Psalm 117: nearly finished

Praise the Lord, all you nations!

Extol Him, all you peoples!

For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

~Psalm 117, written by the sons of Korah

This is what I am left with after the hustle and bustle of putting together a piece based on the Psalm and giving it over to my dancers to light up the stage. The music and the words inspired the dance – the WORD inspired the dance; it is a living word and is “more powerful than a two edged sword”.

I started this post 2 weeks ago, just as I was finishing the choreography, and I already knew that this journey had become meaningful in more ways than I anticipated. Through obeying what I felt God called me to do (finally, after years of resisting, and I am just beginning to break through the barriers), I gained experiences that taught me a lot about the dance world that I could not have learned without stepping into the role of choreographer: what goes through the choreographer’s or dance master/mistress’ head, why they choose the dancers they do, why it shouldn’t be taken personally if you’re not chosen, etc etc…

The creative part is the easiest for me – put on the music, and the movement flows – so much that I often forget what I just did, which can be a problem for trying to teach it to dancers… the difficult part is the intention behind it, because this is no recital.  What I stressed most to my dancers as the performance aspect came closer to conception was just that – INTENTION, and CONFIDENCE.  To put a dance on stage that has a powerful message – a purely scriptural message – you cannot take it lightly. It has to be intentional and it takes a level of confidence to perform the message you’re willing to portray and to let it speak for you. I did it knowing that afterward, every person in the dance department may see at me and think, “oh she’s the religious girl” from now on. I had to be ok with that. And I can tell you, as a dancer and as an artist, that has not always the image I have sought after. I by no means intend to toot my own horn; I am no upright saintly worshipper – but I am a worshipper nonetheless, because my God has redeemed this mess called Rebecca and made something beautiful out of it. Just like Laura Story’s words – “take all of my life, all of my mind… and make something beautiful…so all will see your work in me…”

I wonder, sometimes, if I had a successful ballet career the way I imagined it, if I would have been able to take a stance in the dance world like this yet…maybe he was gracious in that by breaking me of my pride in my talent and abilities before my twenties, I was able to begin to see his purpose for my dancing earlier…. who knows. But I know that God can make something beautiful even out of the mess ups of our lives, and even when things don’t go as planned.

Although “Psalm 117” seems a trifle achievement in the light of the other pieces in the showcase, it was a huge step for me – the risk of putting a piece onstage that for the first time, to put a religious message onstage, set myself up for exposure and criticism, and to do it with other undergraduates. There were a lot of questions running through my mind. What will the other dancers think of me? the faculty? Is my choreography good enough? Should I really aim to work with style different from what I am comfortable with? It was a big risk, and it was finally time to take that risk. I want to give all credit to the Lord, yet I seldom stopped over the course of the last five weeks to ask Him what He wanted to do with this piece… still I am certain He can and will use it for His good. I stressed “intent” and “confidence” in the words the dancers were portraying through their movements. What was the journey for them? Did it have any significant spiritual meaning? That is theirs to keep. I wish I had been less busy and more spiritually in tune with the Holy Spirit so that He could guide me through the process; yet He was guiding me whether I was always aware of it or not.

I just touched the brink of the experience, both in my spiritual and physical talents the Lord has given me. I am thankful more than anything else for the opportunity to put my creation on stage, and for the patient dancers who bore with my often fragmented process.  While I wish I had more rehearsal and more time to pull it together, I am satisfied with my progress and the consummation of the ideas I was able to formulate and project on my dancers in a short amount of time. Thanks also go to Cindy Flach for putting together; it would not have been possible without her, and to my friend Dana Voravudhi for help with the sign language. I hope it was a positive experience for my dancers and that they enjoy dancing it tonight. More than anything, may God be glorified through our dancing and may at least one person’s heart be touched who sees it. I don’t care what happens to my dance career or lack thereof. I want to continue creating dances for my God. He’s the only one whose pleasure I seek. Praise the Lord!

6th Annual NYCB Gala performance with USC Dance Company

Sara Mearns rehearsing "Western Symphony" with USC Dance Co. March 18, 2011

It’s been two weeks from the show and I am just now getting time to settle down and write my reflection…

Sara Mearns was exceptional and outshone all the dancers on stage. She has just been promoted to principle dancer with NYCB after all. She deserves all sorts of recognition – she is a master mistress at her craft; fully, 110% dedicated to it, something I never seemed to be able to maintain…and she is stunning. gorgeous. real and tangible, not ethereal, which makes her that much more likable and enjoyable to watch on stage, and she is thin, strong and embodies ballet dancer to the very tips of her fingernails and eyelashes. She danced out of every inch of her body. Nothing is forgotten. Music is made by her – or her movement made by it, I’m not certain which. I could rave about her on and on, and I am not even one who knows her personally or can claim any tie to her growing up in Columbia, SC or beginning her ballet roots here and attending the university’s dance conservatory as the dance department at USC likes to boast, but I appreciate her nonetheless. I say “appreciate” because I am trying to distinguish for myself my new mentality of appreciating ballet stars at somewhat of a safe distance rather than idolize them as I did when I was a striving dancer. That dangerous line I am drawing for myself distances me even further from ever pursuing a dance career again; regardless of how impossible it seems. I like to remind myself that if I found it in myself to emotionally, physically and financially commit to my craft 100% again, I could be back in the running for a professional career. It would take me losing weight finally and for good, and really committing – which I can’t do now because I am in school trying to finish my degree, I work 3 or 4 part time jobs, and I live in the deep South…. after all that, I have to remind myself of what I have come to accept as taking responsibility of my own foiled dance career – that I do not want and cannot sustain that lifestyle – and perhaps the reality that I never fully wanted it. But I was young and naive then… So enough of this somber reflection and regret. I am still dancing, and that’s what matters. I will never be Sara Mearns, and my body is far from the shape she is in now, but I have had other valuable life experiences outside of the narrow ballet world that she will never have that I treasure and would not trade, not even for an illustrious career with NYCB… Well…

It amazes me the power a desire so strong can have over me — that from the age of 9 or 10 when I decided I seriously wanted to pursue dance as a career, it took over me — and it may take just as many years to undo its power. I would not undo its influence and passion; just its obsessive control and lack thereof and the pain it has caused me. but no more of this sentimental vague reflection. I praise God He has given me back my dancing and I pray He continues to give it back tri-fold as I seek to honor Him with the ways He has given it back to me, even if it’s not the way I imagined it. Success does not make one happy always. God’s plans are better than our plans. Recognition does not supply fulfillment.