It’s been an awesome start to our events this year, with our
first Living Colour morning of 2019. Such a privilege to meet with all the
dancers and spend time catching up.
Our focus during the workshop session was exploring Proverbs
3.1-8, by looking at 3 main sections, Gods teaching and foundation, his
faithfulness and understanding when we are struggling and having help come
There was a great conversation about verse 1, and the
different interpretations in different Bible versions. One version talked about
‘storing’ commands not keeping them, which is an image of treasuring the things
that God gives you.
In verses 3 and 4 we chatted about how we can forget the small things that God is faithful in, and that it’s important to remember them daily. Participants worked in pairs to pick 3 or 4 areas that they felt God was faithful in. They wrote these down on separate pieces of paper and placed them at staggered points across the space. Working with their partner they put those faithful things into a journey, what they realised as they danced and shared with others, was the importance of fellowship and being with someone as you share in your faithful journey.
You can check out some photos here. But below is short film of Servina and Jane’s, and Caroline and Helen’s Faithful Journey.
Our next Living Colour is planned for Saturday 22nd June, you can check out the info here. But why not join us before that at one of our dance days.
Last night I had the privilege of being invited to be part
of the Candlemas service at St Micahel’s, Aldershot, it was such a lovely
evening, I left buzzing and I want to share some of what God spoke to me during
I had been asked if I could find some dancers who could
respond as the felt led to a piece of live piano music based on Psalm 121: I Life
my eyes up, to the Mountain. The lovely Helen Warren joined me as a second
dancer, and our prayer before we danced was that we would reflect some of Jesus’
heart, that people would be drawn in with a desire to explore God more through
Recently I recognised that I spend a lot of time teaching
and delivering, and not so much time dancing for myself. Last night gave me the
opportunity to come before God and thank him that I have the ability to move,
but also reinforced that for UC Grace to grow, and share Gods heart, I need to
make sure I am giving God mine, and that in turn requires time set aside for me
to dance, and be lost in his love through movement.
As the service progressed, Alwyn, the Vicar asked if we
would dance again later in the service. By this point me and Helen felt we had ‘warmed
up’, laid the foundations of showing Jesus through movement. So, as Jesus
Christ, I think upon your sacrifice played, our hearts were stirred more by the
spirit and we loved sharing more of that through dance and movement.
Much of the journey I have been on over the past week has
encompassed the desire to draw back to the centre of what and why I do what I
do with UC Grace. There were several things that God drew my attention to last
night, it made me chuckle as the theme seemed to be everywhere I went at the
In my previous post I mentioned about the interaction between creativity and the heart, and that my desire when I started had always been that it was about the hearts impacted not the numbers. You can read more about it here. It is this theme of people’s hearts and prayer that keep cropping up.
This prayer below reminded me that God places me where I
need to be and with who I need to be, and I need to be willing to serve Him in
what ever way that looks like.
It’s really hard in reality isn’t it to keep that sense of doing what God wants and following his will. This chorus of ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’ (brilliant song, you can listen to here), sums it up very well.
I will hold your
people in my heart. The people that God puts in front of me at events, in
conversations and through dancing. Each one is important.
We did manage to video some of what we did last night. Not
everything is in full view. But it will give you a flavour from our first
What special services have you danced in? Let me know.
The word creativity has been on my mind a lot recently, it’s taken me right back to why I started UC Grace, and how Living Colour dance workshops came about. I’ve been reading through previous notes and realising that at times it’s important to go back to your roots.
The ultimate reason I began UC Grace in 2010 was a passion to share with others the impact that dance and movement can have with our faith, and how it can be instrumental in encouraging others in their walk, bringing others to faith, and teaching Gods word. I wanted to acknowledge that God has given us a creative spirit, to explore, move and grow with. To put ourselves outside the box.
But as with so many things in life, distractions arise and
before you know it, where you think you were, you no longer are.
A dear friend gave me a card with the saying ‘Creativity takes Courage’. Initially I
read it and put it to one side. Until last week, when I was drawn back to it,
and the need to understand the implications of what that phrase means to me and
to UC Grace.
