I’m so excited to share with you the dance my class of modern dance students shared at our homeschool graduation celebration (there is a fun surprise in the middle, too).
With every dance, there is a story, a story of our weakness, our labor, our faith, and of God’s provision, faithfulness, and revelation. I want to share the story of this dance because the Lord taught me something that is changing me.
If you have followed me for long, you know that I often question myself, my calling, often wrestle with doubts about my fitness.
Have you ever agreed to dance and wished you hadn’t?
Have you ever contemplated backing out of a ministry assignment the night before?
Do you ever question your call to dance in the middle of an assignment?
I do these things more often than I would like to admit. : Last Saturday evening, the night before I was to dance at my own church for Pentecost, I seriously contemplated backing out. In this post, I share what kept me from doing that and what I learned about the choreography process that may help you as well. I also (spoiler alert) include a video of the dance I did end up sharing. Continue reading “When you wish you hadn’t said “Yes””
What do you do when you are asked to choreograph but feel your plate is already full?
Is it okay to reuse choreography from a dance?
How do you take a solo dance and turn it into a group dance?
This year, while I have been far more silent on my blog than I would like, I’ve had the joy of being very active in choreographing and dancing, in teaching live classes, leading an online study group, and choreographing for another church.
If I someone had presented me with all the assignments at once and asked me if I could take them on this year, I likely would have declined a couple of them.
However, with each opportunity that came my way, I felt the inner “yes” and went ahead, and for each assignment, I have been given what I need to complete it. More than that, I have experienced a synergy between the assignments that has been a joy and a delight.
So, I want to share my stories with you so and give you some tips that will enable you to, under the Lord’s leading, complete more than you think is possible. I also hope it will help you see how the Lord is constantly at work, weaving together the details of our lives into His larger tapestry.
I’ve been teaching a beginner modern dance class to teens this year. I absolutely love it. I was scared to teach it, because previously, I had not taught a technique class. I’d taught expressive movement and worship and left the technique to others. (By the way, Lynn Hayden’s Modern Dance I and Modern Dance II DVDs have been an indispensable tool in improving my own technique and also developing a structure for my class.)
The Lord really gave me the dance we ended up sharing at our winter performance with very little extra effort on my part. The choreography process was unlike all my other choreography processes. I had several assignments for my Dancing for Him Level 3 school that involved choreographing two counts of eight of music. I had fun teaching these to my students. Then I simply strung them together, and it became this dance. I didn’t even initially choreograph it for this song. I choreographed the counts and they ended up fitting really nicely with this song.
I look at the dance and marvel that He made it so easy, and I think the dance was beautiful and thoroughly worshipful. Girls with no previous dance experience and those with many years of experience loved dancing it. Their parents were deeply blessed, as was our community and the nursing home where we shared it.
But for our spring offering, I had nothing for the first half of the semester. We played with one song, but I simply did not have a leading. Until Palm Sunday.
On Palm Sunday, I ministered a solo dance to our congregation and a sister congregation. The choreography process was actually arduous for me, filled with uncertainty and struggle. I had to keep going back to the Lord and asking, “Am I supposed to do this? What do I do next?” But in the end, He gave me a dance that ministered. When I finished it, I knew that I had my dance for my modern dance students. I could see how this solo could be bigger, more moving, and more powerful with a group. So, we are working that our right now. I look forward to sharing it with you. Here is the solo.
For now, though, I want to share a few tips on turning a solo into a group dance:
For the introduction: Use floor patterns of movement. Where the solo dancer may just dance down the aisles, see the group coming in from different corners and moving in a circle.
For the body: Use cannon in movement. Where the solo dancer might walk for eight counts, have one dancer begin the sequence, and a couple more dancers enter every two counts.
At key moments in the dance: Don’t underestimate the power of unison movement. When your movements are simple, having everyone do the same thing at once for a sequence is very powerful.
