If you are a dancer, you know that training and performing is not easy. It comes with many highs and lows as you continue the sometimes grueling process of training the body and perfecting the art form. Some days, we may feel like we are getting somewhere: like class or the run-through of the ballet went well, and that we performed to a level that well demonstrated our ability a dancer. Other days, we feel like we're getting nowhere: a fall in class, a bad run, or an injury bring discouragement and lead us to wonder if we really enjoy dancing anyway.
So why are we here?
The #WhyIDance article and subsequent social media exchange shed light on some of the common reasons why people choose to dance. For most people, dance gives them something. For some, it is enjoyment; for others, dance is worthwhile in that it provides an outlet for expression, exploration, or athletic achievement. And these are all great things that we do and can get from dancing. Still, if we rely on the enjoyment, the expression, the achievement - we don't have a guarantee that any of those things will be there over the long haul, or at the very least, consistently. Certainly, we can get positive things from dance, but what about the bad days? What about the long hours of expressionless drills - relevés and elevés, day in and day out? What about the pain of blisters and hours spent in pointe shoes during a long rehearsal day?
"I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin--a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ" [Phl 3:5-8 NLT]
If you're startled, that's good. As Christians, we should regularly rely on the truths of Scripture to startle us out of the worldly worldview that tends to creep into our hearts and minds as we go through life! If we can learn anything from Paul's statement here, it is that everything besides Christ is worthless in light of Christ. Or, to put in ballerina language: ballet is worthless when compared to Christ.
Yes, ballet - including all the grueling work that goes into being a dancer - is worthless when compared with Christ. Paul had gone to a lot of work to being a model Jewish guy. Grueling work. He had the perfect situation, being a "real Hebrew if there ever was one" (maybe similar to having the perfect ballet-body?), obeyed the law perfectly (maybe like perfect knowledge of Vaganova vocabulary?), and made sure that anyone who wasn't like him knew it and knew they were wrong. But, and notably, in light of Christ, he considers this all worthless. And we too as dancers should consider all, in light of Christ, worthless.
A Lasting Motivation
With this startling truth in mind, we now have to go back to the reality of ballet. If you take considering all but Christ worthless too literally, you could end up sitting in your bedroom doing nothing until Christ returns. This is not what I'm recommending! Instead, what if we were to take this attitude of valuing Christ above all us with us as we head back to ballet class? What if, instead of lasting through the next terribly slow adagio combination in search of our own joy and fulfillment, we did it in light of the worth of Christ? In light of our ability to use dancing as a means of sharing the hope of Christ with others? The happiness provided by a good pirouette is nice, but the goodness of God...if you have Christ, that will last you for eternity.