God is my dance instructor

I remember dragging my feet through our kitchen door, past the living room and into our dining room. The house was already dark and quiet, as it naturally should be at that time – way past midnight. Most everyone was already asleep.

I sat on one of the benches of our long, chunky wooden table, facing the bamboo trees in our shallow but wide garden. It was just me and the sounds of the night — the driver bringing down my things from the car, the dogs barking and saying hello to clueless, not-so-happy me, my brother’s footsteps on the wooden floor in his bedroom upstairs. I had just gotten home from work, taping for Shall We Dance, a show I have been doing for almost three years now. I have danced countless times on our stage. I’ve had some good performances, in the same way I’ve also had my share of not-so-good ones. The one I had just finished fell very easily into the heap of the latter; in fact, it was painfully and probably my highest low. It was just terrible.

What makes it even more terrible was that I actually rehearsed for it, like I always do for all my dance numbers. True, the rehearsal time for this particular dance was always short but there were at least three days of that. That should have been enough. I was partnered with a very good dancer, a local champion many times over. We did the cha-cha.

It was terrible. He was great, as he always is, but I was just… just terrible. I looked like I was dancing for the first time in my life (seriously, it was that bad!). The dance did not flow from step to step, I looked like a tall stick being twirled here and there, pushed from one end to another. There was no grace in the dance when everything but that could have been absent.

What went wrong? I had not danced in more than two months, the longest maybe since I took up dancing in 2003. I was rusty. And I was nervous about performing because I knew I was rusty. Everything between that plus the sum of both became the dance (un)event that just happened. Oh, well.

So there I was at our dining table, enjoying the comfort of my solitude, licking my wounds. With no one to blame but myself. I steeped in my disappointment, reading every page of three stale newspapers, drinking tea that tasted like soil. I nibbled on the butter cookies that Richard and Juliana had baked earlier that day. That, at least, tasted happy.

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I do not know how long I stayed there but soon enough I heard our bedroom door open and saw my husband come bolting down the stairs. He said he heard the gate open but was wondering why I still was not up in our bedroom. I told him about my terrible dance. He listened. And ate more butter cookies with me. I told him that after the second take and I still could not get it right, I prayed seriously and asked God: “Please, God, please let this be a beautiful dance.” Still, it did not turn out to be that. It was far from okay, much less beautiful. “Please, God,” I prayed more desperately in the middle of take three, while I was dancing and spinning like a tall stick. Still, nothing.

Oh, well, that night definitely reminded me that my God is not a vending machine, a genie in a bottle. Then, seated at our dining table in my disappointment and frustration, I said my sorry to God, for treating Him like the genie I have long known He isn’t.

I was very simply cold entering that dance. I had not danced in almost two months and the cha-cha is a very technical dance. Maybe I was complacent. Yes, maybe I was. There are no shortcuts — in life, and in dance. We all have to work for what we choose to have in our lives. One of my flamenco teachers, Clara Ramona, once said that you have to rehearse a dance at least a hundred times before you can actually say you are a bit ready to perform it for others. Richard says athletes train for years for one competition. I should continuously dance and practice, even when there is no show to perform in, no audience to perform for. That is what being prepared is all about. I need to oil my joints constantly if I really want to be good at this thing called dance. It is something I truly love doing anyway; I might as well try to be the best I can possibly be.

Before going to sleep I sent Kris a message telling her how utterly horrific my dance was. This was her reply: “I read from Joyce Meyer that we all go through ‘silent training camp,’ those times when you feel that you are in the wilderness, far from a breakthrough. God still wants to hear our praise before we actually experience victory. And when you press on you’ll even forget what you went through during the unpleasant moments. Because God will totally transform you and your life. Joyce Meyer said we can have a gift to take us somewhere but no character to keep us there if we never submitted to God’s training camp. If last night was awful, then the next time you have a superb dance you’ll just be all the more grateful and appreciative of how far God has taken you.”

I woke up to that message the day after. It was comforting, to say the least. I stored it in my phone and I still read it from time to time, when I cannot get a dance step right, when work is everything but smooth.

That was three weeks ago. I have since snapped out of that dance disappointment. Last week I had to perform again. It was a belly-dancing number that turned out so much better than the last cha-cha I did. In two weeks’ time I have another big performance to do. Help me pray I sail through that, okay?

The ebb and flow of life (and dance)… and like my Tita Inday always says, “God is at the center of it all.” That makes all the difference.

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