For expressive movements: Try group shapes instead of gesturing a movement individually. Consider how the dancers as a group can embody that movement. (There is a part in the dance above when I go back to gesture to the cross. In the group dance, two dancers will form a cross with their bodies. The others will dance facing that cross.)
Turning a solo dance into a group dance is a delightful challenge. Where the dancer may be able to execute more complex choreography herself, the group together, each doing simple movements, create a sequence that is even more visually interesting.
A fantastic resource to give you more ideas is Lynn Hayden’s Creative Worship DVD. You will go away with so many ideas you’ll be looking for a dance to choreograph.
I have so much more to share on this topic, how I used the chorus of the dance I choreographed for one church in my kids praise dance class, how I’ve used so much that I learned from leading a prophetic veils study group in both my modern dance and kids praise dance classes, and how the Lord really does know how our assignments fit together.
But I’m going to close this long article here. I would love to hear from you. Please share in the comments:
Can you share an example where the synergy between your assignments allowed you to participate in more than you would have thought possible?
Do you re-use choreography? If so, how do you make sure you are still bringing something fresh from the Lord?
The bible says there is a time for everything, a time to weep and … a time to dance. Last week I shared with you my dance of lament.
This week, I share with you a dance that brought me joy, even during a difficult time. I have the privilege of teaching beginner level modern dance to these young women at Ecclesia Classes. They shared this dance at our Christmas presentation last week. I hope it blesses you.
If you are looking for a good modern dance workout that you can do at home, I highly recommend the Modern Dance I and Modern Dance II DVDs by Lynn M. Hayden.
While music and dance go hand in hand, using the spoken word without music can be very powerful, especially to tell a story, bring a word from the Lord, or to teach through your dance.
If you find a portion of scripture that jumps off the page to you, you don’t have to find a song about that scripture to use it to minister. You can put the spoken word to movement. Likewise, if you find a poem or quote that you think would speak powerfully to others, embodying it with movement can really bring the word to life.
In the video below, I dance to a portion of poetry from A Bride Made Ready by Wesley Scott Amos that gave me a powerful picture of Christ’s relationship with His church and with me.
Let me tell you a little about this inspired book.
I read A Bride Made Ready in two days but will meditate on it for a long time. This poetic book gave me a beautiful picture of what it means to be saved and cherished by Jesus and also to be part of what He has been doing in His Church over the millennia and will one day complete. The author presents theologically sound truths even as he touches the heart with the love story of Jesus and His Church.
I so appreciated that Amos roots his story and teaching in scripture. He holds together two vital truths: It is God who calls, justifies, and sanctifies and by His grace qualifies (Romans 8:30) us to be His and makes us beautiful. At the same time, we have a part in becoming ready for what He has called us to. We walk in faith, in response to His faithfulness; we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12); we yield to His sanctification; and so we have a part in being made ready. Amos holds these two truths together in every verse of his poem.
The poem also touched my heart, as Amos tells the love story of Jesus and His bride. I was especially moved by the final chapter. In this chapter, Amos describes a scene when the Accuser points out the sin and failings of God’s people throughout history. In response to each accusation, the Lord describes how he sees each man and woman, highlighting deeds done in faith, perfected by Jesus. And these deeds touch His heart, making it swell with love. In each person, the Lord sees a foreshadowing of the great day when His perfected bride, the Church, will worship Him at the wedding feast. This made me love the Lord so much, that He would see such good in us and would make our halting obedience into a thing of great beauty and purpose.
If you would like to learn more about this book, you can find it here.
Are you taking any dance classes right now? If not, I encourage you to, and if you don’t feel you can, I share a super affordable resource for improving your training at home.
As worship dancer said at a workshop I attended, Get training so that your body doesn’t get in the way of what your spirit wants to say.
Jocelyn Richard, my mentor, always encourages her students invest in their training, to take live classes in the studio. This week, I took a modern dance class where I met another sister who has been mentored by Jocelyn, Jennifer Oliver. We took the picture below for Jocelyn, to let her know we were together and were investing in our training. We wanted to make her proud.
