As a woman who dances sacred and liturgical dance, I often hear my dancing called “beautiful.” I have no problems with my dancing being called “beautiful,” except for this one time.
I was speaking with a man who taught Theology of the Body about the work I do, when I was interrupted with “That’s such a beautiful way of expressing with your body, especially for young women.” This was not the first time I heard the word “beautiful” to describe my work, but it was the first time someone used the word to describe my work without having seen it. It was strange, yes, but no reason for alarm. And yet, that comment still irked me.
For one thing, pointing out that this activity is great for women bothered me, mainly because anyone can dance. (And everyone should dance!) Sacred and liturgical dance is not just a thing delegated to women alone. And second, if this was in fact, one of the only duties in worship for women alone, then why is our job just to be or do something beautiful? Women and dancing are much more than that.
And that’s when it hit me.
My dancing had been called “beautiful” many times before, but it is much more than that. People (of all ages, across different genders, races, religions, and thoughts on sacred dance and its place in and out of worship) have said everything about my dancing (and my teaching) including:
- “It touched my heart”
- “I never thought dance could make me feel this way”
- “I didn’t think you could pray like that”
- “That was so much fun!”
- “I don’t normally like this done during the Mass, but that was beautiful* – very prayerful and respectful”
- “You were so beautiful*”
- “I love you!
* I have no problems with the word “beautiful!” But as you can see, I dance for more than just being beautiful.
I dance for more than just being beautiful.
I dance for God, with God, and I dance because this was the gift I was given. I dance because I love God, I love dancing, and I am grateful to God for this gift.
“Beautiful” is a great compliment, and it still makes me blush, but I do hope that I make you feel something more. If the only way to describe that something you feel is with the word “beautiful” then so be it. But I hope you understand then, that my dancing is beautiful because God is beautiful.
When I dance, my job is to become closer to God, and I hope when I dance, I bring the people watching closer to God as well. When I dance, I hope everyone sees me not as just a beautiful dancer, but a beautiful work of art, carefully crafted by the Hand of God. I am more than beautiful. I am a channel of God’s Love, and while that’s not to say that that’s not beautiful, it is much more than that.
People who do what I do, especially women, are much more than beautiful. We are amazing. Inspiring. Wow. We can touch your heart and make you feel things you’ve never felt before. We’re fun and lovable. And we can make you rethink what it means to pray and who can lead you in worship.
So to the man who called my dancing beautiful, thank you, but it is much more than that. I am much more than that.
This post, published on International Women’s Day, is dedicated to all women, especially the women who lead us in dance, the women who lead us in prayer, and the women who lead us to God. You are beautiful. You are holy.