Let’s start with a little story. When I was 4 years old, I took a ballet class. I’m not sure if I was drawn to the idea of being a ballerina, or if my mom felt pressure to put me in activities like the rest of her friends and their daughters at our church. I took the classes, learned to point my toes, and got the bumblebee costume for the recital. I do not remember many of the details of the classes, except for one everlasting memory. Come the night of the dress rehearsal, I got pulled off stage by my teacher because I was hitting another little girl in my class. Mind you, she was in my spot! I had the yellow “X” and this little lady was in my way! So I stood up for myself, and well, was removed from the stage.
I danced on-and-off again until awkward puberty hit, and my height and my love handles didn’t quite fit in with the girls taking 4-10 classes a week, those lining up for point shoes, and neat costumes and weekend competitions. I turned my attention to Science Olympiad – eesh – and to tennis and getting A’s. Yet, I kept my dance bag with my name embroidered in red, and three pairs of dance shoes – jazz, ballet, and tap. Maybe my 13 year old self knew I would once again return.
Time passed, I graduated from high school, and started college, and somehow came across my first pair of ballet slippers hiding in a closet, or a drawer at my parent’s house. I took them out and put them on my dresser, as a reminder of the little girl that still lives inside me. The worn pink leather, my name scrawled in Sharpie in my mom’s handwriting, the delicate nature of small slippers used by young children – all of these things make me cherish my first pair of dancing shoes.
I used to make so much fun of my dad for keeping everything – our VHS movies, our toys, our art, our shoes. These shoes. Quite honestly, I’m not sure if it was Mom or Dad who saved these treasures, but in his absence, these shoes mean so much more to me. We need to remember our inner child, and the joy that comes from dancing. These slippers greet me each morning as I pick out my clothes, and serve as a reminder to remember the little girl who once used them.
As part of my healing process, and an effort to keep moving forward in life, I signed up for a dance class for adults this year. I got out my old dance bag, and my ballet slippers from age 13 still fit. They are not nearly as adorable, but they hold much potential for healing, movement, and joy.
When I went to my first dance class last week I was absolutely stunned at the beautiful atmosphere that was cultivated in the studio. Women ranging in ages from 18-62 joined together, all types of bodies, all different levels of experience, and we were given the freedom to move.
Much to my surprise, the week’s prompt and meditation focus was moving from sorrow to joy. Never have I felt so called by God to be in a space. The bible verse shared that night was Isaiah 43:2. It was like God was speaking directly to me, saying I see you, I’m with you, you will make it through this. My heart still is overwhelmed by the powerful essence of healing and hope Lighthouse Dance created on an ordinary weeknight.
There is beauty to be found in a grown woman’s old ballet slippers, in returning to a space of dance and joy, and in experiencing God’s presence in the most unexpected of places. Beauty in the gifts of graceful reminders that come from people who do not know your struggles, truth that provides hope, community that allows acceptance of diversity and challenge. Beauty in moving forward, and in remembering that with each point of the toe we build on who we once were and can dance our way into who we are meant to be.