Aside from family game night, reunions, or church events, where else might you find Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, Millennials and Generation Z kids sharing an interest as a team? One really interesting and challenging activity is DANCE! It is in a dance academy where age is truly nothing but a number. Skills and experience often beat out raw talent, but creative instruction and choreography help level the field when all is done for the purpose of worshipping our God.
I was in search of a place to improve my novice dance skills and for mentorship as I lead a dance ministry in my church and joined Seeds of Praise Academy (SOPA) in Charlotte, NC last fall. I was 53 years old. This school is ministry, under the leading of its visionary, Ms. Micheline (Missy) Ruffin. An ordained minister herself, she chose a life of devotion to minister in dance over “going pro”, allowing the Holy Spirit to use her as a vessel of spiritual impartation, worship arts instruction, and Christian leadership formation. Students range from the age of 3 to 60s, and dance experience ranges from 0 to 40 years. Yes, we are all thrown in together, blending passion and skill-building to train our bodies to worship God expressively, in Spirit and in Truth. In this unique setting, we, the more life-seasoned students, often find ourselves under the instruction of Millennials and even Generation Z kids! Awed by their talent and discipline, we are eager to learn and grateful to God as we discover that our bodies, though older, are still “teachable”. We see first hand that keeping active at all stages of life ensures we are growing stronger, quicker, and more flexible than being sedentary. What’s more, liturgical dance is a beautifully creative way to worship God and edify people through artistic movement.
My contemporaries in the academy have been aptly nicknamed “Grace”, after the name of a song Missy choreographed for us. Wikipedia offers this definition of “grace” from a Christian perspective: “Grace in Christianity is a gift from the Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word "grace," as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to the enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” (Wikipedia.com) It takes wisdom to have a full appreciation for what God’s grace does for us. Proverbs 9:9 says, “Teach the wise, and they will become wiser; inform the righteous, and their learning will increase.” (CEB version) Having teachable spirits has indeed increased our learning and enhanced our worship. Oftentimes in our class sessions, prayers, prophetic Word, and the laying on of healing hands on teachers and students alike can take precedence over rehearsals as the Holy Spirit is welcomed to supply just what we each need! So the lessons learned are dance-skills-practical, real-world-transferable, and spiritually enriching.
Yes, we are required to be vulnerable, pushing through fears and past physical pain. But the supportive, nurturing environment yields beauty and a vibrancy that has given this “old girl” new life. Through worship dance, I am enabled to express my love to God in a physical language of praise and appreciation. And His grace has blessed me with a family of artistic ministers of nearly every generation. I encourage anyone looking for a transformative way to incorporate an artistic and expressive style of worship in a caring environment to research Christian dance academies or schools in your area. It truly is more than dance. It is ministry.