Thirty Pieces of My Thirty Years #10: Ballet

With Joel, Nate, and my Grandpa and Grandma Martin
after one of my dance recitals.

If, at age eight, you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you that I wanted to be a ballerina. Never mind that I would grow up to be far too tall. Never mind that I would turn out to be the least flexible person in my high school gym class (boys included). Never I mind that I have weak ankles. I loved to dance.
I'm not sure if my parents signed me up for ballet classes before or after I started spinning around the house, but I remember that in those days, I often danced my way across the living room and through the kitchen, loving the fluidity and gracefulness of swirls, bends, and arches.

I looked forward to my weekly ballet classes at McCann School of Dance, found joy in learning and practicing my pirouette and frappe, in watching our choreographed recital piece come together week by week. But even then I was an achiever, aware of how I compared to others, wanting to perform well and to please. In the classroom setting, it was hard for me to let go and simply dance.

Church, however, was different. On Sunday mornings in the fire hall where our congregation met at the time, I usually slipped away from the front row where my family sat and headed to an empty space at the back of the “sanctuary,” behind the rows of folding chairs and near a Coke machine and the doors to the firehouse kitchen. This was my space to be with God, close enough to taste the energy of the crowd, yet out of their sight. Sometimes a few other girls joined me, but when they did, I danced beside them, not with them. It was just me and God, me dancing for God, Him smiling down, delighting in me.

During the fast songs, I skipped, and I twirled. With outstretched arms, I grand-jetéd across the floor, leaping into a spin that left me both breathless and light-headed at its conclusion. I don’t know if I had seen The Sound of Music at this age, but when I recall the moment now, I see myself as Maria, frolicking through the hills of Austria, tasting freedom in every step and turn of my body.

My favorites though were the slower songs. With the first strummed chords of a song called “Give Me One Pure and Holy Passion,” I felt as though I were a beautiful ballerina, delicate and tender, passionate yet controlled, the steps I had learned in my classes providing language to express the depths of my soul. I bowed before God in plea, moved toward Him through tendu, and then spun into His arms with a pirouette. Always, I reached for Him with my puny arms, grasped for Him with my gently curved fingertips. And while I danced, I sang:

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Jesus, give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You.

In those moments, though my faith was young and untested, I think I grasped something of the delight that can be found in knowing God, of the freedom that comes from His love. When I danced with God, I did not worry about making a mistake or trying to impress Him. I simply knew what it is often so hard for me to grasp now - that God delighted in me just as I was and that in His love, I could dance.

Note: Part of this essay was excerpted from my thesis project.