Psalm 147b

Friday I had the pleasure of watching eight Performers girls dance my choreography to the Sons of Korah’s Psalm 147b. It felt so normal being back in the studio at Alwin’s – although it’s been years since I danced in that same studio as one of them. In 2009 I watched the 25th anniversary production of Christmas Joy, which was my sister’s last year in the production. It has been seven years since I was a Performer and trained at Alwin School of the Dance. That makes me feel so old! It makes me wonder what I have accomplished in those seven years?! I am not doing what I planned to be when I left to train with Boston Ballet seven years ago. But looking back I cannot regret the way life led me. I wouldn’t have matured in ways I have and learned the things I did if I did not have the experiences I did. It took me this long to heed God’s call on my life to use my gifts to give Him glory.  Watching them perform the piece was a good reminder that it’s not about me. It’s not about them, either, not even the girls I chose for solo work. It’s all about the Lord.

He has been so merciful and faithful to chase after me and draw me to Him. He has given my dancing back to me when I wanted to run away from it because of painful experiences. He has been so good. I must repeat these things over and over to remind myself this is why I create dance – in gratitude and amazement of God’s goodness and majesty. His faithfulness and immeasurable beauty I see in the consistencies and magnificence of nature, in the sunset, in the stars at night, in the high mountain peaks covered with snow and the massive ocean foaming and whipping with waves, in the human form in graceful dance or powerful movement. I agree with the Psalmist who attempts to proclaim the Lord’s magnificence and our insufficient, futile efforts to impress him. The God of the universe! What do we have to offer him?!

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
   nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
   in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:10-11)

I was reading one of Joshua Harris’ books recently that I found on the shelf at home, and he was talking about God’s gift of freedom from past sexual sin, or sin of any sort, really, by getting perspective of the cross. It’s relevant to Psalm 147 when trying to understand what it meant to Jesus Christ to die for us, and why he deserves out praise. The Lord over the universe, the part of the Trinity that helped God the Father to design creation and people in his own image, (Colossians 1:17) came not only to live a perfect life among sinners, but to die a sinner’s death as a perfect, blameless man, experiencing all the weight of the sins of all the peoples of the world while in agony on the cross, and being rejected not only by those he loved and was dying for, but by his own father in heaven. That baffles me – to have such great love to lay down your life for people who revile you, while your all-powerful father hides his face from you. Left alone in the world to bear the sins of the world.

“He feels dirty. Human wickedness has starts to crawl upon his spotless being – the living excrement from our souls. The apple of the Father’s eye turns brown with rot. His father!

He must face his father like this!

From heaven the father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross.” (When Boy Meets Girl. Harris, J. p. 177)

The story doesn’t end there though. Christ conquered death: he died and was buried, rose on the third day and ascended into heaven,  to the glory of his Father in heaven. The Father was well-pleased with his Son’s sacrifice, and considers his son’s sacrifice rather than our sins. He is in heaven sitting at the right hand of God the Father ruling over the earth. At the throne of his heavenly father he makes intercession for us. (Isaiah 53:12) That is cause to praise him!

Psalm 147b talks about the God’s might and power as reasons we should extol him; it says the Lord delights in those who fear his name. (vs. 11) Our hope is in his steadfast love – that has saved us. We cannot gain his favor or approval – it is already paid for, done and approved. The Psalmist urges Zion to “extol the Lord” and praise God Jerusalem.”(vs. 12) He goes on to talk about how he strengthens the fortress (gates) of the city, and blesses your children within you (vs. 13) He grants us peace and “satisfies us with the finest of wheat.”(vs. 14) His Word commands the universe. He speaks his word and the ice melts. He keeps all his promises.

Christ boldly endured the cross. We can boldly praise him. That is why I felt the need to express boldness and confidence in the movement for this Psalm, not  interpretive dance. While Latin dances are typically associated with being macho or flirtatious, I think adding a little of the flamenco style movement accentuated the piece because of its boldness and power. The music also had Latin/Spanish guitar influence, and I let the music inspire the movement. I seldom pull movement out of thin air – the music becomes the blood in my veins that create the dance. For so long I stifled it because I wanted to pursue my dream, not God’s dream for me. I will not let regret and frustration rule me. I look forward to the ways God is shaping and changing me. In His goodness He is showing me that I please Him with my gift even when it is not me performing. I am doubly blessed, to transfer this gift to so many wonderful young girls and multiply the praises to God in their worshipful bodies and hearts.

Thank you to Wendy Miner and the Performers for allowing me this opportunity. I am looking forward to our next creation!

Scroll to 9:35 for the last run-through of the dance.

Looking forward to working with the girls again to clean it up and see it performed in its finished product next spring!

P.S. They’ll be wearing all black or a dark shade flamenco-type skirts for the performance.

