Let them praise his name in dance, make music with tambourine and lyre.Psalm 149:3
This post is dedicated to anyone who shares a love for dance and cherishes it as an art form.
In my last blog post, I talked about beauty as a transcendental. I shared what it means to encounter God through beauty and to allow beautiful things to remind us of God’s presence, goodness, and creativity. We can encounter God through beauty in so many ways, like in nature, at Mass, and even through other people. One of the most profound ways to encounter God is through the beauty of art. Whether it’s through the hymns we sing at Mass or Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, it isn’t hard to recognize the Lord in art. Creating beautiful art is an effective and appropriate way of glorifying God, and through beauty, a deep desire of the human heart, we come to know him better and fall more in love with him.
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The art form that I’ve dedicated most of my life to is dance. From taking baby ballet and tap classes in kindergarten to recently graduating with my bachelor’s in dance, this art form has always been a major part of my life. Although I have a few long-term goals, I admit that I’m not sure what my next steps with dance will be, but it’s so ingrained in my body, mind, and soul that I know it’ll be always part of my life. The Lord made dance part of my life for a reason, so whether I perform, choreograph, teach, research, or write, I know I’ll stay involved with it in some capacity. With the exception of liturgical dance, dance typically isn’t the first art form that people think of when sacred art comes to mind. I don’t have a background in liturgical dance to speak of, but I still encountered God and grew closer him throughout my training.
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Martha Graham, an American modern dancer and choreographer that I studied throughout college, claimed that a dancer is “an athlete of God.” However, we tend to associate athletes with sports and competition. Aside from competition teams, dancers don’t compete. Performances aren’t games with opponents to be beaten and points to be won or lost. We dance to create something out of nothing. There’s power in being part of something greater than yourself and making a special, magical moment for an audience. As an ephemeral art, dance only exists in the moment in which it’s happening. That’s why we cherish those moments and make every second count, because no dance is ever exactly the same.
I think another reason why dancers are the athletes of God is because we rely on our own bodies. The human body itself is a work of art, considering that it’s the last, most complex, and most beautiful part of God’s creation. Instead of paint, clay, or musical instruments, the medium of dance is the human body. Part of the beauty of dance as an art form is its diversity. The Lord made every body different, yet beautiful, and we all have different techniques and aesthetics.
Because of this, from time to time I struggle with comparison. In class, I tend to compare myself to other dancers and wonder why I don’t look like or move like another dancer. Comparison consumed me in high school. Before it became too destructive, I learned to replace my comparisons with joy. I recognized the gifts that God gave me and realized that I wasted them when I compared myself. I opened my eyes to my own beauty and worth as a dancer and to that of the dancers around me. I learned to celebrate each dancer’s uniqueness, knowing that the dance world is more beautiful with bodies, techniques, and aesthetics of all kinds.
Any well-rounded dancer will tell you that dance training is more than just learning movement. Dance offers so many many beautiful gifts and teaches so many important lessons. Dance has helped me grow in discipline and patience, especially when working towards a goal. It made me a better team player as I grew in collaboration and listening skills. Dance is where I grew the most in critical thinking and problem-solving. Finally, dance has made me creative and intuitive as I learned the importance of artistry, originality, and self-expression.
For me, the most important takeaway from dance is that it made my heart sensitive to beauty. Dance is the biggest reason why I’m obsessed with beauty as a transcendental. I involved myself in other art forms like theatre and music, but my consistent involvement in dance has opened my eyes to see beauty everywhere and recognize the Lord in beauty. I adore the feeling of moving to the full extent of my ability. When I watch dance, I’m always left in awe at the creativity of choreography and the beauty of the human body. I can’t help but thank God for dance, perhaps the most inherent art form. Learning about beauty through dance throughout most of my life is the reason why I rely on beauty for my ministry. The human heart responds so strongly to beauty, and whether someone is a trained dancer or not, they can always find beauty and meaning in dance. Therefore, dance is a perfect way to allow souls to encounter God and fall more in love with him.
Have you ever encountered God through dance? Let me know in the comments below!
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