STLT#311, Let It Be a Dance

The first rule of Let It Be a Dance is that it is a mostly-spoken-word folk song.

The second rule of Let It Be a Dance is that it is a mostly-spoken-word folk song.

The third rule of Let It Be a Dance is that it if you’re going to use it, it’s really only best done on guitar with a folk musician who knows what they’re doing.

I know we have a melody transcribed, and a piano accompaniment written. And yes, it’s a good thing we have preserved this song in our living tradition. Ric Marsten captures something amazing in his lyric – combining the joy of humanity with the sage wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3. I love the language. And the chorus is easy to pick up – as good folk choruses are.

But, as we see from the evidence, and as musician (and SUUSI Boyz founder) Alexis Jones has taught us, this is a largely spoken-word folk song. I think our plodding along with piano and a fierce adherence to the song as written in our hymnal has obscured the beauty of this song

Here. This is Ric himself singing it with a group of children:

Now look at these lyrics – they’re meant to be largely spoken:

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times and the bad times, too,
let it be a dance.

Let a dancing song be heard.
Play the music, say the words,
and fill the sky with sailing birds.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
Learn to follow, learn to lead,
feel the rhythm, fill the need
to reap the harvest, plant the seed.
Let it be a dance.


Everybody turn and spin,
let your body learn to bend,
and, like a willow with the wind,
let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
A child is born, the old must die;
a time for joy, a time to cry.
Take it as it passes by.
Let it be a dance.


Morning star comes out at night,
without the dark there is no light.
If nothing’s wrong, then nothing’s right.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
Let the sun shine, let it rain;
share the laughter, bear* the pain,
and round and round we go again.
Let it be a dance.

A quick note about the phrase “bear the pain” – in a couple of places, I have seen folks make reference to the original being “bare the pain” – which is a very different meaning. However, I’ve not got anything more than anecdotal evidence that “bare” was Marsten’s intent. Anyone have information on this?

Anyway… I hope we can use this song judiciously in our congregations, letting our folk musicians (and you know we all have at least one in a congregation… I’m grateful to have Dan Berggren as a member of my home church, but you know yours) pay tribute to Masten and this wonderful, mostly-spoken-word song.

Listen to another Recording

7 responses to “STLT#311, Let It Be a Dance”

  1. Having traveled with Ric as his “roadie” and hearing about his response when the hymnal was published, I believe that it is “bare” the pain, not “bear” the pain.

    Look at the context – it is about being open, not about putting up with things. Share and bare are similar actions, share and bear are only rhymes.

    Read back in that stanza – “if nothing’s wrong,then nothing’s right” … pain that is hidden is not acknowledged, is not allowed to be a sense of what is wrong.

    In a life of dance and dance of life, one does not hold back, does not bear anything – one lets it all out.

  2. I remember someone asking Ric if they could see the lyric and they saw that he had written “bare” the pain, rather than “bear” the pain. Ric confided to me that, due to his dyslexia, he had trouble with spelling and, while it was reassuring to the person who had asked to see “bare”, Ric had intended it to be “bear”.

  3. For the (almost) final word, here’s an archived page from his website (now gone)

    (If this vanishes… it says:)
    Let the sun shine, let it rain,
    Share the laughter, bare the pain,
    And round and round we go again.
    Let it be a dance….Chorus.

    It could be that he kept the wrong word because that was what was published, and the parallel of sun shine and rain was not repeated in laughter and pain…
    … but I have heard stories that he wanted the hymnal version changed to “bare”… so you decide.

  4. Karen in Salinas, CA Avatar
    Karen in Salinas, CA

    It is correct that Ric intended it to be “bare,” not “bear.” When he was in front of our Unitarian Universalist congregation near his home, he’d tell everyone to get out a pen and make that correction in the hymnal…on the spot. LoL He was such a delightful soul.

  5. Here’s another reference to his intention of “bare the pain”

  6. I knew Ric Masten personally, and heard him read his poems and sing his songs regularly at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula. He said, on several occasions when introducing “Let It Be a Dance” that “bare the pain” was his preferred spelling and meaning for the lyric. In fact, congregants have written “bare” in they UU hymnal where “bear” appears in the published version!

  7. Adding my voice to the chorus: at a house concert, Ric was very explicit about how he intended it to be “bare the pain” and yes, deputized us to correct our hymnals wherever we could!

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