By Theresa Thomas
I want to share something very personal and, in my mind, significant and relevant to readers, but I don’t want to come off as braggy or know-it-all. In fact, there are so many things I don’t know that I hesitate to share this for fear of it being misconstrued in some way: but gosh darn it, it’s a good lesson for all of us, I think. If in some small way it helps someone feel encouraged in his or her own life of raising children and making ripples, then it will have been worth the risk of oversharing. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me just begin.
Last weekend our daughter competed in a large dance competition in a major city. In this particular competition there are two divisions: classical and contemporary. Classical means a variation from a classical ballet is danced; contemporary can include classical music not from a ballet or other kinds of music — from drums to lyrical, pop to instrumental. Having attended this particular competition for many years, my husband and I have noticed that a number of the contemporary selections increasingly tend toward what we would classify as dark, negative, and somewhat depressing, and sometimes the costumes on the young girls are tight and skimpy; immodest in our opinion.
When the time comes around for our daughter to choose a piece, the question always comes up, “What can showcase your skills?” Even more importantly, we ask, “What is uplifting?” “What brings joy?” And most of all, “What gives hope and reveals true beauty, representing the art form in a way that is pleasing to God?”
Several years ago an older ballerina from our daughter’s dance studio chose an “Ave Maria” arrangement and vocal to which to dance in the contemporary division of the competition. It was so lovely. The dancer even earned a Top 12 designation. This inspired my daughter, and she has enjoyed trying to find pieces to which to perform that are similarly stirring and authentically beautiful.
One day my husband was playing Andrea Bocelli on his iPod and he had the idea that his song “La Vie En Rose” might be a nice piece to which our daughter could dance in competition. He suggested it to her and she immediately liked the idea. Another daughter, who also danced ballet for many years, is an aspiring choreographer, and she committed to working with her sister to create a piece that would showcase her sister’s talents, while aiming to express hope and beauty.
The girls spent many hours upstairs in our school room playing the Bocelli music over and over, working on combinations and moves until it seemed just right to them: joyful, full of love and hopefulness. Then, they went to the artistic director in order to get permission to enter it in the competition. The girls were nervous approaching the director because they were both so young, and typically only experienced choreographers work with the dancers to create an entry piece.
At the end of the nerve-wracking demonstration of the ballet piece, the two sisters, dancer and choreographer, turned to their studio’s artistic director hopefully to see what she thought. Neither could read her face: It was blank. Suddenly it turned to a smile and the director exclaimed, “I loved it!” She said they could enter the piece.
For months afterward our daughter worked diligently on her piece; alone, with her sister and under hours of instruction with her dance teacher. She chose a feminine, rosy, skater dress and a French beret as a costume. Finally, the date of the competition arrived.
Our daughter positioned herself on stage and when the music started she floated across the stage, performing the advanced choreography to the beautiful melody. She seemed to have everything going for her; just a sequence of difficult turns at the end and she would be finished. But alas, in the middle of a complicated turn, she fell flat.
As heartbroken as she felt inside, our daughter stood up and finished her dance. Surprisingly, despite the fall, the piece earned a Top 12 designation. There was something there the judges liked. Still, she was not happy with her mistake.
That was last year. This year she wanted to bring the piece back and execute it perfectly. For many more months she worked under the expert supervision of a new artistic director, who helped her tweak certain moves and improve her technical skills. She rehearsed over and over.
The competition was this past weekend and I’m happy to say this time she did not fall. In fact, she won. Out of more than 100 entries, she didn’t just make Top 12, she came in first! Obviously this made me happy for her, on account of her hard work. Having fallen the year before, she came back and succeeded — something that made me pleased.
You see, little girls — the auditorium was full of them — saw our daughter win in a modest, lovely dress, performing to music that was uplifting and about love and joy. This will likely, I hope, impact their choices of music next year and maybe even years after. Maybe other girls never thought music like this would work at such a competition, or they just never considered it. Maybe they did consider it, but dismissed it because they weren’t used to seeing it and seeing it move the judges and win. At any rate I would like to think this little outcome may help in just one small way change some of the competition entries for the better. I hope and pray my daughter inspired other little girls, just as an older girl once inspired her.
We all can help bring about a positive change in culture. We are all called to make ripples, positive ripples, ripples in the little ponds in which we reside, if even for a moment. We must keep trying, encouraging and aiming to be good examples, even not knowing the outcome.
Mother Teresa once said, “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” We need to leave the outcomes to Him and concentrate on doing what we know is right. But I wanted to share something I experienced this weekend very personally — sometimes God will surprise us, and we find that faithfulness and success can beautifully meet. For that, and for those moments, I am grateful.