Dancing seems to be the theme lately. On Tuesday night at 7:30pm, I mustered up every ounce of courage I had and tried something completely new: modern dance at the School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas. 1 1/2 hours later, I left the studio with bruised knees and a huge smile on my face. With how ridiculously happy I was, you would think I had discovered I was a modern dance prodigy, but oh no...I had spent the evening completely out of my element, attempting échappés and throwing myself on the floor in carefully choreographed wild abandon.
And I loved it.
When I first arrived at the studio that night, I waited outside Studio C in my halter top and yoga pants wondering what the heck I was about to do. A child's class was just ending and out came a troop of little girls in pink tights and black leotards with their hair in buns. I noticed a sign posted on a bulletin board with the "standard rules" of the studio, and my eyes went straight to Rule #4: "You must wear deodorant." I giggled to myself. If that was to stop people from stinking up the studio, they were in for a rude awakening. Not even the best pit armor could stop this smelly girl.
A few moments later, our small muscular teacher, Kate, ushered us into the studio, and we began stretching. So far, so good. You're an intermediate yoga practitioner, I reminded myself. There was a day when you didn't know how to do a single yoga position. You can do this! I assured myself that no one knew I was a first-timer, but I couldn't hold it in and blurted it out to the twenty-something Asian girl stretching next to me. "Oh, you'll be fine," she said with a wave of her hand. "Especially since you can do yoga." Other students trickled in until there were about 7 of us, a mix of those in our twenties and a few older teenage girls. I looked around the studio anxiously and excitedly. There were ballet barres lining the walls. People were wearing legwarmers...pulled over their heels. I wasn't sure if those were functional or just a fashionable flashback to 1985.
I secured my spot in the back corner, and we began warm-ups which were all centered around the standard ballet positions. Problem numero uno: I had no clue how to do the standard ballet positions. So I kept my eyes fixated on Kate and the girl in front of me, summoning every graceful bone in my body. But when the next challenge came, I was on my own: we were given a real, bona fide 8-count modern dance routine. We were no longer stationary - we were making our way across the entire studio floor. There were spins. There were jazz hands. And then we had to do it in front of everyone, in groups of two.
I had no choice, so I threw myself out there and tried with all my might. Of course I missed half the steps each time and my bare feet squeaked on the floor when I attempted the spins. But I did it! I did it! And it was fun!
As I smiled giddily (when you've made that much of a fool of yourself, what else can you do?), my sweet Asian friend continued to encourage me: “You’re doing great! Seriously, I can’t believe you’ve never done this before!” She was probably just being nice, but still, this was a breakthrough for me! I looked like an idiot, and I didn't care! Because I was putting myself out there. I had decided I wanted to learn to dance, and I was doing it!
Fast-forward to Friday night. I had the opportunity to attend the Women of Faith conference here in Dallas, and the theme was "Amazing Freedom." I was still on an emotional high from my dance class earlier that week and was feeling empowered. Not only did I finally get to hear Nichole Nordeman, whose songs have been themes to many moments in my life, but the main speaker of the evening was Patsy Clairmont, a 60-something fireball with spiked hair wearing a red leather blazer and designer jeans. She was hilarious! As she animatedly danced and swayed across the stage, no one could believe she had once suffered from agoraphobia. She said the theme of her talk was "I Hope You Dance".
I sat on the edge of my seat.
Patsy told us about how hear fears had crippled her for so much of her adult life. She used to be scared to even leave the house - so fearful of all the "what if's". The turning point came when her friends dragged her across the world for the first time, to Israel. You see, Patsy had a long list of "I don't do"'s, and on this trip to Israel, she soon realized she was going to have to start doing them if she was really going to keep living. For starters, she "didn't do" trips out of the house, much less halfway across the world. She "didn't do" planes, but she was on a series of overseas flights. She "didn't do" heights, but she had to take a cable car (which she described as a Tic Tac box hanging from a piece of floss) to the top of the cliffs at Masada.
Once she got to the top, she was so scared she was literally frozen in place and couldn't take a single step. There was an amazing vista awaiting her, but her fear prevented her from moving forward. In that moment, she realized something important about God. For so long, she had asked God to heal her agoraphobia. She wouldn't dare to attempt anything scary until God fixed her first. But what God wanted her to do was first take the daring step, and then He would give her the freedom she so desired. He was asking her to dance, and she had to take the first step. At the top of Masada, she literally prayed herself through each baby step to the edge of the mountain. When she passed through the arch, she saw that God had gotten out His watercolors and painted the entire sky overlooking the Dead Sea. It was breathtaking.
I got tears in my eyes, partly out of regret for all the things I've missed because of my "I don't do" list and partly out of joy for my dancing attempt earlier in the week. I decided now I was no longer going to sit it out - I was going to dance.
So on Saturday morning, I went back to the dance studio for more. This time I tried ballet! It was even more difficult...probably the hardest thing I ever tried to do! Every muscle in my body is sore after two dance classes in one week and I have an even greater respect for the art form of dance.
Something in me has changed. I'm learning courage. I'm learning to be comfortable being me. I'm learning to be a little daring, in fashion as much as emotion. I’m not completely sure if the legwarmers are functional or fashionable....but I'll take a pair in every color. Stripes and polka dots too.