Dancing Shoes

ballet shoesAs a child I read Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes, a lovely story about three little orphan girls. It also made me want to dance. I couldn’t take ballet lessons, so I got a library book home on the various basic steps for ballet dancers and in my room, I practiced the positions in the book, pretending my dresser was my barre. Not having a leotard, I used my bathing suit and pretended.

Dance was not something that the evangelical and fundamentalist world accepted. It was considered fleshly/sinful and dangerous. Classical ballet was included in that definition. Rumors swirled about a female member of a local fundamentalist church who had the audacity to want to open a dance studio. It was a sort of dark blot on her name, a possible sign of fleshly leanings.  “A dancing foot and a praying knee don’t grow on the same limb,” was a favorite quote, darkly intoned, from Billy Sunday, the itinerant evangelist of years ago. But what about that anyway?

It always seemed to me then and it still seems to me now  that if we really believe what we claim to believe as Christians, we have good reason for a physical expression of joy and freedom. What appealed to me about the ballet as a child was that feeling of a fresh wind lifting my spirit watching the grace and beauty of dancers. I studied the photographs of the great ballerinas in my library books. They looked like they were floating on air at times. I wished I could do that.

The performing arts are a gift to us as humans. I remember watching Swan Lake in the audience years later (with my Tom playing in the orchestra pit) and seeing the corps of dancers all in a lovely line in their bright costumes. I felt tears come to my eyes. The stamp of God was so clear to me in the order and beauty, the grace, and the gorgeous music.  What a talented creation He made!

I think the same thing every time I see various cultural dance displays. I love watching Irish dancers in their beautiful outfits. I watched a display of Asian dancers in their bright costumes the other night in a video. It is fascinating to watch African dance and hear the various rhythms and sounds of all parts of the world. Each culture’s dance unique and interesting in its own way. Humans were made with this desire. It’s hard-wired into us.

One of my all time favorite memories is from an evening with Tom’s aunt and her husband who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with loved ones and friends. There was a little polka band there in the church hall that night. I watched this delightful couple, still so in love after all that time, dancing together. It was a happy scene full or God-given joy with family surrounding them.

Life can be full of sorrow and discouragement and grief. There’s a time for mourning. But there is also a time for joy. If we don’t try to find a few moments for joy, if we don’t teach our children to shut off the news for a moment and turn on some joyful music, we’re pathetic examples to them them. Life is hard. Very hard. But even at dark moments you have to stop and say, “Thanks, Lord. I am still alive and I’m still alive inside! I’m grateful for every day I have.”

Emmy likes to twirl and whirl to music. I love it when she does that. I always think, Be joyful, little girl, and let the wings in your spirit lift you high in the air. Don’t let anybody ever take those wings away.  No matter what.

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4 thoughts on “Dancing Shoes

  1. Sam says:

    Excellent and so very true. We humans are creatures of both body and spirit. To ignore or condemn one or the other leads inevitably to heresy.

    Orthodox Christianity never rejects the physical or the bodily nature of our faith, for it recognizes that the miracle of miracles is the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The eternal Logos, the Wisdom of God, the brightness of the Father, became embodied in human flesh. Put another way, the God we worship has a human body, and he will forevermore. If one ponders this great mystery of the Faith sufficiently, it will become obvious that is simply impossible to condemn the body as something inherently unholy.

    I remember a book I found in the library of a local Christian ministry called, “The Ball-Room to Hell.” It was a fundamentalist condemnation of dancing of any sort. At the time, I remember laughing at the absurdity of it. But deep down, I believe it was founded upon a modern Gnosticism, a deeply-rooted suspicion that body can really be something good. I thank God this is not the case.

  2. Tom says:

    Yes, thank God for the arts, that He passed down His creative nature to His created creatures.
    We are to reflect God’s nature, and so, in the end, art is really for God’s sake. In fact, there’s a good book by that title: “Art for God’s Sake” by Phillip Ryken. It’s a great read. Thanks for reminding us of where this all comes from!

  3. Denise says:

    My mother was a Christian lady who loved dancing—waltzes and polkas. She loved weddings where there was dancing. Even in her old age, she “cut a rug” as best she could. She also taught me to play Rummy and Euchre. Her advice to me: Beware of fanatics who try to turn everything into a sin.

  4. fearfullywonderfullyme says:

    I love this post! I like to dance around my house (although I am no good), and I always feel the Holy Spirit move within me. I think dancing to be sexually provocative is sinful, but just like with anything, if you do it for the wrong reasons it can become sinful.

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