23 December, 2005

Two days of dance

I love all kinds of dancing. Social, lyrical, ballet, clogging, Irish stepdancing, et cetera. Perhaps not belly dancing. At least, certainly not in my situation. My passion for dance, however, is bound up in my desire to glorify God. I have glorified God best, I think, when I have been dancing. My soul is set free, and my limbs rejoice in the salvation of my God. I mix the emotions of my soul with the movements of my body. I "draw pictures with my movements," to paraphrase a friend's comment about dancing.

Dance is humbling. "I will become even more undignified than this," retorts David when his wife rebukes him for dancing in the streets. To dance, I must lay down my need for self-respect and train my body to do things that I would not naturally do. Walls built by the fear of others must be torn down. To worship a greater Being I must wipe out all hints of selfishness in my actions and intents.

Worship dance is a passion of mine. I have no outlet for worship dance right now, but I am eagerly anticipating a time when I will again be able to throw off the shackles of physical limitations as best I can to worship my God. Whether this may happen soon, or whether I dance on streets like gold in a city built of diamonds, I know that God will command me to dance yet again. I eagerly await such commands. And while I wait, I enjoy the dances of others.

This last Friday and Saturday (the 16th and 17th) I was able to participate in the preparations and production of the Praise His Name With Dancing Christmas production. The weekend was amazing in many ways.

There, I saw my own vision of people dancing wholeheartedly to glorify God. The rhythm and precision. The toes pointed and the fingers gracefully extended. The heads held high and the faces expressive. The choreography was meaningful and diverse. The props were helpful, not cumbersome. The lighting...well, it was sufficient, shall we say. My co-conspirator in the lighting booth invented a few very nice touches. But the technical aspects of the production paled in comparison to the spiritual significance. Allow me to elaborate.

I have danced for almost 11 years, none of which were spent under the tutelage of a nonchristian. The first 5 or 6 of those years were with Miss Stephanie Warren, whom I continue to hold in a high regard and as a model for my life. She worshiped in a way I dream of worshiping, and led her girls in a way that encouraged us to blossom in spiritual growth. I was trained to direct my attentions to God and his glory. My motions had no meaning without his presence.

The family moved, and I later studied with another teacher who did not encourage spiritual growth or awareness of God in dance. Yes, I learned how to dance from her, but I did not learn how to worship. The performances were flat and I felt that my audience saw me as a performer, not as an encouraging worshiper. My passion for dance didn't fade, but it seemed that I could have no outlet for that expression. I stopped dancing, save late at night when no one could hear my wooden floor creaking under my feet.

What was the difference between those experiences (especially the latter) and this one? God was there. Mrs. Hoffman, who gave birth to this ministry, has done an excellent job of keeping the focus on worship and away from performance. One of the greatest things that affected me was the pre-dance praying. It brought me to tears. All of the girls sat in a large circle around the stage, and Mrs. H talked to them about offering their bodies as a living sacrifice to God, making reference to the woman who poured perfume over Jesus' feet. We then broke off into smaller circles (separated by class) and prayed individually for each other. Everyone's hands, feet, and faces are usually anointed with oil as well, but due to the holiday, we used frankincense. Though I did not dance, I was included as a member of the support crew. Later, Mr. Hoffman took aside the guys (a few dancers and the rest of the support crew) and did the same with them. This focused everyone incredibly. There was absolutely no questioning why anyone was dancing, doing lights, setting up chairs, or sewing costumes.

I got so close to crying in those two days more times than I have in years. Why? Because of the significance of their dances.
I have seen dance, and I have seen worship, but this blended the two in a way that I have only dreamed about until now. It is hard for me to describe. When the Psalmist talks about honey on the lips, I think of worshiping in dance like this. It was soothing and exciting and refreshing and challenging and beautiful and painful. Oh! For another breath of that fresh heavenly aroma, I am willing to lay down my life. This weekend, I was thrilled enough just to serve the dancers.

During Friday (the rehearsal) and Saturday I was recruited to work in the light booth, which mostly entailed wearing a walkie-talkie (the earpiece had to be taped to my head) and pushing buttons at the right time. Mike, my co-conspirator, was amazing. If he weren't there, then there would be very few lights on that stage. He figured out the buttons and sliders on the light board, and showed me a bit about playing with lighting effects. Dude, the blue lights at the beginning of the dance was pure GENIUS! That was so sweet. Mike & Mr. Hoffman were both so supportive of the light booth, even though they both had parts in the dancing. The times up there were by no means lonely. Every time I talk to that Mike kid I find another reason to laugh, and learn something else interesting.

I was able to serve in another practical way by giving massages to my friends' feet and backs. Perhaps this is part of the gift of healing that I think God has given me, but giving massages leaves me feeling elated. Teaching Bek the little I knew about shoulders and relaxing muscles was so fun! My hostesses seemed to enjoy the treatment as well. I'm hoping that, if I go back for the dance intensive this summer, I'll be able to earn my keep at their house by massaging.

I developed stronger relationships with my hostesses. We enjoyed significant, meaningful conversation that was peppered with humor. We compared creepy stalkers and talked of future husbands and old crushes. I realized that, though I may feel lonesome, my experiences are by no means uncommon. I feel like I have developed two more kindred spirits, and perhaps even three. Mrs. Murphy is becoming a role model for me. And I spent time with a wonderful old friend and learned more of her goings and plans. I shared common experiences with a dancer whose ability inspired me and whose passion amazed me.

I demanded conversation for 2.5 hours on the way home in an effort to keep my chauffeur awake. There are parts of that conversation that I do not remember, but it seemed beneficial, I hope, and was not too boring for John. Our conversation seemed to focus on the effects of alcohol, though we did wander down rabbit trails from there. I arrived home at 2:30 AM, tired and happy. Driving in a sports car is way different than driving in a minivan. I enjoyed the ride, John!

God has given me many things to work on in my life through that weekend. I was challenged to talk with my pastor about scheduling a dance at church, if he thinks God is leading in that direction. Old struggles with the desire to perform for Man's approval arose. Jealousy for those who have opportunities and abilities that I don't occasionally tugged at my heart. I was saddened that many of my friends in Pittsburgh do not seem to understand this experience, and the power that comes with worshiping God through dance.

I must push pass these debilitating emotions to capture it in truth and motion so I may serve God again through dancing.


Towropes said...

There's much to be digested and commented on here, but the first thing I wanted to say speaks to the third to last paragraph.

Of all the hostesses in the world, you picked some of the best. They're a top-notch crew.

Clear Ambassador said...

Not bad for losing half your post in the dead of night!

Sounds like your experience with the dance show was similar to mine with the Jars of Clay concert: the living out of a dream. Skilled application of a dear art for to the glory of God. Good stuff! :-)

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Grr to losing the majority of a good blog post. Yes, Bek, I agree with your discernment of my hostesses :-)

I hope we both have more experiences that shape our dreams, John. This one definitely had a huge affirming impact on me.

hed-kwatazz said...

sign me up for the dance thing at church! i'm rusty but it won't matter to GOD! ;)