I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I never imagined that I would end up where I am today. I'm a dancer, a teacher, a choreographer, and a writer. But looking back, I see that there were clues along the way. Some people say they earned their chops singing in the church. Well, my experience is similar in some ways...but through dance. I gained technique through the traditional routes-- a year-round pre-professional program, summer intensives, companies-- but the church gave me opportunities for growth as a budding choreographer.
My mom was the children's director at a church of approximately 600 people. One year, she allowed my best friends (also dancers) and I to choreograph the church Christmas play. As third grader, I was allowed to hold auditions and run the dance rehearsals. In talking with her now, she says that it sounds crazy, but that she had complete confidence in us, in me. She was right; we completely pulled it off! The following year, I was asked to choreograph a solo for myself. It was the first of many that would follow in the years to come. I created dances for use within the context of plays, during services and outreach activities.
Yet, I had no desire to become a "choreographer." I wanted someone else to create the movement and for me to receive the accolades and thrill of performing. In the process, however, my personality kept getting in the way. I had natural leadership abilities, a sense of purpose, and creativity. First came the opportunities to lead by substitute teaching, then in my senior year of high school, my first piece of concert dance choreography. As much as I enjoyed it, it would take many years before I had a genuine interest in pursing choreographic opportunities.
And it wasn't until today...sitting in a creative arts night in the church that I now attend that I realized that church gave me more opportunity for growth than i ever recognized. They trusted the gifts in me from a young age and nurtured my talents as a dancer, teacher, and now choreographer. I grew in my ability to tell stories, as a performer and choreographer. I was given a safe environment and a platform to share my voice.
I'm glad that I never realized that before today. Otherwise, I'm sure that I would have somehow twisted or manipulated the experience with my premature understand of the path that I was on. I'm grateful for the trust of the adults both in the church and the studio who allowed me to grow.
Are you a teacher or choreographer? When did you realize it would be part of your life? Did you pursue it or did it pursue you?