Hi everyone! So, I recently got back from a two week dance intensive in Syracuse, New York. Every year Light of the World Ballet (LWB), a professional Christian ballet company(here’s the link to their website: http://www.lightoftheworldballet.com), has a Summer Dance Outreach (SDO) program. The first week consists of training and the second week is full of performances at different places throughout Syracuse. This was my very first time going to a dance program like this, and I made a diary entry about the entire experience. I thought I would share it with you guys. Enjoy!
Yesterday was the last day of the LWB SDO. I cried and cried as we drove away. I’ve met some of the most amazing people these past two weeks. I already miss them like crazy. Let me back up and take you through my time there, so that I’ll always have these memories to look back on.
The week before I attended the Outreach, I was a nervous wreck. I was anxious about everything! On July 18th I arrived in Syracuse after about a five hour drive. I met my two counselors, Kristie and Rachel, who ended up having the nicknames Mommy K and Momma Rae. Both ladies are professional dancers in the LWB company and two of the most wonderful, loving people I’ve ever met.
I stayed in one of the homes used to house the LWB trainees. The trainees are allowed to go home during the summer, so none of them were there. The house consisted of two levels and one very creepy basement. Each level was its own apartment. I shared the first level with two other girls and Momma Rae. Four other girls lived with Mommy K upstairs. We all became like one big family.
On the first day, I was the first dancer to arrive. I met everyone else as the day progressed. At that point, there were still awkward silences between us here and there. I wondered how close we would be by the end of the two weeks, or if we would even really connect.
The following day, we went to Momma Rae’s and Mommy K’s church. After that came the placement class. The purpose of this class was to put you in a level, intermediate or advanced, and also to give you a part in the show about Harriet Tubman that we would be performing next week. It was called Follow The North Star.
At the placement class, one company member gave out combinations while three others sat in the front of the room, occasionally writing something down. I felt that I danced quite poorly, though I thought my one good point may have been when we had to go across the floor and act scared. I remember thinking that I either looked really cool or really stupid.
Monday dawned and I made it into the advanced level and earned my part as a slave in the show. Around this time I learned a very interesting fact that surprised me. Out of the twenty something girls that came to the Outreach, I was only one of five people who didn’t attend the LWB school and one of two who didn’t live in NY. That was one thing that I didn’t expect.
The first week, we arrived at the studio every day at 9:30 AM and left at 6:30 PM. The schedule for that week included devotions, personal devotions, ballet, pointe, modern, conditioning, rehearsal for the performance, and sometimes creative worship. I loooooooooooooooooooooooooved creative worship and cried during multiple sessions. We would do different things in creative worship. Sometimes we tried to convey different things through dance, other times we would freestyle and still other times we would just sit and soak in God’s benevolent presence. Christian music played the entire time.
The first week of camp, as far as dancing goes, was rough for me. I felt like I danced horribly. I struggled with perfection and messed up and forgot easy combinations. It became a big problem, so I did the only thing I know how to do when I get in those situations: I prayed. It worked. As the week progressed, I became stronger and stronger as anxiety rolled off my shoulders. There was still one part of the day that I couldn’t conquer: rehearsal. I would get really nervous for some reason and couldn’t act out my part as well as I knew I could. I got so afraid of making mistakes that I would make mistakes.
The biggest lesson that I learned at the LWB SDO was about perfection, that unattainable thing. I kept trying to be perfect at everything. I wanted to be flawless in my social life, in my personal relationship with God, as a dancer. Of course, it’s impossible to be perfect and the more I failed to reach my high standards the worse I felt.
My desire for social perfection came from insecurity. I think almost everyone struggles with this at some point. I thought that in order for people to really like me, I needed to talk and act perfect all the time. In reality, most people prefer to be around people who are their authentic, real selves, regardless of whether or not they make mistakes. I was able to be my unadulterated, true self at the LWB SDO and I learned that you don’t always have to be really mature. It’s okay to act super silly some of the time.
As far as spiritual perfection, I thought the more flawless I was the closer I would be to God. I thought it would bring me happiness and satisfaction.Jesus revealed to me that my strive for perfection, the very thing I thought would bring us closer, was really hindering me from Him and His love.
As far as dancing, I’ve struggled with wanting to be the best dancer for a long time. However, when it comes to performing to show people God’s love, you don’t work hard in class so that everyone can look at you and tell you that you’re best. You work hard so that you can get the point and message across to your audience. Not many people will want to sit and watch a dancer who can’t really dance. However, if you can dance well then as LWB says, you can break down all sorts of barriers.
As the second week began, I released my tight on grip on the hunt for perfection and it felt wonderful. I could dance freely.
The second week was truly amazing. We performed at adult homes and rehab buildings, refugee centers, a church camp, and for family and friends. We danced under pretty uncomfortable conditions. We never danced on stages and usually didn’t have much room to perform. Most of the time, our dressing rooms were tiny and got very hot very quickly. Sweat became our best friend. Our costumes included multiple layers, the weather remained in the 90s all week and for some reason most of the places we danced were already fairly hot inside. The hardest day was when we had to dance two shows outside underneath the hot sun in 95 degree weather wearing sneakers. At the end of every performance that week, my costumes were stained with sweat, my hair was frizzy, and I smelled like a raw onion. Yet it was all worth it when I saw the joy it brought to our audiences and when doctors, employees, and organization owners would profusely thank us for coming. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to touch a life, and I loved it.
The last day came, and my family almost missed the performance for parents and supporters due to traffic. I internally had an emotional breakdown because I was scared that they wouldn’t make it. They arrived just in time. After we danced our show for the last time, it was time to go home. I’ve met some of the most loving people these past two weeks. Light of the World’s 2015 Summer Dance Outreach will remain cherished in my heart forever.