"A TIME FOR DANCING" – It can make the body sore and the soul soar.
Hiding behind my mother's chair was my favorite place to take dance lessons. My five-year-old brain thought that rather than being a small spectacle on the dance floor, no one could see me doing my pliés behind a folding metal chair. It was affirmed that I was not beautiful like my sisters so my tarnished self-esteem wanted to hide and not be seen. Unless I could be happily distracted, being photographed was (and still is) painful. Eventually, I learned to appreciate having a body that could dance and joined in the joy of dancing with my class to music that I loved. My husband says that children seem to be made of rubber. Looking back at the few dance photos I have seems to testify to that fact.
Because of my lean, lumber body, I was recruited as an acrobat and flipped along parade routes twirling a baton. Though I also enjoyed tap, jazz, hula and folk dancing, my heart inclined me toward classical music which meant doing ballet. My first performance was to the strains of "April Showers" by Silvers and Sylva – an interesting sounding combination. My small, fancy, mother-made umbrella was my first prop. On and off throughout my life, I looked for an original copy of the sheet music that had launched my dancing days, but never found it. One day while browsing through a tiny, musty shop in a back ally of South Africa my eye caught a faded, well-worn copy of the original sheet music from 1921. This small 1-rand treasure brought back the memory of that first, flawed ballet performance. I smiled and thought through the simple choreography and stepped a little lighter as I did a Pas de Bourree on my way back out into the sunlight.
Dance lessons teach many good principles, not the least of which is that "The show must go on." If you drop your umbrella or trip over your own feet, pick yourself up and keep dancing. Another adage is "Practice makes perfect." I remember hearing Gold Medal Gymnast, Peter Vidmar, say that his measure of success was due to the 15-20 minutes longer he worked out at the gym when everyone else had completed their workouts and gone home. That extra effort made the difference. We have to put the sweat equity into whatever we want to excel at doing. Refining gold doesn't come easy.
Another blessing of dancing was the satisfaction of using my talent to bring enjoyment to others. My most memorable performance was for an audience of polio victims sequestered in a auditorium full of iron lungs. At first glance, when the curtains opened, I was frightened at the sight of the audience. My young eyes had never beheld portable metal prisons that held bodies captive from the head down. I looked past the blessing of breathing machines to the claustrophobic entrapment of those coffins with live heads protruding from one end, smiling at our performance. Little did I know that without these tomb-like miracles, those patients would have to experience real tombs. As we entertained them, they taught us that no matter what storms may come in April or any other month, we can choose to see the flowers along the way and focus on what we can do, learn and share. Visions of "sugar plum fairies" can dance in our heads, even if our twinkle-toes cannot twinkle on the dance floor. Breathing is a very addictive habit that I have come to appreciate. This photo shows the actual location where our dance group performed in the early 1950's.
It was good exercise and great fun to teach my own little children to dance. The boys were taught to do the waltz in the kitchen while the bread was baking. The girls were taught hula in the dance/play room that had a newly restored hard-wood floor and a ballet barre across one wall. They loved to tumble around the floor and then strike a confident Nadia Comăneci victory pose. Tap and ballet shoes were purchased from thrift stores. One son refused to wear "girl" tap shoes even though he enjoyed tap dancing. With no money for new shoes, I prayed for the miracle of finding "boy" tap shoes for my talented son. Our prayers were answered when we sauntered into a neighborhood PTA thrift store and joyfully discovered a pair of brand-spanking-new tap shoes the size of my little son's feet! I still have those shiny, black shoes as a reminder of one of the many tiny miracles that demonstrate God's love manifested in the details of our lives.
As a wedding photographer, I was once advised by a family that their elderly grandma was dying of cancer and was extremely frail so would need to be photographed first – immediately after the wedding. She was lovingly carried up the stairs to join in the group photograph and then the strong young men in the family carried her in her wheelchair back down the stairs. Later that day at the reception, the DJ began the dance music. After the traditional dances, a handsome young grandson approached the wheelchair where the gracious grandma sat watching. He reached out his hand and invited her to dance with him. Eyes fixed on this bit of drama and I could not have anticipated the next photo I would capture. This delicate, elegant little lady trembled to her feet as the handsome young man swept her off of them and onto the dance floor. As the music permeated her fragile body, her spirit could not be restrained and she danced with the grace of a prima ballerina. You can take the dancer out of the dance but can never take the dance out of the dancer. Now I can barely move my feet in a Zumba class and dance a slow hula. The "memory yarn" in my dance muscles seems to have lost its elasticity for "…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) However, when my daughter-in-law graciously took me to see The Nutcracker last Christmas, my dancing spirit seemed eager to take over and want to elevate me onto the stage to dance to the lilting strains of Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers."
In Ecclesiastes 3:4, Solomon wrote that there is a time for almost everything. He includes a “time for dancing,” in contrast to a “time for mourning.” Dancing can help heal grief. When I was struggling to recover from the heart-rending loss of twins (a week apart) I turned to the comfort and emotional-release of dance. I went to the local college and enrolled in a difficult classical ballet class with 40 students nearly young enough to be my children. The experience was made more interesting by sharing the dance floor with a young Mexican-American student that was preparing for the Olympics. His faithful boxing coach, Al, brought him to class as a means of improving his movement, core strength, discipline and balance in the boxing ring. At times, they provided a little comic relief to the intense floor and barre work as they strove to imitate the movements in their clumsy gym socks. Once, while sitting on the floor with our feet stretched forward, I teased Paul about his socks. He looked, somewhat longingly, at my white leather ballet shoes. I took them off and asked him if he would like to try them on. Though he was a short, light flyweight and I was a tall mid-weight, the shoes fit him perfectly. So I gave him my "magic" shoes and informed him that they would help him win a gold medal. Sometime later, I watched the Olympics with great interest. Sure enough, Paul Gonzalez went on to win the gold. Admittedly, his great strength, spirit, skill, talent and good coaching also had something to do with his victorious win. The only magic in the shoes was the joy of sharing them with a champion.
My husband defines dancing as "wiggling to music." What's up? A leap into the air that signals it's time to soar to the music and smile at the blessing of being alive and able to move to the melodious sounds of life. There's lots to love about making "a time for dancing," even when dancing in April showers, for they will surely bring May flowers. – Nani's Notes
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