This past weekend was the annual Bate’s Dance Recital. It’s held in McCain Hall and has a high production value. After attending it last year our Sadie Piper said that’s what she wants to do. We only let our children be in one event at any given time. She had done cheerleading and soccer and loved them both, but when she saw the end result of a year of dance practice she wanted to invest in that. So now it’s dance all year and softball in the summer.
Anyway, I spent most of my life thinking dance was shallow at best and uncomfortably sexual as more typical. What I’ve learned these past two years is that dance is a medium that has an incredible ability to move the motions and to carry deep concepts.
This year two things on Friday night pushed me emotionally in ways I didn’t expect.
The first was being the father of one of the dancers. See Laura is not a dancer, neither am I. In fact in college we took a country western dance class and I’ll never forget the instructor biting her lip as she stood watching us, pondering how to help only to shake her head and share that she has no idea what is wrong with us, but we’re terrible dancers. So we were surprised to see how much music and dance is hardwired by God into Sadie Piper. Even as a tiny child she wanted us to turn on music and she would dance and dance and dance.
So last night when I saw my girl on that stage with a giant joyful smile dancing with a team who had worked hard for this moment it almost brought me to tears. My joy was in her joy. I’m so thankful for that moment. I’m thankful also that God has given us a friendship with Damian & Heidi (who is the director of Bates) and to know her love for Christ and the way she wants the faith she has been given to be incorporated in all she does. I’m thankful that we can send her to dance class with absolute trust in the director who is patiently teaching these basics of dance to young children.
Which brings me to the second time I was moved emotionally during the evening: older girls using these this gift of dance to tell a story. There was a dance to Michael Jackson’s Earth Song. It was a great contrast to the generally bright colors of the evening. The dancers facial expressions and movement told a story of our choices destroying the earth we live upon. I’m by no means a tree hugger and it wasn’t the earth that moved me, it was the deeper sense of our selfishness destroying what is God given and good.
Throughout the dance a planter, a pot, was lit up on the left side of the stage and it was filled with a plant stretched out in brown death. As the song came to an end I expected the plant to transform into something beautiful during the repetitive chorus of “what about us!” I appreciated that it didn’t, that we were left with a dead plant still just there, dead. As the next song began and new dancers took the stage to Jason Mraz’s Back to the Earth I was nervous for them because they had forgotten to get the pot off the stage.
But as the lyrics begin I realize they didn’t forget the rotten plant.
Whenever my head starts to hurt
Before it goes from bad to feeling worse
I turn off my phone
I get down low
And put my hands in the dirt
I try to stop the world from moving so fast
Try to get a grip on where I’m at
This dizzy life
And put my feet in the grass
By the end of this joyful tune the dead plant is replaced with a baby plant. I think I’m such a cynic that the dead plant is what I wanted to see, but the baby hopefully plant is what I needed to see.
Again, the earth was the theme here, but it was the renewal that gripped me. As a Christian we view things through a lens that can give deeper meaning. This renewal of the earth, even if lyrically off base at times, was also a redemptive picture of the gospel in creation and in the creatures of that creation. I felt hopeful. I felt joy to be alive and a graciousness for the earth which God has given us for enjoyment.
I know it might sound funny for a pastor to say, but I needed to see out of death come life. I needed to see it outside of my own theological framework. I needed it to hit my emotions. Not because truth is built or established in the emotions, but because truth experienced in the emotions is a pleasure for the children of God too often forfeited.
Heidi choreographed that dance and I’m thankful for the gifting God has given her.
We also enjoyed seeing one of our youth group children, Sophie Elliott, dance and send her little girls on to the stage to perform a dance she choreographed. Thank you for sharing your gifts!