As a three year old, I would dress up in my mother’s orange sarong and dance around the living room. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to dance. Dance has been a means of joy and expression.
At an early age I learned to dance before an audience. I found pleasure in eliciting a response from those watching. The goal of dance became performance. I still enjoyed dancing alone in my room or dancing with my father, but I began to find my purpose in performing. I participated in two Nutcracker performances, as well as numerous recitals. I compared myself to my fellow dancers. In my strengths I found pride and in my inadequacy I found discontentment. As I look back now, I can see that I was headed down a destructive road of selfishness.
My world of dance changed in 5th grade. Because of my youngest sister’s birth, my parents opted not to have me continue ballet. The practices, rehearsals, and performances were becoming too big of a commitment for a growing family. Although at the time I was thankful to be removed from my strict Russian teachers, I found myself regretting the decision over the next few years. I felt almost purposeless without performance. And it felt as though my dreams of dancing professionally had been dashed against the floor.
The following year I started taking lessons again. A few friends were dancing with Children of the Light, a Christian dance ministry, and my parents and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to continue dancing without the high level of commitment. My first lesson was tough – I still remember being totally self-consumed and feeling the need to prove myself. That whole year I felt as though I needed to be better than everyone else. The “performances” frustrated me because we weren’t performing; we were serving by dancing in nursing homes, churches, and shopping malls. I felt embarrassed to invite friends and family, because the dances and venues were so different than what they had seen before. Where were the over-priced tickets? The huge stages? The drive for perfectionism? All my concerns and fears were wrapped in myself.
Although I continued to dance with Children of the Light, I also continued to feel prideful, self-consumed, and uncomfortable. I felt as though I didn’t connect with the other dancers. It wasn’t until 9th grade that I started to feel at home. I remember going to an anniversary event for the ministry and hearing alumni speak about the impact COTL had on their lives. As I sat out in the crowd, I clearly remember thinking to myself, “This is where I belong.” Little did I realize how true that statement would become over the next few years.
I can’t put my finger on how or why the change occurred. What I do know is that God was working in my heart. The summer after 9th grade, I participated with a few fellow COTL dancers in an outreach project in Washington DC called Project Dance. We prepared two dances during a weeklong summer intensive. Then over the weekend, we joined with hundreds of other dancers to reach out to the DC locals and tourists through dance. All day on Saturday we presented our various dances beside the Washington Monument. That week changed my life. I know that sounds cliché, but the statement is completely true. I was planning on not continuing COTL in the fall. I thought I would take a break, since I didn’t feel especially connected to anyone in the ministry. But that week I became so close with a few of the dancers. When I was working and sweating with these girls, I got to know them as individuals and as sisters in Christ. I didn’t want to leave after that week. I wanted to know these girls better and better and share every Friday night with them.
Wow. God was so faithful. The next two years I went through a period of anxiety and depression. I felt alone and like I didn’t fit in. But those ladies were there every Friday night. During a period when I felt separated from my church, I relied on them for support. Children of the Light became more than simply a group of dancers—it became family.
The next year, my junior year, I was asked to serve on the leadership team with the seniors. That year stretched me and challenged me. My friendships became even stronger. Then my senior year, I was asked to head the leadership team with one of my best friends. We were able to work together towards accomplishing a dream of ours . If I had stepped away after that first dance lesson, after that first year, or after 9th grade, I would have missed out on some of the best moments of my life. I would not have been given the opportunities to grow, lead, and dream. But most importantly, I would not be the person I am today.
Children of the Light developed me not only as a dancer, but also as a follower of Jesus Christ. By teaching me that dance is not about me, I learned to look past myself. I learned how to serve others and to reach the heartbroken. I also learned to be myself. When I realized that dance was an expression of worship, I lost the need to perform or to be perfect. Instead, I became confident in who I was in Jesus. My dance director and teacher, Miss Jeannine, taught me what my purpose is—to love God and serve others. I now have a passionate desire to see the Kingdom of God in action on Earth.
Through my positions of leadership, I have learned the importance of relationship building and encouragement. I have been given opportunities to disciple other dancers, as I was discipled, and to put into practice the skills I learned. Being a part of Children of the Light has also allowed me to discover some of my gifts and passions. Doing a senior project allowed me to explore my interests with the purpose of furthering Christ’s kingdom. I have uncovered a passion for powerful and effective communication. I have also found a passion for advocacy.
More than anything, Children of the Light has taught me to pray hard and dream big. I know that God desires to give His children the delights of their hearts, and when we seek His will, He will direct our delights to His. As His children, we can approach His throne with boldness, knowing that He is all-powerful. God can be trusted. Being in a leadership role placed me in many overwhelming situations, but I came to realize that God was always in control. He worked beyond my wildest dreams to accomplish His goals. Wow.
As my parents drove me to dance every Friday night and took me to many spontaneous rehearsals and far-away outreaches, they may not have realized the eternal impact that their dedication was having (I certainly did not). I am so incredibly thankful that God closed the door to ballet seven years ago. The plans He had were far better than anything I could have imagined. While the need to compare myself and be perfect still threatens to overcome, I know where my identity lies. And I have learned that dancing is far more than performing. Dance has the power to change hearts and glorify God. Dance is Worship.
– – Phebe
*photo creds: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/348747564866589062/ and http://www.childrenofthelightdancers.org and http://www.pinterest.com/pin/545287467355954607/