As a child, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a missionary and a mom. Professional ballet dancer was nowhere on my radar. But as I look back, I see my dance journey and my spiritual journey parallel and God has used dance in my life to reveal Himself and His faithfulness.
Growing up, my parents were amazing to tell my three younger brothers and I about Jesus. I think I had a solid understanding of the gospel at a young age but a turning point in my faith came when I was eleven. My uncle passed away very unexpectedly and my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a year of my uncle. During this time, Jesus became really real to me in that I realized He was the only thing that was going to be constant in my life; He was the only person who would never leave me. I had to ask myself if I believed simply because the gospel was something my parents taught me or was it something I could truly stake my life on. From this time forward, I began to take responsibility for my own walk with Jesus and what it looked like to live out my faith.
I had always done ballet for fun as a child but thought I would quit as I got older. During the year of family tragedy, the studio became a safe place for me to process everything that was going on. As I grew, so did my love for dance and I began to think about exploring it through college. When I was 16, I attended a summer intensive and I mentioned to the director that I would probably quit dancing after college. “Don’t stop performing” she said “you have a light on stage.” That message, coming from someone outside of my spiritual mentors, gave me pause to think, maybe God was calling me to consider a different direction with my life. At the same time, I was looking at colleges and I thought I had my school all picked out. But when I went for a campus visit, things weren’t settling right in my spirit. It was like I was trying to fit a square peg in a circle hole.
The second half of my junior year in high school, I made a major pivot. I figured out how to get my undergraduate degree non-traditionally and began training in the pre-professional division of the a well known dance school. All through life, my parents encouraged my siblings and I to look for ways to point those around us to Jesus. I realized, as I entered this new season, that I was indeed a missionary even though it wasn’t to the small caribbean island I had originally thought I was called to*.
“Ok, God has called me to be a professional dancer, now, I need to do this, this, and this in order to achieve that, that, and that and my path will be smooth sailing”…or so I thought. Needless to say, God’s ways are not our ways. It’s not that things weren’t working out, they just weren’t working out the way I wanted/envisioned them to. God was painfully refining my heart and clarifying His dreams for me.
I found myself waking up some days and not even wanting to go into the studio. I began to wonder if this was really what God had asked me to do with my life. I thought about quitting again but “Who would I be without dance?” I thought. It was a really scary prospect. God revealed to me that dance had become an idol and I had placed my identity in something that was ultimately going to leave me empty. Dance isn’t who I am, it’s what I do. I wrestled for a while but He was asking me to surrender. “You’re not a dancer because you signed the dotted line [of a contract], you’re a dancer because I called you to be” He whispered. When I accepted that, there was so much freedom in the realization that my acceptance was not based on my performance.
“I’ve given you this gift for a reason, how are you going to use it?” God asked. I remembered how my parents encouraged us to use our unique circumstances and gifting to glorify God. I began to see the bigger picture. Dance is such a powerful form of communication and can go places that words can’t. “What do people need to hear through dance?” I asked myself. The words hope and dignity came to mind— hope because Jesus is hope, and dignity because we were all put on this planet for a purpose.
It’s cool to look back and see that in the midst of those frustrating years, God was still working. If things had gone the way I wanted them to go, I wouldn’t have seen certain friends come to Jesus. My world would have been so small and I would have missed out on a lot of amazing opportunities. Following Jesus is not easy but it is more fulfilling than we ever could imagine.
Today, my passion is to bring hope and dignity through dance; whether that be as a freelance artist, the director of a company, a choreographer, or teacher. I know that one day, this body will not be able to withstand the rigors being an artistic athlete and my role in the dance world will change. I thank God for His faithfulness, His provision, and for purpose here on Earth. I want to hold these gifts with open hands and follow His lead.
It’s been beautiful to watch the Lord choreograph the steps of this life adventure and I’m excited for what may be next.
*PS—I actually did get to go to the small caribbean island on a dance mission trip no less! But that’s another story for another day