Learning to Dance

By Constance Thurmond, Class of ’19

As a dancer, I am constantly aware of how I look. Every movement, muscle, breath, and articulation consists of a fine balance between precise anatomical awareness and artistry. As challenging as this is, I take pleasure in attempting to find the equidistant point that lies between these two facets of dance.

For thousands of years, choreographers, influenced by their cultures and contexts, have had different ideas of where this equidistant point lies. Some believe dancers should be muscular and powerful, while others lean towards graceful and elegant. Some think that dance should tell a story, yet others, believe that there is no story to be told. In this area, I am not an expert, as it is my job to serve as the paint that is guided by their brush. As paint, I seek to master each variance and discrepancy present within a respective choreographer’s work, and then perform this yin and yang of style to those who are willing and able to engage with it.

However, this enterprise does not come with ease. You see, the creator understands their desired outcomes more than anyone else. To them, it requires a great amount of trust and effort to have their work put on display by those who did not create it. When given this task, I first must remind myself that I am not the creator. It is not my responsibility to take their work, reinterpret it and then assemble what I believe to be a better rendering of their original creation. Instead, I am entrusted to persuade both the audience and myself of exactly where the choreographer’s equidistant point lies. If this is done incorrectly, a piece may be perceived as cheesy, perhaps inauthentic. If this is done well, it becomes sincere, perhaps alluring. More importantly, what was intended is now complete.

The more I dance, the more I have learned to trust the process. I try my best to withhold my own tendencies so that in the end, I may gain something more beautiful. In doing so, I am not losing myself, but instead, exploring my limitations and extending my boundaries via someone else’s work. I grow when I learn how each choreography has the capability to become my own, in the living being that is my anatomy, while still keeping with the creator’s original design. Any true reformation of our creative output can only come from how we engage with the deepest places of our personhood.

To me, most things in life can be related back to dance. It is important to be flexible, agile, intelligent, powerful, firm, yet humble and kind. It is crucial to constantly grow, be willing to admit our mistakes, and embrace our successes. Lastly, it is absolutely necessary that we learn how to dance, in the most beautiful and hideous of situations.

In this dance we call life, God entrusts us with His master choreography. He gives us instructions, but He cannot force us to perform them exactly the way He intended. He knows we have the capability to mold something either wonderfully sincere or horribly inauthentic, yet by grace we are given the privilege of shaping His creation.

As a dancer, you must ask yourself: How can I make His choreography, the ultimate choreography, my own, while still sticking to the Creator’s true intent? How can I take ownership of this work of art without taking all of the glory?

This, my friends, is both the challenge and beauty that we must embrace and constantly strive to understand in our Christian lives.

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