I never wanted Kate to dance.
I want her to smash volleyballs down the line and laugh.
I’m not kidding. Because that girl who uses her height and strength to pound a ball into the floor—that girl will not get pushed around in this world. That girl will never be a crumpled heap in a corner because of what the world did to her.
But Kate doesn’t like balls. Or smashing anything. Kate wants to dance.
So last summer, I found a dance studio in town and signed her up. It was disorganized and a bit silly, but that was ok with me because I wasn’t too serious anyhow.
I sat in the waiting room, watching my daughter on a tiny tv, listening to the other moms. They were much as I expected: catty, gossipy, whispery. Overly concerned with how big or small their daughters were in comparison with the others. The hip-hop music coming out of the big practice room was questionable. We won’t be doing hip-hop, ever I thought. One day we got an email reminding us that if our small children were a nuisance in the waiting room, we were expected to leave. I heard from a friend that some moms actually ran a dad and his toddler out the door one night.
I felt uncomfortable, but at the Christmas recital, Kate nailed it and had a wonderful time. “I LOVE dance!” she told me. We stayed.
Then in late January, the recital costumes were posted. I needed to pay $90 for something that I did not feel was appropriate for my 5 year old. I looked at what the older girls were expected to wear and saw my future—it had less and less material with every passing year. If she wanted to be serious about dance, this was not a place I was willing to make that happen.
I went home and Googled “Christian dance studio” out of desperation. I didn’t even know if such a thing existed. But it does, and right down the road from our town.
We made the switch. At the first class, I sat in front of a giant window with my daughter just on the other side. Her teacher had the girls sit in a circle and hold hands.
Then they started class with a prayer.
God sent me more Grace than I knew I needed. I wanted her in a place where modesty and grace were important. I got a place where moms and teenagers study the Bible at the studio; I’ve seen beautiful dancing to Christian music and watched kind young ladies and men mentor the little ones around them. My toddler is welcome here, with her sticky fingers and her wobbling walk. People just move around her, patting her head as they go by. The peaceful moms have smiles for every child, not just their own. I don’t sense competition, only the commitment to hold each other up. Conversations center around home school and church groups and praise choirs.
They are serious about their dance at this place, too. All the instructors are professionals, and they use the American Ballet Theater National Training Curriculum. I don’t know what that means, but there are dancers on pointe. The music is clean and Christian, even the hip-hop, and the dancers work very, very hard in their classes.
This last weekend was the recital. I knew it was going to be great. I told everyone they were going to see some beautiful dancing to great Christian music. A visual feast.
I wasn’t wrong. But I was far away from right. That’s not what happened in that theater. It wasn’t dancing.
It was worship.
The little kids were adorable in their costumes, stumbling through their dances while trying to wave at their parents.
But the older dancers, they knew what they were there for. They didn’t just dance to the songs, they felt the songs. They praised God with their arms and their legs and their spirits. They weren’t dancing for us. They were dancing for Him. And they lifted us up with them in praise and joy.
This is light years away from “Dance Moms” and mean girls.
This is about growing the gifts that God gave Kate in a way that glorifies God. This is learning that being on stage is not for her or about her, but for others, a service, a witness. This is about working for God and not for applause.
And because they were dancing for God and not themselves, they were calm, confident, spiritual.
Now I want Kate to dance with all my soul. Or at least stay with this studio long enough to learn that whatever gift she has came from God and should be offered back to Him in service and witness.
Because it’s not winning that will hold the evils of the world at bay. It’s not physical aggression that will stop her from being a crumpled heap in the corner.
That’s not what kept me safe, either.
It’s God. She has to keep her eyes on God.