Trust a Dance Move
by Jane Tawel
June 6, 2018
If we could see the World the way God sees it, we might see something like this dance concert. In it, three little girls, all who look quite different from each other, but who obviously have the same teacher, the same desire to dance, and hopefully, the same loving families in the audience; all try to follow the directions of their off-stage director. I am sure when these children got home to their respective families, they all thought they had done a marvelous job creating something beautiful, and that is as it should be, because children do create beautiful things just by their complete joy in the creative process. But when we grow up and lose our joy in the simple act of creating something for the mere pleasure of creating and sharing, we lose something basic and critical to our humanity, and more importantly to our God-image.
This video is a visual parable that I imagine Jesus would love. One little girl is so terrified she doesn’t dance at all. One little girl has her eyes on the off-stage director but eventually gets distracted looking at the dress of her neighbor and eventually is on the floor crawling around on the dusty stage. The other little girl, who is black, which in this world still means something, looks back and forth between the off -stage director and her loving father whom you can hear chuckling behind the video camera. If Jesus were telling stories today, He might substitute this dance parable for His own parable about the seeds sown in different kinds of ground.
We have an Off-Stage Director, too. And when we are children or young in our faith and our innocent hope is intact in our belief in a Director Who cares; we keep our eyes trustingly focused on the Director of the Dance. But eventually and tragically, most of us lose that childlike faith in the Off-Stage Director. We decide the applause really is because we are just so “all that” and fantastic. Or maybe the applause ends after a while and all we can hear is the critical and skeptical World judging us. So maybe we stop dancing all together and we figure that the Great Heavenly Director doesn’t think too much of our dancing abilities either.
I am truly – and I say this with much self-love – the world’s worst dancer. I am the world’s geekiest dancer and I have seen Bill Gates dance, so there you have it. My children long ago forbade me to dance, so as not to embarrass them, even in the privacy of our own home. I secretly wonder if this why my husband calls me “Chicken” because when I dance I look like a poorly plucked chicken trying to escape the frying pan – and this is not when I am in fact doing that old stand-by, “The Funky Chicken”, that great practical joke of a dance that Rufus Thomas played on unsuspecting “white boys and girls”. (I do happen to do the Funky Chicken pretty well.)
When I dance, I look like a cross between a scarecrow in a tornado and a sock puppet of Ichabod Crane on steroids. The only one who has ever enjoyed dancing with me is my dog, Jolie. And she scratches when she does the waltz so it is always a bit risky on my part to accept her as a partner. I came of age in the eighties, when music was such that you could pretty much dance like a geek and get away with it. Or so I thought. Add to that, the fact that I lived in a part of the world where dancing was still frowned on, with people believing that the Devil loved him some Disco for sure. Take my history into account and I really ought to be able to claim disability payments for what my dance moves have done to my psyche. Come to think of it, my children have probably already each claimed disability for the trauma that watching me dance has caused them.
But as I watch the video-taped children dance, I think about what dancing is really for. Whom is it really for? Last night my husband and I went to a local event that brought back some of the traditions and ideas of American Chautauqua. Many lovely moments were created but one was a time of group line and square dancing – no abilities required other than the desire to have fun dancing and the ability to follow the Caller’s directions. There was also a Chautauqua Campfire Sing-along. Being there made me realize how much we have lost in community to our individual pursuits and how much we have given up doing things just for the sheer enjoyment of doing them –no applause, no payment, no fame necessary.
What would it take to see each day as a chance to join in the great joy-filled community-based Dance of Life? No one was ever created to prefer dancing by oneself. What would it take to get back to being able and willing to listen to The Great Caller’s Directions in this Dance of Life? None of us was created to dance without loving Directions.
I think about what it would take for some people to get back on the stage and not dance for the applause but to dance for the praise of the Great Off-Stage Director. I think about my years of dancing for the applause that ultimately was never loud enough, never long enough, never enough; and then even more years of my hearing the figurative, metaphoric boos and hisses that my insecure soul feels about all my life’s work – the seeming lack of confirmation of anything well done, the losses, the fears, the mistakes, the egregious sins both large and small.
I think about how many times I have been the little girl standing off to the side, too afraid to start dancing in front of everyone. How many times, like the little girl in the middle, have I lost my balance twirling in this spinning Globe’s pathetic imitation of God’s Great Created Dance Moves? How many times have I been obsessed and taken my eyes off the Director to covet my neighbor’s stuff; how often have I fallen to the ground and not been able to stop worrying about things and get back into The Dance?
What would it take for me to embrace the fact that the way I see my dancing – even the way those I love see my dancing—even my most loving audience members – does not truly matter as long as I am dancing because I love to dance and because I love them and because ultimately, I want to honor my Director? Whether the gig of life is a long run or a short run, what ultimately matters is if I am following with attentive joy, my Life-Dance cues by The Director of The Dance. What matters is if I trust and obey. He, who Choreographed The Waltzing Stars, the Grooving Whales, the Gliding Worms, the Twirling Starlings, the Hip-Hopping Hippos, and all the dancing children of this world,– He can direct my moves.
I like to imagine that Heaven is a place where I will have endless time to learn things. I plan on learning the cello and playing it with Mozart directing. I will finally learn to draw from Vincent and Raphael, just for starters. And I plan on spending a few thousand years learning to dance – it will take at least that long. But truthfully, I imagine when, God willing, I am finally caught up in that Great Dance among the Heavens, that none of us will need to learn to dance and no one will be dancing for the applause. We will all be too eternally elated to be moving with The Great Director and Creator of The Dance, Who will no longer be Off-Stage, but dancing brilliantly and gloriously amongst us.
In the video with the children, the song they are dancing to includes this paraphrase of the words of Jesus’s instructions from when He came from Off-Stage to live among us On-Stage. As Bob Marley prophesies and admonishes: “Don’t worry. Every little thing is going to be alright.”
The Creator of the Dance, with a love for us despite our disabilities, fears, and missteps, assures us humans, “If I am watching over the smallest sparrow dance, surely I will watch over your dance moves.” Young MC, might not advise a geeky dancer like me to “bust a move”; but The Great Director whispers to my heart from Off-Stage, “Trust a Move”.
And so once upon another time, this geeky funky chicken gets up, adjusts her tutu, prays for Off-Stage guidance, and heads back out on that Dance Floor.