Disclaimer: I will admit that I am treading on thin ice here because religion is very sensitive subject. I just want to say right off the bat that I am not trying to force my beliefs on any of my readers whatsoever. Rather, this post is about the relationship of my faith and ballroom dancing. I will re-iterate this warning within the post itself.
I am a non-denominational Christian that attends a Baptist church. Just for clarification, Christians that call themselves non-denominational do not adhere to any specific doctrine of any branch Christianity. But, for the sake of semantics, non-denominational is still a denomination. Digression aside, this post will contain religious subject matter. I promise to tread carefully as I go about this. So, what does being a member of a Baptist church entail for a dancer? Yep, Baptist jokes. Nick once teasingly asked me, “Hey, Alaina. Since you’re Baptist, can you still dance?” I basically told him, “Heck yeah; I intend to dance. Even if it was forbidden, I’d still do it.” Then, there was the time a pastor at a Christian concert I attended joked that the Baptists in the audience “theologically struggled” with the concept of dancing to the music. I’ve heard my fair share of jokes, yeah, but I never took them seriously. “That rule of the Baptist church is history. Surely the modern church understands that dance itself is not evil,” I thought. Boy, was I wrong. My church was founded in the 1800s or something, so I understood that there would be something in the initial charter forbidding dancing on church grounds. Turns out that dancing is still forbidden on church grounds, even in 2013. The woman who leads a weekly small group I’ve been attending wanted to organize a good ‘ol hoedown for the singles group in the church and anyone they brought with them, as in people outside the church. So, she requested to rent a room for the dancing. The church didn’t let her because of the reason I just iterated. Seriously, people? As petty as it may seem, this bothered me so much that I had a ton of trouble letting it go. Hence, the inspiration for this post.
Conflicts like this are not new. The Church and the arts have consistently bumped heads for centuries. For example, consider Michelangelo’s David, a nude sculpture. Nude sculpture was very controversial back then because it showed the entirety of the human form. Even in today’s age, I am willing to bet there are still people uncomfortable with nude sculpture. The point I would like to make is that art itself innately jumps boundaries. This does cause discomfort, but the most important thing to keep in mind is the artist’s intent. David is naked in the sculpture, and yes, you can see his genitals, but did Michelangelo’s intent obscene? Absolutely not. His sculpture celebrates the physical form of a teenager-in-transition, a young man who will eventually become the king of a nation. Here’s a another example: I learned about the human reproductive system last summer in General Biology II. There were pictures of the male and female reproductive organs and their external parts. Artists drew these pictures. Are these obscene? No. The intention behind those pictures is to educate. Pornography, on the other hand, is obscene. Someone probably requested the two participants to do what you see in the picture while a photographer snapped the picture. What is the intent of pornography? It is blatant sexual stimulation. The concept of artistic intent can also be applied to my dancing. That goes for my Latin dancing, too.
I concede that artistic intent can be quite ambiguous. That’s why I’m going to tell you, dear reader, what my intent is when I dance, especially Latin. The overall goal is to sculpt my body and make physically mobile shapes with my partner. That’s actually what I love about waltz. To me, it is more balletic than the other dances, and I adore making those gorgeous lines. For Latin, personally speaking, it is less about the eroticism and more about the beauty of the human body. I want to sculpt my body into certain shapes as I dance a Rumba. I want to be both the block of marble and the chisel. When I dance, I want people to say, “Wow! That was beautiful.” Or, “I had no idea you knew how to dance like that.” I want people to cheer me on or even whistle, I want to show them my inner tigress though my acting. My aim is not to sexually stimulate my audience. My aim is to get them to really look and appreciate the dancing. My aim is also to draw you into my act. As an actress and dancer, I want my audience to willingly suspend their disbelief so that the illusion of romance reaches them. All this is my intent. But what is most important to me as a dancer is to fully enjoy and appreciate the gift God has given me.
Dancing is my life’s passion, and I never intend to give it up. The Church may not understand that dance is a form of worship for me personally. However, it would seem they don’t. The potential for something going awry seems to be too great of a risk for them. Well, here’s the scoop: anything can go awry. It all depends on how you use it. I use it as exercise and for worship. Dance and faith are not irreconcilable. I refuse to let anyone tell me otherwise.