I'm not going to lie, being a dancer is hard work. I don't dance as much now as I did back in my twenties, but back then, I had to ensure that I was in my prime. I was taking Modern, Tap and Hip Hop classes, teaching Kids Movement, and rehearsing choreography almost 5 days a week. Then I started dancing with the team during worship in services, and trust me 25 mins of praise will leave you asking for more Jesus, and air!
Three children later, life is FULL and sometimes overwhelming, but dance remains my calling. So I had to quickly figure out a lifestyle pattern that would keep me engaged and evolving in the ministry of dance. It's not easy, and I don't always get to each one every single day, but once I stopped beating up myself chasing after perfection, I started seeing progress.
So, here they are:
I cannot express to you how important this is! I mean, it goes without saying that once you're a Christian, worship needs to be your lifestyle, but as a dancer, worship should be your life. I don't get to get up and go through my day without worship. And I'm not talking about just playing some Elevation Worship in the background while I'm making breakfast. I'm talking about my life, the whole thing, needs to be worship before God - how I talk to my husband and children, how I take down my bad mind and focus on what's holy, what I wear when I go running etc.
Worship tells our God that everything that comes to us today is going to be cleared by Holy Spirit, taken to Jesus and made to glorify Father. Our lives have to look, smell, taste, sound and feel like adoration and surrender to God, and because dance is such a transparent form of worship, if we are not in that intimate place all the time, we're going to be as dry as dust when next we try to minister.
2. Watch & pray
Just like worship, prayer is essential to stay tapped in to our source. It doesn't just give us key insight into what and how to minister, it keeps us in tune with our Father. When Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray, He simply asked them to remain vigilant in the spirit. In order for our spirit man to remain vigilant (alert, hawk-eyed), our flesh cannot be a distraction.
I say it all the time, if we are not dead to the flesh, it's going to show in our ministry. Our movements somehow begin to look sensual or our choreography strangely becomes focused on our skill. See, our flesh wants to be seen, satisfied and applauded, so it riles up sometimes, but in our flesh, we can't offer the people anything. We're just the tap, God is the water. So we have to daily build up our spirit man with prayer, meditation on the Word, faith, obedience etc. so that when we stand before God and His people, we are full of the Spirit and not of ourselves.
3. Read & research
Read everything! Read the Word because it's the first food to your spirit and soul. Read books about praise, worship, dance and ministry. Research online articles and videos about your and other genres of dance, techniques and styles. Find out what ministries across the world are doing to impact their communities. Search online for new music or changing trends and then create your own! Dance is such a creative, evolving art form and if we're not using this creativity to evolve in our own ministries, we limit ourselves in the ways we can share this exciting Gospel!
When I was about 12 years old, I used to perform monologues. I would often have these 4 page scripts to learn during the week to perform at a concert on the weekend. Some days I would be so tired after doing homework, that I would just read it through half-heartedly and hope for it to stick. My daddy however would always say, "Practice makes permanent" and that would make me drag myself off the couch and rehearse it full out. I did it, because I knew that each 'full' rehearsal was going to take me one step closer to getting the words and movement engrained in my head and muscle memory.
So too, we need every day to rehearse. Not just choreography and technique, but also the Word. Rehearsing the Word - reading, studying, meditating, reviewing, and applying - makes it come alive in us, and then we become alive in it! That's how we get to "In Him (Jesus, the Word) we live and move and have our being!
If you have any insecurities about yourself or your ministry, daily rehearse what the Word says about who God is and who we are Him. His perfect love will drive that fear right out and set you straight. Remember, we don't practise 'til we get it right, we practise 'til we can't get it wrong.
Yeah, I said it. SWEAT. Long time, sweat was normal because playing in the yard was normal. These days, everybody's face in their phone whole day that getting sweaty is almost taboo. Our gyms are fully air-conditioned. Man having a sweat' but is mostly night football. So hardly anybody is actually sweating.
Exercise is important to the life of a dancer for so many reasons. Ask anyone who has to make it through a 5 minute solo, or dance through a 30 minute praise segment. I try to run or walk for 30 minutes in the early morning just to build my stamina. Note, I try, but the little I do helps me not to be hyperventilating during worship on the days I'm rostered to dance. So please, as busy as you think you are, try to get in just 30 mins of exercise during your day.
I don't know very many people that love to do it. I know I don't, but stretching helps keep our flexibility in check during the week, so that we're not waiting 'til that Saturday technique class to be kicking a dead horse.
A good stretch starts at the neck and follows through to the shoulders, arms, abs, back, hip, thigh, hamstrings, calves, ankles and feet. If you go in order, you're not likely to forget any areas. Stretch to release tension, not to be in pain. If you're now starting a stretching routine, make sure to warm up those muscles first by running in place, doing jumping jacks etc. Don't just start with the splits; you'll do only harm, not good.
Raise your hand if you could do 50 crunches or hold a 60 sec plank. Ok, fix that face, lol. Yes, the very thought of abdominal exercises often causes dancers to cringe, but core strength is the basis for executing proper technique. Our core is our centre of gravity and all movement begins there. Let's say you relevé (rise), you may be wobbling and finding it difficult to say centred. Once you engage your core muscles, you'll realise that you're much more stable. That's why instructors are forever asking dancers to stay pulled up, engaged, tucked in, because without core strength, the dancer and the dance are going to be weak.
A few exercises could take about 15 mins a day, but make a world of a difference in the way you dance.
And finally, being a minister means that you are a servant. The very word 'minister' means to serve someone else, so even though the dance ministry may seem flashy, it really requires you to be as humble as Jesus. Our service or ministry does not begin when the music starts, it is a life calling. You may minister in dance once a week, or twice a month or every three months, but you are called to serve others every day. Serve in love - say a kind word, offer your help, pay for something for someone, be a listening ear, go out of your way for someone that doesn't usually take you on - just be salt and light and represent Jesus well. That's our every day ministry. Dance is just an add-on.
I try my best to make these 8 part of my daily routine. Do I get to all 8 every day? Not at all, especially the sweat, stretch and strengthen sections... yeah, it's real easy to 'forget' those, but because I want to invest and multiply this talent God has given me, I'm going to keep trying. Let's chase progress and perfection will come.
Never forget - You were born for this!