Have you ever considered the power of your story? We all have one, but so often it goes untold. Yet, our stories have the power to transform our lives, as well as the lives of others.
Sometimes we have to do a little digging to rediscover those long-hidden stories that have shaped our lives and who we are. So, in this writing, and over the next few, I’d like to share some of the stories that have shaped who I am - my love of dance, my love of God, and my love of people.
Story One – Dance Love
My earliest recollection of my love for dance was watching musicals on Sunday afternoons. These musicals would fascinate me as dancers executed amazing rhythms with their tap shoes. I would attempt to mimic everything I saw and couldn’t wait for the next week’s movie.
Naturally, I re-watched many of the movies when they played again. I tapped with some of the greatest: Sammy Davis, Jr., Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and more. Gene Kelly had me dancing in the rain as often as my mother would allow. Shucks, my mother even has old footage of me performing my rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain” – albeit on this occasion it wasn’t in the rain, but in a puddle in my aunt’s backyard.
This love of dance has permeated throughout my life. At 10 years of age my mother enrolled me in our city’s recreation department ballet lessons. It was during this time I learned my affinity for dance matched my love of it. I excelled. But I also enjoyed playing sports and as such declined an opportunity to join a youth ballet company.
BUT this wasn’t the end of my dancing days. When I entered junior high school, I was able to select dance class as one of my electives. My dance teacher encouraged me to choreograph and perform during school events and my love for this art form grew even more. There is something about the language of movement that dance encapsulates and it captured my soul. The ability and capacity to express deep feelings through dance movement became awe-inspiring.
I continued my dance journey throughout high school, dancing my way into the dance program at Cal State Long Beach. Along the way I put a few hundred miles on my car driving to a dance studio in Monrovia (I lived in La Puente) to take ballet classes with a ballet master who’d previously worked with Julie Andrews, and jazz dance with the studio owner. I took classes, taught classes, and performed in local venues. And though I was paid to perform on occasion and felt certain I would be a dancer by profession … I never became a dancer by profession.
… Instead, I became a dancer for the glory of the Lord.
My shift in focus occurred when I was asked to dance at a church banquet. I was paired with another dancer. We met prior to the evening of the banquet and were fitted with praise attire. We were told where and when to enter according to the evening’s program, but that was it. We didn’t choreograph or rehearse any movement together.
On the evening of the banquet, the other dancer and I stepped forward and began to move. We danced moving in concert with one another, as though the movement had been choreographed. Our dancing had to have been divinely orchestrated, and the Spirit of the Lord had to have been our choreographer. It was just a few days after this experience that I came to realize my dancing would be for the glory of God.
It wasn’t long after that I began a praise dance ministry at church. I made space in my living room each week to teach, choreograph, and rehearse in preparation for worship services. The dancers ranged in age from 3 to 40+ years. I engaged our youth group’s young men to celebrate in dance as well, and celebrate they did … dancing like David danced! (2 Samuel 6:14)
I enjoyed leading this ministry for several years and then was offered an opportunity to teach dance full-time at a 7-12th grade charter school. I’d dreamed of teaching dance to children who didn’t have access to dance lessons, and saw this as a God-send, and embraced it!
I hit the ground running; beginning with dance auditions, program development – lesson plans to meet state standards and class schedules, assisted students with purchase of dance class requirements – dance clothing and shoes, and more.
The students had not previously taken any formal dance class and were eager to learn. I introduced them to ballet, jazz, tap, and modern dance. We traveled to Palm Springs for a dance conference, performed at local elementary schools and at the local theatre house.
We discussed how dance provided a perfect outlet for expressing our emotions that were hard to put in words. I posted a quote by Martha Graham (early modern dance pioneer) on our dance wall that read - “Dance is the hidden language of the soul”, and we talked about what that might mean. We explored the idea of our movements being a reflection of what was going on in our soul and how that might impact how we were viewed by others or how it might impact the way we connect with others. We discovered that dance movement is a language of its own and has the power to transform us.
And so it is that I continue to be transformed as I dance. It is a gift from God and I will praise Him with it. (Psalm 149:3a Let them praise His name with dancing…)
I am dancing to freedom!