TITLE: Simply Blissful (Part 1) updated 12/23/15
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What do you do that is simply blissful? Something that puts you “in the zone,” the world fades away. You forget about the time.
For me, it’s dancing. It's pure, meditative, ecstasy. Sometimes I feel like I’m not the one who is dancing, but rather that God’s Spirit in me is moving my body. I think that dance is the highest outward expression of your soul because you use your entire body to communicate what is in your heart.
God gave me a dancing soul. In my dreams and even in my thoughts I’m acing all kinds of difficult dance moves. It feels like I’m flying. Unfortunately, the reality is that my body can’t perform like my soul. In an effort to get the body and soul closer together, I have taken hip-hop, jazz, and ballet dance classes at the Honolulu Dance Studio. The studio owner, Cathy Izumi, taught me how to praise God through choreography arranged to Christian music. Cathy also led the New Hope Christian Fellowship Church’s twelve-member Contemporary Dance Team (Team) that existed to praise God through dance. The Team performed at church services and events. God had blessed me with the privilege of praying for, mentoring, and financially supporting the Team.
On the Monday night before Easter Sunday 2010, the Team received a last minute desperate request for dancers for the Easter services. Most of the Team, however, had already committed themselves to perform at other Easter celebrations. Since I had attended the Monday dance class prior to the last minute-called Easter rehearsal, I stayed for the rehearsal, responding to the desperate plea for dancers. I thought I could be of some help by dancing a small section of the choreography at the back of the stage.
There were only five of us at the rehearsal who started learning the steps. I quickly realized that I was expected to learn the whole opening number that started at the front of the stage. Oh, no! I decided to ask the Easter service choreographer to excuse me from the performance. Some of the dancers were in their teens and had been performing since childhood. I, on the other hand, was over half a century old! Of further contrast to the young dancers was that I had only participated in a few informal church recitals.
However, one of the dancers beat me to it and told the choreographer, “You know what, I just remembered that I have plans. I can’t dance this weekend.” Argh. Since there were only a few days left before the Easter services and withdrawing would have left the choreographer in a deeper bind, I felt that I couldn’t cancel.
The five Easter services, two on Saturday and three on Sunday, were held at the Blaisdell, Hawaii’s largest arena. I was shell-shocked by the thought of jumping, spinning, and kicking in front of 28,000 people. Plus, the services would be broadcast live over the Internet.
We had a brief Thursday night dress rehearsal before the Saturday-Sunday services. The routine changed many times due to coordination with the live band, dancer formations, and stage setup that included smoke blown over a slippery metal floor. Our rehearsal time limit did not allow us to do a complete run through of the number. For professional-level dancers, like the ones on stage with me, there was no problem receiving dance step instructions then immediately executing them to perfection. They performed multiple pirouettes and difficult gymnastic moves without thought, like taking your next breath. On the other hand, I struggled with every new step that I had to memorize. On top of that, I found out that each of us had to do a short solo. Yikes! Lord, What did I get myself into?
Our dance was about the struggle between good and evil and Christ’s victory over evil; I played the part of a devil’s minion. Although this role and the style—like a tribal headhunter with jerky movements and lots of leaping—were outside of my comfort zone, I was at a point of no return. I had to let go of inhibitions and go for it! Like Mark Twain said, I had to, “Dance like no one is watching.”
We were told to wear any black dancewear. So I wore a long-sleeved black leotard, and tights that reached my mid calves. On top of that, I wore a black-layered skirt that floated in a ripple effect when I moved. I was hoping that my kicks would look higher as the skirt bounced off my leg to the degree that my leg should have gone. Ha!
To warm up, we stretched and jumped next to the stage stairs. A mist machine filled the platform with fog. Before the music began, we positioned ourselves under the fog, crouched low to the floor at the front of the stage.
When the music started, I rose from the mist making sinister spastic moves. I was shocked to see my family’s stunned faces with bulging eyes staring at me from a few feet away. I have not seen my fifteen-year-old nephew’s eyes that big before or since my performance. They were dumbfounded to see me outside of my usual persona as I leaped and made menacing moves right in front of them. In the few seconds that it took to dance across the front of the stage, I saw my surprised father nudge my mother and point, “There’s Suzanne!” My family and I did not expect to be only steps away from each other as I performed.
I had no knowledge that my family lined up early outside the arena doors before the last Sunday service. They were able to get second row seats amongst the New Hope pastors, directly in front of my opening position on stage. My family, who were sporadic church attenders, usually sat toward the back of the room so I thought they would have taken seats at the rear of the arena or upper lodges.
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