Creativity has been a fundamental part of how UC Grace has
developed, it’s integral to how we deliver our workshops, training and dance
weekends and is actively encouraged amongst participants to help them draw
closer to God.
However, I’ve felt challenged, that this fundamental root,
the thing that shines through our work and sets it apart from others, has wilted.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve delivered all events with the same amount of gusto and
passion, but had a feeling like something was missing, but not knowing what.
As this year has got underway, the Holy Spirit has whispered
in me more, and I’ve realised its creativity
that’s missing. Or more specifically how I share the connection of dance and
movement and our faith, by offering a creative channel within which to do it.
Let me share for a moment what I mean by creativity with dance and movement and our faith!
An aspect that we look at a lot, is our journey, how we’ve got there, and where we might be going to. At one particular Living Colour session I asked participants to take a piece of paper and think about the journey that they had been on over the last week, and if they drew it, what would it look like? I then asked them at what points on that journey did they know that God was with them, and to mark it on the paper. From there their task was to transpose that picture into movement working individually initially, but then as a group. You can read more about how they did it, by reading the workshop plan here. But for now, look at the video below to see how they went from a picture to movement.
So why does it take courage? It takes courage, because for a lot of people creativity is something they don’t experience in their day to day. It’s something that doesn’t have a written step by step process, or tick boxes. It’s something that draws us to discover something new about ourselves, by stepping out the box.
The process is as important as the result is, both of which you might not have control over. Creativity takes courage, as it challenges your perceptions, your routine and your mindset. At UC Grace, that discovery happens in a safe environment, where whatever the result is, we support you as best as we can. Most importantly though, you join in as much or as little as you want.
It’s never been about the numbers that come to events. It’s about the hearts. I believe that if you join us at our events, God has put you there for a reason, and I value that. The connection between creativity and people’s hearts is so important.
Over the next month or so, I am looking forward to continuing to weave this strand, across the whole of UC Grace, some of what is on our website currently is not where UC Grace is now. As God moves each of us on in our journey, God also moves UC Grace, and I’m looking forward to delving into putting creativity right back at our heart, as well as revisiting our values and vision.
We started with that phrase in 2010, let’s head back their in 2019 and see where it takes us.
I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences, if you have danced and moved with UC Grace. But also, those that haven’t, how do you use creativity? What does it mean to you?
So here is a simple workshop plan. Sometimes my plans are
written out in detail, others are not as I know that there needed to be a lot
of space to let God move and see where the session was going to take us. So
below is an example of a ‘light’ plan. When I delivered this session, it was
one of my busiest for a while, so it was lovely to see how each person developed
their individual movement style.
Let me know how you get on!
Pray – always begin
with prayer, welcome God into the space you are in.
Read all of Romans 8 – what are your initial thoughts?
Focus on the following areas for discussion –
Verses 1 – 4
Verse 14 – children of God
Verses 37 to the end.
Creative Task – Life through
What has you week looked like? Where has the spirit been in
Take a piece of paper and draw or sketch your journey. Think
about peaks and troughs and how you travelled from one space to another.
identify ways that you can put movements together to demonstrate your journey.
Share with others if you comfortable.
With Others –
Link your journeys together. Do this by first all doing your own journey at the
same time. Then identify points at which your journey can intersect with
someone else’s. Finally, how different does the journey look if you add some
You should 3 variations now. Your own with others, your own
that intersects with others and finally your own with someone else in the
journey at some point too.
Share with others your finished dance. Use it as a time of
blessing, both to give, but also to receive.
One thing I am passionate about is passing on the joy of
moving and dancing with flags and ribbons to children. However, I am keen that
they understand scriptural references and know that they are choosing to pick
up a vehicle that can be used to talk to God, to communicate, worship and share
But how does using
dance and movement with children encourage them on their walk with God?
From a wide-angle perspective dance encourages growth of
self-esteem, beliefs, accomplishments and other skills, and releases children
to live their life in a way that they want too and will be of value to them.
However, if you zoom in, dance and movement provide a safe space for children
to learn to channel their emotions and communicate to God when words maybe
difficult, it also provides opportunity for children to learn the Bible. Putting
movement and actions to words, helping with memory verse remembrance and themes
and topics in the Bible.
