My name is Jennie and I’m 31 years old. Dance has always been a way I expressed myself. My dream was to be a pop star — just to dance all my problems away on stage and that everyone who saw me would love me.
As a child I was always happy and carefree but due to a rough upbringing the bright light I had within began to dim. By my late 20’s I found myself in a dark depression. Not wanting my family and others around me to see what I was going through I pretended to be happy even though I wasn’t. Vulnerability felt like weakness to me and I couldn’t allow anyone to view me as a weak individual. Religion came through many facets in my up bringing. My mother was Christian and my father’s side of the family was Catholic, so I had no core belief. It was all mixed up to me. The very little faith that I did have diminished during this time and I felt like all hope was lost. I even stopped dancing. I was convinced that where I was at the time would be where I’d live forever. That was until dance was reintroduced into my life again through Full Force Dance Repertory.
I remember when Anginese and Kadeem (directors of Full Force) told me they were starting a dance company back in 2010 I was so excited for them. I sat in one of their first rehearsals with the dancers wishing I could get up there and dance too. It was fascinating to watch how they told stories with their bodies and the emotions that this movement had tapped inside of me.
Motherless Child was the first dance I saw performed by Full Force. And I lie to you not that I felt like the dance grabbed my heart and held it to my face to show me just how deep I’d fallen into my depression. It was like they were mirroring the pain I was feeling right back at me.
A few years later Anginese and Kadeem asked me to be a part of their trial series for Movement Conversation Groups (a series of holistic workshops that combine elements of dance therapy and energy medicine). I was so honored that they chose me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what it would be like or if I would benefit from it at all. It wasn’t because of them that I felt this way, it was because of who I was at the time. I wasn’t sure if I could free myself enough to reap the benefits from the sessions. However, I went along with it.
My first session set the pace for what all the other sessions would be. I felt safe and not like I was being judged. But even with the comfort of the class, breaking through the wall I had built up was still very hard. I’ve always been a person to help whomever I can, whenever I can — even in moments where I was being inconvenienced. I would always set aside everything I was doing to help others and it felt as if I was being taken advantaged of.
One of the most moving sessions for me was when I found my voice and I learned to say no. I remember Anginese did a role play exercise with me in which she got right up in front of my face taunting me the way I felt other people did. She did that until I had enough of it. I got mad enough to yell out “NO!” That was a huge stepping-stone in my life. I didn’t know it then but looking back at it now, that was the first crack in the wall I had up.
In those six sessions I learned that I had a voice and that my opinion was just as important as anyone else. I learned that my past was just that, in my past. Even though I was a product of it, I realized that I could overcome it and be whoever I wanted to be. Most importantly it connected me back to the Lord. I realized that I was in the darkness because I was running away from His Light.
As we came to the final session, Anginese and Kadeem asked me if I would like to choreograph and perform a piece based off my experience and journey with the class. I didn’t hesitate and said, “YES!” immediately. But then that excitement turned into such an overwhelming feeling of fear. I’d never choreographed anything before but Kadeem made it a safe place for me to be myself and to choreograph freely.
I remember when Kadeem and I started to choreograph he asked what did I want the piece to be about. I told him I wanted to make people cry. I’m most certain at this point it was for selfish reasons, but later that all changed as the piece made me cry.
I’d changed significantly on the inside and I wanted to share that journey with the audience that would be coming to see Full Force’s show in August of that year. I chose the song Recovery by James Arthur. He’s an artist from the UK and from my knowledge he wasn’t well known in the US. That was important to me. I didn’t want it to be a song that everyone knew because I wanted them to really listen to what he said. The song spoke of strife and breaking free from it. The grit of his voice stirred up many different emotions inside of me that I wanted everyone else to feel it as well.
On the day of the show it all hit me, the dream I’ve had for so long was about to become a reality. Nervous is an understatement of how I was feeling. We had rehearsed the whole show twice before this moment, so I knew exactly when I was going to the stage. As the time drew closer for my performance, the more I felt like my heart was in my throat.
The music started.
I walked out into the spotlight.
And I knew this was where I had always belonged.
There was a shift in the purpose of my dance from then on. It wasn’t to express myself anymore. It became to touch someone in the audience. I wanted to free someone from any chains that held them down. I gave it my all and it was received very well. After the show many people told me just how touched they were by the piece and how brave I was. One lady approached me and she was crying. She hugged me so tight. I could feel that she had received the message I was hoping to bring forth. It was in that moment that I realized that I had accomplished what I set out to do.
Today I am still dancing, but now I dance for the Lord. In August of 2015 I was called back into the loving arms of God and I’m now a worship leader and praise dancer. It brings me great joy that He entrusted me to use my gifts to minister to His people. I’m a much more confident today and I’m full of His peace and joy. The wall that I built up no longer exists and I’m not ashamed of my vulnerability anymore. It used to make me feel weak but today it makes me feel brave and courageous. It’s a huge sign that there is now light and life inside of a place that was at one point full of cold darkness. And I am elated by that! I am truly grateful to Kadeem and Anginese. If it wasn’t for my experience with them I don’t know if I would have wound up where I am today with the confidence that I have.
Movement Conversation Groups was the match that sparked the flame in me and God carried me the rest of the way. My message to anyone with a dream that they keep hidden is to be brave and follow that dream because you never know where it might take you. It might just save your life the way my dream saved mine.