By the time I turn 30 this year, I would have danced for more than half of my life. But I did not take the traditional ballet route followed by many professional dancers; I found myself drawn to the art form quite differently. There was just something about the hip hop and R&B that got me moving in ways I never knew I could.
For someone relatively late to the party, I was surprisingly good – something I only realised when I was scouted to become a dance instructor at O School, alongside a crew of talented hip hop, urban, street jazz and lyrical jazz teachers. This was my very first full-time job opportunity right out of my secondary school years.
The me at barely 18 years old would never have expected to be teaching dance classes, performing, competing, leading a dance club and even choreographing productions for the next 10 years and beyond.
Neither would she have known then that she was actually scouted by the two Christians who ran O School, Kenny Low and Ryan Tan, and that she would one day dance for a God she would come to know through them.
My journey to faith really started from a moment of curiosity. At O School, I always walked past an enclosed part of the studio where people were singing, playing games and laughing. I finally asked a colleague what was going on there, and it turned out that a bunch of the instructors and dancers had initiated cell group sessions there. And of course, they invited me to join them once they heard I was asking.
I still vividly remember my very first cell group meeting. Coming from a different faith then, the impression I had of God was that He was rather merciless – how could anyone who didn’t believe in Him be separated from Him forever? Wasn’t this unaccepting, strict and unloving?
And following His harsh character, it also seemed like Christians had been given a set of rules to follow, and were wary of being acquainted with anyone who did not share the same faith. It was not a religion I wanted to be a part of, not that I had ever considered it.
But the cell group gathering was nothing like this. People were sincere and friendly, and I felt very welcomed and at ease. Worship was a highlight for me that day. Even though I had never seen people worship before, there was an inexplicable peace and assurance that I was in a good place.
Shortly after, I attended an Easter Service at City Harvest Church, where many of them were from. This was where I discovered that my heart towards God had changed, and I wanted to know Him for myself. I was ready to accept Him into my life.
Of course, things didn’t change overnight. I was quite the rebellious kid – smoking and drinking included. But what really touched my heart was how Kenny and Ryan, my bosses, continued to care for me without judgement.
The studio always felt more like a family where there was room for mistakes, kindness and forgiveness. Kenny even offered me a scholarship to help with my financial needs.
This love was what compelled me to turn my life around, and to this day I believe that it was my bosses and community who showed me that Christianity is more than teachings from a book, but something much deeper and more real.
Being around Christians in O School gave me a chance to experience Christianity and see it modelled through their lives. It was in the values upheld and the spirit of excellence. It was how I learnt that dance is a gift from God, a blessing that we can enjoy while we harness it to do His work of saving souls. It was never by chance that I loved dance.
Just like our walk with God, dance is a skill and requires practice, much effort and passion. When I joined The Disciples, City Harvest’s dance ministry, my understanding of the faith and my gifting deepened further: Yes, we train to become better, but our passion for God must always be the core; it must come before our passion for dance, and better technique and beautiful choreography.
I have seen with my own eyes how God can use dance as an unlikely tool to reach souls and even as a weapon to fight against the strongholds in people’s lives. The freedom and joy carried in our inspired movement is more powerful than we know sometimes!
Last year, The Disciples were asked to put up a performance as part of the closing segment for EMERGE, a youth event held by our church. It was the first time we collectively witnessed a mighty wave of revival where many people responded to the altar call after. Some of us even left the stage to pray over those who had come forward.
Dance, like music, changes the spiritual atmosphere. There is so much more to dance ministry than we know and are still coming to know. It does something to us dancers, as we learn to be open and vulnerable with not just our bodies but our emotions. I’ve learnt that when I take the first step, God moves too.
I’ve watched my inner life change as the years have passed. On the outside, I was always more focused on drilling my techniques and taking as many dance classes as I could. On the inside, my identity, worth and confidence was rooted in dance and how well I could dance compared to everyone else.
But in my journey of faith these beliefs have been confronted: Who am I without dance? What am I worth without it?
I believe that dance is God’s beautiful creation, which means it cannot and should not be confined by genres or technique alone. Don’t get me wrong – I know the important of roots, culture and techniques – but like all of life, honest expression must trump perfection.
In God’s original design for the arts, dance is not just a skill but a tool that He uses to heal and fill us with joy, life, dreams and hope for ourselves and others. Meaning and purpose isn’t found in dance itself. Being the best dancer will not last; great technique is just a shell.
Our identity and salvation in Jesus Christ must be the only foundation, no matter how good we are at what we do. Everything else is shaky ground. This is His stage I dance upon; only God can move me.
Xuehui is the choreographer of The Disciples’ upcoming evangelistic dance performance, “Predestined”. The production takes the audience on a journey of four individuals seeking to renew the fictional land of Valor and save their people from slavery. Tickets are free. Visit the “Predestined” page for more information.