Dancing on Wednesday, Church on Sunday: Meet the Catholic Dance Crew

In a room filled with other young people, it is not uncommon to strike up conversations at the edge of the dance floor.

Catholic Dance Crew equals a good time.
Catholic Dance Crew equals a good time. (photo: Elizabeth Alva / Elizabeth Alva)

On a typical weeknight, it is not uncommon to find around 20 young Catholics at a San Francisco Bay Area bar, tearing up the dance floor to tunes from the classic Footloose to more modern pieces such as Shivers by Ed Sheeran.

They’re part of the “Catholic Dance Crew.” From the founding 10 dancers to a current 171 members, the group of young adults has gained worldwide attention, after videos of their dancing posted on Instagram amassed millions of views.

“We get some pretty fun reactions,” Christina Pirotta, a founding member of the group, told the Register. “And now we are beginning to meet people, when we go out, who know us from having seen our videos or recognizing our Catholic dance shirts, and they will approach us on the dance floor.”

Upon Pirotta’s return to the Bay Area after college graduation in 2022, she found herself searching for new friends. Bouncing from parish to parish in search of people her own age, her story is common among young Catholics in the region. She eventually ended up in a WhatsApp chat that shared information about local Catholic young-adult events and decided to attend line-dancing nights with a few new friends she met through the group.

One of those friends, Jenna Mae Prado, eventually suggested making a separate chat for those interested in going dancing. “There were about 10 of us consistently going out dancing, and we thought, instead of texting each other separately, let’s just make a ‘Catholic dance crew’ group chat. A few of us were active in initiating activities, and it just took off.”

“When my coworkers asked me about being in the Catholic Dance Crew and told me they had seen our videos online, it hit me just how much the group has grown,” said member Sean Pham.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Pham is an avid line dancer. In recent years, a typical weeknight for the 25-year-old has consisted of donning cowboy boots or Converse shoes and heading to local bars that host line dancing.

In a room filled with other young people, it is not uncommon to strike up conversations at the edge of the dance floor, which was how, about a year ago, Pham met the Catholic Crew.

“I was talking with a friend of a friend, and he was sharing some of the spots he goes dancing at. I hadn’t heard of a few. Then he mentioned, ‘By the way, I’m in the Catholic line-dancing crew.’ I had never heard of a group like that before.”

Catholic Dance Crew
The Catholic Dance Crew focuses on dancing and faith-filled fellowship.(Photo: Elizabeth Alva)

At a time when dioceses across the country are discerning the best way to engage young adults, the informal group stands out not only for its success but its simplicity. Line dancing is not difficult to learn, with a variety of video tutorials available online and many venues offering dance lessons at reasonable prices. Most newcomers to the activity may not know more than a few dances, but waiting on the sidelines of the dance floor allows for the opportunity to engage in conversation or even to teach each other new steps.

Having a community both dedicated to dance and rooted in faith has been a blessing for many members, looking for fun nights out, being able to share car rides across town and chat over late-night burgers. Participants note how meaningful it can be to have other young Catholic friends interested in the same activities while holding to shared values.

As Pham observed, “Prayer is so important, but when you are also connecting with people who not only share your faith but have other activities in common with you, it has helped show me what community is.”

But while Catholic Dance Crew provides a fun outlet for those already involved in their local parishes, it has become a source of evangelization as well. Numerous evangelical Protestants have joined the crew, connecting over beliefs they hold in common with Catholics; and, more than once, other Christian groups have introduced themselves on the dance floor.

Prado shared, “Sometimes people will share that they are also Catholic but not practicing. For me, it’s definitely an opportunity to invite people back in, to join our chat and come with us to Mass if they ever want to. When you’re out dancing, you aren’t discussing faith life, but we give a reason to encourage them back or to a social event. I have seen Catholic Dance Crew allow others to feel more comfortable going to more faith-intensive events like adoration and Mass because you recognize people there; you saw them on the dance floor.”

With the unexpected online success of short videos posted to the group’s Instagram has also come the challenge of finding locations large enough to host dances. In recent months, Catholic Dance Crew has hosted a few workshops, geared toward teaching new dances and building community more intentionally.

Held in parish halls, the workshops have proven an incredible way to use church space and connect dancers to the local community.

Reflecting on the collaboration with parishes, Pirotta said: “We did a workshop at a parish hall and almost 100 people came, many Catholics, but also friends of friends. I wrote a thank-you note to the priest who let us use the space and included a photo from the event. The next week, the parish staff was in a meeting talking about engaging young adults and the priest took out the photo and said, ‘This is the community we need to invest in.’ I think parishes recognize that this is a way to meet us where we are, and it’s very easy for them to provide the space. Their willingness to support us has allowed us to thrive.”

Last fall, several members were even asked to take over a parish feast day, joining parishioners for Sunday Mass, followed by teaching a few dances to the community. The celebration ended with an open dance floor, shared by dancers of all ages.When asked where the Catholic Dance Crew is headed, its leading members say they have many plans for growth. Having recently created merchandise to identify each other on the dance floor, upcoming workshops are looking at incorporating a vigil Mass beforehand and possibly taking part in a local Catholic gala.

In past months, Catholics from Washington and Texas as well as India and Australia have reached out, inquiring about the possibility of similar groups being formed in their hometowns. Dominic Lunde, a transplant from the Bay Area to Denver, has even started his own chapter in Colorado.

“Line dancing is such a great way to listen to music and meet new friends,” Lunde said about his commitment to the group. “Catholic young adults, we sometimes need that push. I have seen friends open up and gain so much confidence, strong friendships, and so many skills from line dancing. It pushes you to look a little ridiculous when learning dances, but then you can look back at your growth and say, ‘I was able to do that.’”

Reflecting on the growth he has seen, Lunde added, “I have dreams of this dance crew becoming a reality across the country. And, who knows? A line dance conference held by Catholics in 2026? That would be pretty cool to see.”

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Elizabeth Alva has traveled to more than 13 countries and four continents as a photojournalist. After studying theology and multimedia at Franciscan University of Steubenville, she spent a year assisting the Archdiocese of Erbil in Iraq with diocesan communications and is currently concluding an internship at EWTN Vatican as a photography assistant.