Project: Dancing the Psalms

Over Christmas break I listened to a lot of classical, instrumental and folk music to find some pieces of music to choreograph to. It has been on my heart to choreograph for a while now, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to showcase and stage  my choreography while I am still in the university setting.  For years people who know me and my passion for dancing and my heart for God have suggested that I choreograph “worship dance” . My Dad always gives me ideas and worship music, but I have been reluctant because my heart has not been at the place where I could worship God un-abandoned and not care what other people thought (and I am still in the process of coming to it) and then the idea of “interpretive dance” in worship services or dances to 90’s contemporary Christian music just made me cringe. As a classically trained dancer, I have a lot of pride in my work and don’t want to be included in the mediocre Christian artists scene. God forgive me for being judgmental of them; I am by no means the best in my field either, but I aim to only perform and give my best. So here I am at the turn of the year and I realized that I can combine my desire to choreograph and dance for myself more with my desire to worship God and praise Him with my gifts. It doesn’t need to be in church yet – maybe God will bring me to that place, or on stage; I will simply begin in the dark, in the secret place, in the studio alone, with my music, notebook, and Bible… My inspiration came from reading the Psalms and the Sons of Korah…I discovered them online in my search for music of the Psalms. I would love to meet them one day. Their music is so uplifting and just what I needed to get started on this project.

The idea to make dances to the Psalms suddenly hit me just the other day as I was going to bed and reached for my Bible. Unfortunately I often leave God till last in my day, something I am ready to change. Instead of it being open to Habukkuk where I thought I had left it, it was open to the Psalms. Psalm  34 stared back up at me, and as I read it the words began to take flight in my heart and come to live in my mind. I could imagine movement, dance to these words…I could imagine them to music…and expressive movement at that, not jsut sign language. I could pray these words back to God through my movemnt – because that is the purest, most natural thing for me to do. That is how he made me, and I can’t explain it, but where my words fail, I can express through dancing, and God who made me must understand my language of movement better than I. It is the least I can do to praise Him and express my gratitude, my joy, my sorrow, my desires, my hurts – and give them to Him. Like the Psalmist, when I start singing or dancing my prayers turn to praise and soon I am filled with joy.

Here is my favorite Sons of Korah song so far and probably will be my first piece because the music is awesome and the words few:

Psalm 117 (English Standard Version)

The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever

1Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!

This project has been a long time coming, and may be a long process yet. I am looking forward to it growing and seeing what God will do with it. While my choreography is of a personal nature at this point, I will share some of my journey through thoughts and words and links to the songs I use. Maybe one day soon I will have a camera to record and post dances on here, or a video of my choreography on other dancers…until then, pray for me and expect great things from our Lord Jesus Christ. Be encouraged to worship God in your own way as well – it is between you and Him, and who knows what He may do with that in the future! Be blessed my friends.

Becca

Pink Tights Count Down, Day 5

My efforts are futile. I am frustrated by my failures. I don’t have the good things to report I wished I did; and somehow this doesn’t surprise me… In my consideration why I tend to fall back on bad behavior patterns rather than persevere and utilize self-discipline, I like to pretend I don’t know. But I do know. I can’t do it in my own strength, Never have been able to, and if I can, then it doesn’t last for long. I tell myself God wouldn’t care about this my problem or my goal, but He does, and He wants to hear about it from me. He wants to help me, but I have to give it to Him. When will I learn?!! God wouldn’t give me back my dancing if He didn’t want me to do my best and dance my fullest and discipline my  body in order to perform my best. But what is my motivation? People’s recognition or His? He gave me back my dancing so I can worship Him, not so that I can say, “look at me! I’m back! Look what I did!” God, forgive me. God, take the reins!

Introspection Dance 1 Year Birthday

July 17, 2010

I started this blog a year ago on my birthday, so happy birthday, Introspection Dance! As I reread some of my blog posts, I realized what an adventure this past year has been, and I wanted to commemorate it.

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It has been a year of growth, renewal, change and adventure! I hope to grow even more in the coming years and continue to learn about myself and people around me as I become the woman God designed me to be.

I started this blog because 1) I like to write, and wanted to start making my writing style more publishable, which I did accomplish getting a few reviews published in student papers. And 2) I was at another very trying time and transitional time of life last year that I hoped by writing about it I could be of encouragement to others. While I began this as a very personal blog, I have strayed away from writing about many personal issues while I studied abroad this spring and blogged about my travels for my friends back home. Honesty and openness are my aims however, whatever the topic.

I have achieved some things in the past year that I expected, and some very good things that I did not expect. Let this be only an encouragement to my dear friends that your situation is never hopeless, that God does indeed grow us and change us for the better, but we don’t always see it. Sometimes all it takes is stopping to reflect to see God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. I don’t intend to brag to build myself up here, but what I do brag about, I give honor and thanks to my God for allowing me to do so this far.

