Persons, places and things: Dancing for Our Lady

Barb Arland-Fye
Members of the Assumption Dance Group perform a dance at St. Anthony Church in Davenport as part of the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration Dec. 11. The parish also had events on the feast day on Dec. 12.

By Barb Arland-Fye, editor

If dancing is like praying twice, as Alicia Vieyra says, then the Assumption Dance Group she leads stormed heaven with prayers while honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 11-12 at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport.


Dressed in vibrant costumes accented with beads, feathers, sequins and fringe and wearing feather head pieces, the 27 dancers — children and adults — performed with athleticism. They rattled their shakers and stomped their feet in rhythmic harmony with drummer Alfonso Chavez, whose powerful drumming resounded in the church after the Spanish language Mass that I attended Dec. 11. Bishop Thomas Zinkula blessed each of the dancers with holy water after Mass and watched the performance from the sanctuary with Father Rudolph Juarez, the pastor.

Immersed in their prayer of movement, the dancers remained mindful of their intercessor, Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is Dec. 12. Fragrant roses, a symbol of her apparition, surrounded a statue of Our Lady in the front of the church.


They performed two, mesmerizing dances — the Tonantzin (a Mayan word meaning, “Our Mother”) and the Dove, which refers to Our Mother’s purity. Alicia cites 2 Samuel (6:14) to show the appreciation for dance in Scripture. “Then David came dancing before the LORD with abandon, girt with a linen ephod.”

Aztec dance dates back to Spain’s colonization of Mexico, when the indigenous people first became Catholics and desired to honor the Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, through dance. She is believed to have appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec and convert, in December 1531. The Marian apparitions inspired millions to convert to Catholicism, Alicia says.

Dance “was considered a form of prayer, but also a complete way of life and communication with what was most important to these people, their God. Aztec dance is one of the most basic expressions of artistic and cultural spirit of the native people of Mexico. For the Aztecs, this tradition was a part of life,” the parish’s description of the dance group states.

Inspired by her culture’s tradition, Alicia founded the Assumption Dance Group in 2018 at the former St. Mary Parish in Davenport, which later merged with St. Anthony Parish. She welcomes anyone who desires to honor Mary and the saints to join the dance group, which practices twice a week for about an hour and a half. Contact Alicia at (563) 459-8100.

Participation in Assumption Dance Group has inspired Catholics to return to Mass, Alicia says. “Some didn’t use to go to church. Some would be Catholic in name only. They didn’t have the sacraments. Now they have joined St. Anthony and they are registering their kids for religious education. Now they will receive their sacraments.” She praises God for bringing people to the dance group and back to church. “One thing leads to the other.”

One couple in the dance group who had been together for many years recently got married in the Catholic Church, she says. And, after she prayed to God “to put the right people in my path if you want to me to continue to do this,” Alfonoso accepted Alicia’s invitation to be the group’s drummer. His wife and their three children also perform with the group and attend Mass at the parish. Paty Martinez is the dance group’s choreographer, another blessing from God, Alicia says.

“If you’re dancing with your heart, you get a lot of blessings. When you dance, it’s like praying twice. Each step you are doing is an intercession from Our Mother to God. … We’re not dancing just to make a show. It has a purpose.”

Watching these energetic dancers, I felt like I was praying twice.

(Contact Barb Arland-Fye at

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