the banner they need to get back to.
  3. Tribal unit identity – 3 on each side NESW, so they knew exactly where they belonged – their identity.
  4. Family clan units – based on the location of other banners, families always knew where to camp. The banners acted as reference points, therefore giving individuals purpose and vision.

What can banners do?

  1. Tell people who you represent, but like a signal pole always high on a hill.
  2. Signal of intent about what is to come – Jeremiah 51.12
  3. Indicate past victories they’d come through – different ribbons are attached to their pole under their banner depending on the battle won. Psalm 20.5 and 7
  4. Indication of Gods presence – Moses and Aaron’s staff are banners that have been lifted and a response occurred. Exodus – 25
  5. Put enemies to flight. Isaiah 31.9

This is very quick overview of the use of flags and banners, but hopefully offers you an insight into what the Bible says, and areas to think about when you choose to dance with flags.

I like to remember it as a visual demonstration of a spiritual truth. Just like moving normally, you never know the impact moving with flags and banners can have on you and others who may witness it. The colour you use can create just as much impact.

If you’d like to know more about ways that you adapt choreography to use flags here. There are also some tips on using ribbons in worship here.

Finally, want to come try using resources during your worship? Then join us on Saturday 9th February where you can try out ways of moving with flags, ribbons and material. No prior experience necessary, more info is here!

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Dancing with Ribbons

Ribbons are another way to bring colour and movement into dancing. Not only do they raise the eye level upwards, but the colour and the way the ribbon moves speak to different people in so many ways.

There’re short ones, fat ones, thin ones, long ones, multilayer ones, it’s only your imagination that can limit the type of ribbon you can make and use. But just like with flags, there are a few things that you should always remember when choosing to move with a ribbon.

It’s all about the wrist! The ebb and flow of the ribbon is created via the flex, rotation and flick of the wrist. It’s always best to hold the ribbon wand at the end to allow greatest movement and extension during your dancing. Much like with the flag, the ribbon is an extension of your arm, but unlike a flag, it moves, wraps, knots and twists a lot more easily. Clear precise movements of the wrist and body (!) help to maintain the ribbon in a place of hover and shape in the air.

The length is important! As mentioned above, you can have ribbons in whatever length you want. However, I would say there are some exceptions. Children can operate a ribbon best under 2m, and I’d recommend 1m or even shorter (on a curtain ring) for children aged 2 – 5 years. Children will naturally want to move with a ribbon, instinctively they are drawn to it. But, their spatial awareness, movements and concentration can cause the ribbon to get wrapped up, knotted, hit someone and sometimes used a weapon or toy.

For adults starting out I’d recommend starting at around 1.25m or 3m, no longer. You need to build up the strength and movement technique with your wrist before moving onto something longer. Some dancers move with up to 6m of ribbon, but the understanding and movement capabilities of the dancer is much greater.

Dancing with a ribbon you can sometimes get stuck using the same sort of movements, but you have your whole body too. Unlike the flag, this lovely piece of ribbon really can mimic your movements in the shape it creates and the way that it moves.

The video below demonstrates how ribbons can be seen up high, but also how their movements flow and sit well with how the rest of the body naturally moves. The dancers in this dance were from all different backgrounds, some with no dance experience, some with lots. In this instance the ribbons allowed everyone to be on the same level, take part and move together.

2011 Joyful Joyful performance

So, they can be an excellent tool at drawing those who could be nervous, interested but not tried it, or have different abilities, together to move and dance as one.

Do you use ribbons already? How did you find getting started with them, getting the movements from the wrist right and using your whole body with them?

If you’re interested in trying out moving with some ribbons you can head here, where you can find some different colours and lengths to get you going. There are one’s available on curtain rings too, for the little ones. Pop back and let me know how you get on.

Worship ribbons and streamers
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Adapting Choreography to flags in worship dance

Many people ask me how you can incorporate the use of flags into a dance without just simply twirling them. The simple answer is that you consider it as part of your body! I’m going to unpack some of what I mean by this.

To begin with let’s talk about how you hold your flag and some simple movements you can do, to start to familiarise yourself with dancing with it.

Flags (or banners) essentially consist of some form of rod and a piece of material. The exact make up of these two, is dependent upon your preference. I teach using dowelling as the rod and a rectangular piece of material, as I believe these offer a great foundation for beginners.

When holding the flag, the ideal placement is thumb and index finger sandwiched around the base of the material where it is on the rod. This means that as you move the flag you can also untwist the rod if the material begins to get caught around it – I’ll be talking more about this later in the month.

Initial movements with a flag involve circles, side ways figure of eights, ripples, throws, turns, rainbows and twists. Although with these you can travel and move them, they can be quite static in comparison to ‘dancing’ with the flag.

So how can we move from a static place to incorporating fluidity with the flag?

Firstly, you need to remember two very important things when choosing to move with the flag:

The flag is an extension of your arm – when you choreograph the flag sits at the end of the arm, which means that yes one arm is longer than the other, but that doesn’t mean your usual movements are inhibited.

Moving with a flag brings Gods power – moving with a flag/ banner should not be done lightly, it’s an act of bringing Gods power down to earth in an almighty and visual way. So, know why you choose to use a flag and know that you are declaring Gods power in the process.

Secondly, choreographing without a flag first makes adapting with a flag easier. In the video below I first choreographed, movements using my body alone. I went over and over these movements until I knew them well. Once that was done, and only then I picked up a flag to use within the already choreographed moves. Some of the movements naturally transposed to using the flag with them, others needed adapting slightly.

It’s good to note that there are many ways to develop movement using the flag. But this is a way I would encourage for those that are not used to choreographing with flags. It allows dancers to see a difference between moving with and without, and the effect some changes can make in order to use the flag effectively. In addition, the more comfortable you get with moving with a flag, the more spontaneous your movements become, creating the fluidity you might see in others who are more experienced using them.

I’d love to know what ways you choreograph and develop movement with flags?

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