12 Reasons Dance is My Religion

For some reason, the holidays always put me in the mood to make lists. Best and worst lists of the past year, lists of things I'm thankful for, and lists of my hopes and wishes for the coming year. Well, I'm not going to resist that urge this Christmas. I am a Jew living in heavily Christian country, so I tend to love celebrating both holidays. And since Chanukkah is officially over on this here Christmas morning, I have decided to create a list in honor of the 12 days of Christmas. Since I am not really religious at all, and I appreciate celebrating all types of holidays, I have decided to create a list with a twist. With all of that said, I bestow upon you the 12 reasons dance is my religion.

1. Dance has been a part of my life since I was a very young age. When I was 2 years old, I kept running into my sister's dance class. After a few frustrating interruptions, the instructor of the class saw an opportunity. Instead of reprimanding the parent of the child, she invited me to stay in class if I could behave. And I did. From that young day of my life on, I have been immersed in the ways and the morals of dance.

This little boy couldn't stay out of his sister's dance class
2. Walking into a dance studio every day is like walking into a place of prayer. Every morning, I begin my morning ritual of plies, tendus, jetes, and beyond. Or, in a non-religious sense, plies are like my morning coffee and the rest of barre is like my breakfast.

3. Even my every day activities are ruled by dance. I think before anything that I do, "How will these activities affect my dancing." Exercise, risky activities (skiing, rollerskating, horseback riding, etc.), drinking with friends, sleep, etc.

Maria Chapman - So inspiring
4. Those people that I hold in highest esteem are my mentors and fellow colleagues that are professional dancers. I don't worship these people, per se, but I have more respect for them, their work ethic, and their inspiration than most anybody else.

R&J (Lucia Rogers) w/Fort Wayne Ballet (Photo: Jeffrey Crane)
5. When going through a difficult experience, I turn to dance to express myself, heal my wounds, and fill myself with joy.

6. While many religions learn the basis of their faith from ancient scripture, a great deal of learning is taught through oral tradition that has been passed on through the generations. Dance, like religion, is one of the last traditions that is almost completely passed on orally and ritually from generation to generation.

7. I give all my glory to my art!

8. No place on earth is more sacred than a stage or a studio.

9. Just like the holiday season brings families together in the name of religious events, ballet brings dancers together for something special every time they begin preparing for a performance. I have always felt a warm holiday-like bond by the end of a performance series.

Returning to Rochester City Ballet's Jessie Tretter for Nutcracker 2013 (Photo: Josephine Cardin)
10. I have an ongoing joke that I am going to create a religion called, "Exercism," or the religion of exercise. It would be a glorious religion! It makes you feel good, it treats your body and soul well, it inspires people to do good, and makes us all-around better people. Cheers to Exercism!!!! (I joke)

11. Just like there are multiple sects of religions, there are multiple sects of dance. Ballet has classical, neo-classical (Balanchine), and contemporary ballet. You can even break down these forms into smaller denominations; like Vaganova, Cecchetti, Bournonville, French school, Royal Academy of Dance, etc. Non-ballet sects have spanned from modern to post-modern, tap, jazz, contemporary, and beyond. While some followers of these sects of dance only hold values for their one form of dance, dancers display the most inspirational openness to joining and sharing in other forms of dance. In the spirit of collaboration, exploration, and growing one's idea of dance, most dancers are open to crossing into other belief systems of dance. If only we could experience this in religions across the world...

12. Even if I turned my back on dance, it will always be there waiting to accept me back with open arms.

Guesting in my home dance school's Nutcracker last year (Photo: Marla Kaine)
I'd like to wish all of my readers a happiest of holiday seasons!

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