Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 18:37 UK

'Lap-dancing nun' performs for Church

Alicia Trujillo
BBC World Service

Anna Nobili (Photo: Giuseppe De Carli)
Sister Nobili tours prisons and hospitals with her modern Christian dance

Anna Nobili is no ordinary nun.

The 38-year-old used to be a lap-dancer, and spent many years working in Italian nightclubs.

She is now using her talents in a rather different way - for what she calls "The Holy Dance" in a performance on Tuesday evening at the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Basilica in Rome, in front of senior Catholic clerics including Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican's Cultural Department.

Miss Nobili told the BBC World Service that the transformation from podium lap dancer to nun happened gradually.

"It was my mother who went about getting me involved in the faith - she had a powerful vision of Jesus," she says.

"At first I didn't want to know, but then Jesus appeared to me too, and I fell in love with him."

Jesus is a God who dances, not one who stands still
Sister Anna Nobili

Several years ago, she swapped her old life for the Church, after a visit to the shrine of St Francis in Assisi, a place of pilgrimage for millions of Catholics in Umbria.

Sister Nobili, then joined the order of nuns called the Working Lady Nuns of Nazareth House, and it is through them that she tours prisons and hospitals performing her modern Christian dance.

She says the Church is very open to what she does.

Anna Nobili (Photo: Giuseppe De Carli)
Sister Nobili says her dancing has changed since her lap-dancing days

"They understand that our hearts belong to Jesus, that means our moves also show that he is alive, and that he is a God of joy, not one of sadness," she explains.

"He is a God who dances not one who stands still."

Sister Nobili adds that it is for these reasons she has noticed that bishops, and priests in general, are struck by this new form of expression.

She does use some of her past life in her new shows, telling young people in the audience the story of how she converted.

Referring to the actual dancing she does today, with her group, the Jesus Dancers, Sister Nobili says it is different from what she did for her nightclub shows.

"My body has changed, so the way I dance has changed too."

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