“God, I think You can speak through anyone You want to…. You can use her to speak into my life.” This thought seemed rather out of place as I took my spot at the barre to begin ballet class that morning, but yet, it was there, and I could not get it out of my mind that something was going to happen that day. A few weeks before, the Lord had challenged me, asking me the question: “what if I asked you to give up ballet entirely?” The question was utterly perplexing because just months before that, I believed God was calling me to ministry within the context of working with young dancers. Nevertheless, I took seriously what God was asking of me, wondering if it was merely a reminder to hold it in an open palm or if it was an actual command to open my fingers and watch it slip through. That day in ballet, the struggle was not over, and as I worked my muscles to the core, I worked my thoughts hard as well, wondering if I was doing what God had asked of me, or merely letting my passion for ballet take over my will, substituting my desire for God’s call.
Suddenly, the combination ended our seventy year old ballet teacher let out a loud sigh. “Today I am in a very strange mood my dears. This is going to be a different class. I just feel like you’re not truly dancing…” I can speak through her, Rachel, I heard the Lord whisper. “Today, my loves, you will dance. I continue to give you corrections about how to hold your muscles, how to work properly, and what will keep you on balance, but do you know what that does? All it does is help you use your muscles and gets you on balance… I cannot teach you to be an artist. This, you have to find somewhere inside. You have to know what you are dancing for and express it.”
The rest of the barre was not an exercise in movement, but in passion. I felt as if I was being coached from all different angles. Our teacher was incensed, yelling in her raspy voice, “feel the music” “connect to something” “be an artist” “make a mistake! Stop being so cautious!” and the Lord, quietly whispering, inviting… dance for Me, beloved. I am Your audience. You are beautiful to me and I love Your worship when you dance for Me. I tried so hard during the barre to make sense out of it, but I was still feeling as if I could not break free from the bondage of trying to be the perfect ballerina. I was still striving.
We moved into the centre and began the slow movements of the adagio combination. The teacher came over to me as I began to dance throughout the studio, following my movements and encouraging me, specifically, to be an artist and not a technician. Throughout the rest of class, more tidbits of advice were given, culminating in her final speech before the last combination, of course, the grande allegro. Her speech was as follows:
“The problem I’m seeing is that you are afraid. You are afraid of me, of the other dancers, and of doing something well. You do not put yourself out there, for fear of man. I don’t care if you mess up a step, I care that you are an artist. You walk into an audition. If you are merely a technician, worrying only about the steps and doing things perfectly, they will judge you based off of technique. But if you are a dancer, and you do not merely perform steps, they cannot judge you based off of technique, because you are free. You are offering them art, not steps. Do not do steps… DANCE!”
Suddenly, it clicked. I knew how I did in the ballet studio had to be intrinsically linked to Jesus and that my struggles with idolizing ballet were more than surface level. In her own, unique, non-Christian way, she had preached the gospel to me. For, it is by GRACE I have been saved. I do not have to worry about the letter of the Law and cannot be judged based off of the Law, because I am free in Christ. Legalism is doing steps. Living in grace is dancing.
We did the last combination and I finally understood. The presence of God felt so real as I realized I was likely the only one dancing there that knew the Lord. Suddenly, I flew. The movement connected and truly felt like worship. I was having my first truly spiritual experience while dancing. After the combination, I was snapped back to earth by a delighted shout from the teacher. “Long legs! (that’s her nickname for me) You finally got it! You danced!” That is grace, Rachel, how I want you to experience grace.
This posts’ author, Rachel Hargis, a former ballet dancer and graduate of Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Woman’s Ministry, currently serves as Ballet 5:8’s Development Associate, working with the company in several different capacities. Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts students are most likely to see Ms. Rachel on Monday nights, when she works as part of the Front Desk Team.