Praise God! This time last year I was still having my small group girls pray for me to conquer an eating disorder I had struggled with off and on since I was a young dancer. I felt I had to quit dancing for a time, and that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Spring 2009 was a long 7 months of therapy and heart-crushing openness I never thought I could do, but through it all, God freed me from something I had been trying to fix myself for years. I can recall hours spent crying and feeling alone, and crying out to God to take it away from me, but somehow I was never willing to give it up completely to Him. He had to humble me before I could give it up. I had found my identity in my dancing and my talent for too long.

Last year I felt miserable at myself for getting so out of shape and not maintaining my dance career. I felt embarrassed and wouldn’t even tell people I had been a professional ballerina. I didn’t feel pretty and I didn’t feel worth anything not being a dancer. I had wondered what is was like to be normal, and now I was normal: studying at university, trying to keep my head above water, paying my bills and working late nights at the coffee shop. Before I make it sound all grim and gray, let me say that I discovered joy that I had never felt before in the last couple years while my dance career that was so important to me slipped away before my eyes; I found health and healing through friends, prayer and professional help. Although I was stressed, the burden of living up to people’s expectations was lifted; I no longer had to compete with the girls (bodies) next to me to be worth something, I made true friends in a place where I never wanted to live in the first place (Columbia, SC), I laughed a lot and let myself go maybe a bit too much, but I felt life that I hadn’t felt in years. It still puzzles me – that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, wasn’t where I wanted to be, and certainly didn’t look the way I wanted to look, yet I felt more joyful than I had been while I was pursuing the career I wanted.

At one extremely difficult month last summer, I decided ‘I have to quit ballet for my health.’ I didn’t want to. I didn’t even believe what I said, but it was easy to stop going to class because I had already seceded my responsibility to the dance company. I changed my priorities on the outside; I told people I was just going to be an English major, and maybe write about dance and the arts to stay in touch with it, but on the inside my heart was breaking. It still is breaking to dance. Over a year later, I am just finding the freedom to dance again – just dance – because I love it, and not care what I look like or if I am good enough or if I will look slim enough onstage. Anymore, I just appreciate getting the chance to dance, because it is who I am. The desire God set in my heart is still there. I cannot keep denying it. I chose what I felt I needed to – my mental, physical, and spiritual health over my career and identity as a dancer. Although I was scared to death that it might mean giving up dancing for good, but how could a who God healed me and set me free want that for me?

I still worry that I will not ever dance professionally again, and I have come to accept it, but that flame of my dancing heart is still flickering inside me, and I am beginning to feed the fire again with new logs, and in a different way. The only dancing I do now is not in pointe shoes on marley floor in a massive mirrored studio with other dancers, a ballet master, and a pianist; no, you will find me outside in my trainers and gym shorts and shirt in a secluded area of the park or the street where no one can see me, or in a studio room by myself with bare feet and the lights off, flailing myself around to the tunes on my iPod as the music transforms to movement in my body. It makes me happy and it makes me feel alive. It makes me grateful that I still have two legs and two arms, and it makes me want to praise my God. I have a wise friend who told me over a year ago when I was in despair, ‘be patient. God will give your dancing back to you.’ I may have to accept it might not be in the way I want it to be, and it may never be onstage again, but I believe that my God is pleased when he sees me happy and praising him.

I grew a lot during my time in Leeds in terms of my worshipful attitude of the Lord. As far as the dancing goes, I learned most about myself and dancing over this past year not in a studio, or onstage, not even in the audience of a theatre or at ballroom or swing dancing class, but at church. I always despised the idea of dance in worship or ‘interpretive dancing’, deeming it not an educated and proper form of dance. People from my church growing up tried to tell me I should dance during the worship songs. Some still do. Even if I feel moved to dance in worship, I feel self-conscious. Not until I came to this church in Leeds did I feel in a comfortable enough setting to break out of my shell and start dancing during worship to the Lord on a Sunday morning. I do it in my house while no one is looking, why not on Sunday during worship? I am there to worship God, not to worry about what people think of me. I graduated over my six months in Leeds to getting up and moving into the back of the congregation or the pews where I didn’t think anyone would notice me to move to the worship. It’s not great dancing, by any means, but it’s natural to me, the most natural way to worship. I may say I don’t want to draw attention to myself in worship service, but perhaps I am still scared of what people will think of me, or that I’m not up to the caliber of performing. Those are things I need to work through and let God grow me, because, as an elder at City Church Leeds encouraged me: ‘When you’re ready, dance in front where everyone can see you.’ My immediate reaction was to grimace and shake my head. Instead I cried. He said I blessed and encouraged him from the front where he was playing guitar where he could see me in the back, waving my arms in the air to my God. I must look silly, I admit, but as long as God thinks I look beautiful, I am dancing for Him, and I will keep on dancing.