I’ve been taking another modern dance class on Saturdays for the past couple of years. You’ve probably heard me share about how challenging this class is. The other students are way above my level, enough so that I often have to talk myself into going (Read my story about this class When is it Okay to Give Up? If you need encouragement.) Even though I often feel super clumsy in class, I can see a big difference in my technique. Pastor Lynn noticed it at the last conference I attended with her. There is nothing like being in a live class where you get stretched beyond your comfort level and receive correction.
Having said that, few of us have the time or resources to take as many live classes as we would like to. We are mothers with kids at home, or we work full time, or we are busy with our own dance ministries. And live classes are expensive. They’re worth it, but you still have to have the money in the bank to write the check. So, most of us don’t take as many classes as we’d like.
The ronde de jambe is one of my favorite movements in dance. It is so graceful and communicates reverence and adoration. So, when given the assignment to create a tutorial from Lynn Hayden’s Ballet III DVD, I chose her ronde de jambe sequence. You can watch this 4 minutes video below. Enjoy and feel free to borrow from for your own choreography. Continue reading “Worshipful Ronde de Jambe sequence”
Last October, I felt led to take a sabbatical from my blog and email community for a season. That decision came after a soul searching conversation with my friend Marlita Hill, who has a way of helping draw out from me my heart concerns as well as hopes. You can read more about that conversation here.
Now, I’m standing at the other end of that sabbatical and it’s time to share the gifts that came out of that time with the hope that it will encourage you.
Veils are a beautiful addition to worship dance. They add beauty, glory, drama and effect to your dance. They help tell a story, and you can use them to communicate emotion when you dance. In this video, you’ll learn techniques for using veils in your worship dances and see several examples of dances using veils in solo dances and also in a group dance.
The teaching from this video comes from the Veils and Dance DVD by Lynn Hayden. There are even more creative ideas for using veils on this DVD as well as an entire choreographed dance for a group of three or four dancers. I took the ideas from this DVD to create an entirely new dance that ministered powerfully to our congregation. You can watch this here and also read about 4 things I learned about preparing a group dance.
The veil used in this dance was made from 1 yard of 42″ wide fabric, cut down the center to form two veils with 21″ width. Then, I simply sewed a hem around the border to prevent the fabric from fraying. Often, at JoAnne’s fabrics, I will look through the remnants for fabric to create new veils. It’s inexpensive and often there are beautiful pieces from which to choose.
I’ve also used these veils as tunics in other worship dances by simply simply sewing a hook and eye on them so they could be attached at the shoulders.
Adding depth and interest to your choreography is simple, but it is not easy. I think each participant at last Saturday’s choreography workshop with Marlita Hill in Pasadena would echo that sentiment.
Going into the workshop, Marlita assured that we would learn how to turn simple movements into creative phrases that fill the space, song, and stage and communicate God’s heart. She also said we would learn how to communicate our choreography to others so that they can easily and effectively follow. We did both of those things.
Marlita walked us through a series of exercises that taught a slice of Laban’s Analysis of Movement in a way that was simpler than anything else I’ve heard before. It made complex choreography teaching accessible. But it was not easy.
We worked hard. Each exercise called us to work harder, dig deeper, and stretch further. The results were very satisfying. Each of us walked away having choreographed a short dance that told a story about who we are.
In addition, one of us had the opportunity to teach her dance to the rest of us. Marlita coached her on how to teach dancers to turn (Who among us hasn’t asked our students to turn, and then stepped back and watched the turns go in varying directions, losing our unity at that point?), travel, and replicate timing in a way that preserved the integrity of the dance and the team unity.
So, thank you to those who prayed for this workshop. We felt your prayers and they were effective. And thank you to each woman who participated, who took risks, dug deeper, and shared their movements with us.
Watch this 3-minute video recap. Just watching this short clip, you’ll get ideas for how to take your own simple movements and add depth, interest, and power.