Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
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Dancing My Life, Dancing My God
© Judith Pellerin
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Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Pellerin, Judith, 19-
Dancing My Life, Dancing My God
Cover illustration: “Once Upon A Universe” © Sr. Mary Southard
Editing, layout and design by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Printed in Canada
CHAPTER 1: A Time to Dance
CHAPTER 2: The “Dance” of Others
CHAPTER 3: Those Old Time Dances
CHAPTER 4: I Hope You Dance
CHAPTER 5: Lord of the Dance
Have you ever felt as if your heart would burst within
you, so deeply were you moved by an experience? Have you
ever felt your spirit soar—longing to leave your body, to float
free from all restraint, yet never able to feel free enough?
Have you ever longed to jump and twirl and spin and glide,
even while you remained tied to the earth?
I have—as I sat in the balcony of a theatre, drinking in
the music of a symphony or caught up in the movement of a
ballet, my inner being taking flight over the railing and out
into the open space above the crowd below. Or as I watched
highland dancing for the first time or Métis stepping, or Maritime
fast step, or the drumming and dancing of a powwow.
How the music filled me to my core and called me forth to
move in rhythm with its cadence.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to dance, needed
to dance. I wanted to move to music, my inner being seeking
expression beyond words, in the sounds, the tempos, the
melodies. And indeed my inner self danced even when my
outer shell sat still and quiet. Was this my own inhibition or
the expectations of others?
After all, I wasn’t a dancer. I had never taken a dancing
lesson in my life. And yet, who among us has never seen a
small child dance, twirling and spinning and rejoicing in life?
How innate this is to all of us! But somewhere along the
path of life, we come to believe that we must be taught to
dance; we must do it right; we must do it like everyone else.
Even to be creative and spontaneous, we must take classes in
creative dance and spontaneous movement.Dance is at the heart of cultural expression for all societies
and peoples, and yet we have at times turned dance into a
competition, judging who does it best; every step measured
and every step the same. Am I doing it perfectly? Am I better
at it than everyone else? No wonder then, that for most of us
dance ceases to be an integral part of our daily existence.
Just how integral and innate the need is for me to express
my inner reality through movement gradually became clear
when I began to experience these same urgings to move, to
sway, to flow, to spin and twirl when I was at prayer. Often I
felt moved to bow, to lift my arms in praise, to give expression
to my inner experience with and through my entire body.
I shared this once with a retreat director, acknowledging
that even in the privacy if my own room, I seldom gave expression
to this inner calling. After all, I am not a dancer.
And far be it for me to use this medium of self-expression
when so many other attempts to be myself had met with criticism,
ridicule or rejection.
The retreat director encouraged me to go to one of the
large, empty conference rooms in the retreat centre and to
dance and move to my heart’s content. It took courage, but I
did it. My initial hesitant steps gave way to humming and
later to taped music, as I discovered the utter freedom of letting
myself be me—of letting my experience of God and my
God-me relationship overflow into bodily expression. In the
following days I danced the sorrows of my life, the wounds
that still needed healing, the loves I had known, and above
all, the presence of God in all of these. Tentatively, I let my
heart burst forth and my inner being soar, carrying over into
my body as I prayed the scriptures or exulted in the glory of
God in creation. How I longed, from time to time, to bring
this physical expression to my liturgical life, my celebrations
of Eucharist or reconciliation or sacramental healing.
While on a women’s retreat in 2005 I found myself musing
that I couldn’t be the only person who felt this way. I couldn’t
be the only person for whom movement and dance could be
a deeply moving spiritual experience. Deep within me I felt a
calling to write a book entitled Dancing My Life, Dancing My
God which would use dance as a metaphor for relationship
with God, and for life lived out in this relationship. I wanted
to give expression to the deep joy and freedom of uninhibited
self-expression that is possible in our relationship with God. I
also wanted to invite others to recognize and respond to their
own personal calls in expressing their life and love in the
Several people have commented on the title. They felt
that, “dancing my life” made sense. However, they suggested
that the second half of the title needed a preposition. But no
matter how I worded it: “dancing with my God” or “dancing
before my God” or “dancing because of my God”—it just didn’t
capture what I wanted to say. The prepositions were too limiting.
Dancing my God includes all prepositions, without exception,
and is greater than the meaning of any one. So, for
the sake of total inclusiveness that would allow you, the reader,
to find your own meaning and context in the title, I have left
it as dancing my God.
As I wrote, I looked for dance in the Jewish and Christian
scriptures. I reflected on how often the word “dance” occurs
in our sacred music. I saw “dance” in so many books by a variety
of authors, that I knew I wasn’t alone in finding meaning
in this metaphor.
I sent out questionnaires to friends and colleagues, inviting
them to reflect on their experiences with dance, especially
as it related to their spiritual life. I invited them to share the
fruit of their reflections with me and, ultimately, with you.
Some who responded passed the questionnaire on to their
friends with the same invitation. The results of their musings
form part of this book. (This questionnaire can be found in the Appendix).
Dancing My Life, Dancing My God in no way tries to be
an exhaustive look at dance in spirituality and religion. It is,
rather the result of my own interest in dance as a metaphor
for my relationship with my God, with creation and with
those who share this planet with me.
My hope is that in reading this book you may discover
what sets your own inner being free; what brings you inner
freedom, release, joy; what helps you give expression to your
love, joy, sorrow and energy in the Lord. My hope is that youwill be moved to explore that which calls to be loosed and
set free in your own life, so that your own expression of your
God-me relationship can know no bounds. May this book
dance you into your own inner space, there to contact that
which can and will and does give you the true freedom of a
daughter or son of God.
Dance your life! Dance your God! And thus give glory
and praise to the One from Whom all good things come.
Canticle of Judith
I want to sing my life
merry melodies and dancing.
I want to hear the music in my days
and revel in the tunes of love and harmony.
I want to hear the music in my life
the chirp of birds, the sigh of wind in trees,
the screech of hawk, the traffic outside my window.
Robin’s song and wren’s serenade.
laughter of loved ones and greetings of friends.
I want to dance my days of life
slow and weaving, fast and alive.
I want to hum the inner tune of my heart
and sing full-voiced the Spirit-life within me.
I want to dance, and skip, and jump.
I want to sway and twirl and spin.
I want to know the varied melodies of life,
missing not a note,
tasting and savoring to the full
the wonders of WHAT IS.
I want to rest in gentleness and peace
the lullaby of God melodious in my heart.
I want to sleep embraced by Love divine
to wake anew to dance again
the music of life alive in my bones.
I want to smile and laugh and cry
to hear the strings and drums and horns.
Reels and jigs, serenades and symphonies,
dirges and funeral hymns.
I want to live as one fully alive
eager to be in all of my glory.
God’s handiwork, God’s art, God’s masterpiece
one among many—all melodies of God’s heart.
Unique, special, universal wonder and awe.
Sing, my being, of greatness and wonder.
Sing, my being, of acceptance and love.
Sing, my being, of sorrow and hardship.
Sing, my soul, of all that is and was and will be.
Dance my life!
Turn and spin.
Sway and shuffle.
Leap and fly.
Listen and lie still.
Dance my life!
Dance with joy.
Dance with sorrow and hope and pain.
Dance in freedom and dance in enslavement.
Dance each day to the final Dance,
the Dance of all dances.
Hum, sing, dance my life!
I want to dance my singing life of love.