Please recognise that you will have your own unique way of
teaching – because God made you that way! So, what I put forward are simply
suggestions, they are things that I have learnt along the way and have found
helpful when teaching.
There is too much to say all in this post, so make sure you check out my post about What the Bible says about Flags and Banners. Information about a practical day to look at Teaching Children | Dance and Movement will be available here shortly.
Here are my top 5 tips for teaching children flags and ribbons specifically.
Have clear intentions and boundaries
Boundaries – However
well you know the children you will need clear boundaries in place. These
include things like, the flag stays rolled whilst you’re teaching or talking. You
put your hand up and count back from 5 when you want the children to be still. They
sit down or put their flag down when you’re talking. You make it clear what
happens if they continually don’t listen. They understand their dance space and
where they can go when they move.
Intentions – This is about letting parents and children know what they are going to be doing during the session. Depending on the context of your workshop or class, this is important. Although it might seem obvious, you will need to say they will be worshipping, praying, reading the Bible and dancing for Jesus. If it’s not a ‘normal’ event i.e. church, Sunday school etc. But more like a youth club, holiday club, you may have some unchurched children there (awesome), we just need to still be respectful of their back ground.
2. The more help you have the better
No brainer with children! When ever you think you have
enough you don’t! Regardless of how well behaved you think your children are,
they will use a flag as a sword or poke someone on purpose. It’s new and
exciting. Extra hands are also useful when you are teaching, as helpers can dot
them selves amongst the children, so even if the children can’t see you, they
can watch a helper (provided you’ve primed the helpers with what you are
doing!). Should you split into group work, helpers can assist those groups and
children that might be finding the task hard.
3. Restrict numbers
It sounds quite harsh doesn’t it? But honestly, when you are teaching flags and ribbons you don’t want a packed hall. Not only will you have to fight above the noise to capture attention and teach safely. But the children won’t be able to enjoy the full effect of moving and dancing with a flag or ribbon if they don’t have the space within which to do it. If you do have to do a big group, my suggestion would be to split the group in two when ever it comes to actively moving as a smaller group can access the space more effectively.
4. Demonstrate, teach, practise, repeat in chunks
Chunking is something that I will talk about in another
post. But essentially break down what ever you want to teach them into small
sections and then do this:
Demonstrate – the
children WATCH you do the movements
Teach – you TALK
through and DO the movements with them
Practise – you go
over what you have just done – with a partner or another helper
constantly go back and re do what you have just done.
All children learn differently, all children learn at different paces. Doing it as above, will allow children who learn differently to still be able to access what you are doing.
5. Pick one song and memory verse they know.
With children, less is more. Don’t over plan. Pick something
simple, that will allow them to be TAUGHT something and then allow them to
CREATE something. That’s primarily why children love to dance and move with flags
and ribbons. There is a freedom they don’t get in other activities.
Let me know how you get on. There will be more hints and
tips on teaching children and why we should invest in over the year. So, make
sure you check back regularly.
If you’ve got a heart to teach children but don’t feel you have the skills and confidence to move with flags and ribbons yourself, why not come to our Moving with Resources day in February. You can find out more information about the day here.
Throughout history flags and ribbons have been used in many
significant ways – declaration and proclamation, worship, battle and celebration.
Flags have become increasingly popular in churches to demonstrate freedom of expression
and encourage other people to experience and try out dance and moving with
Flags and banners themselves have no power. The significance
is in Scripture and what they symbolize, God ‘inhabits the praises of His
people’ and brings the kingdom in when we choose to take them up in faith.
However, I feel strongly, that flags and banners should not be
picked up lightly. There is a lot more power in them, than people realise. They
are vehicle to talk to God, to communicate, worship and share your heart. Be
aware of this, as you choose to move with them.
Let’s try and understand them a bit more…
What are banners used
for? Historically in the Bible there were 4 different levels of relationship
to flags and banners –
They were a people and a people belonged to God –
there was Israel’s banner of God being with them. They housed the Ark of the
Covenant, with them morning and evening. It was a symbol of God saying I am
with you, just like we have the Holy Spirit.
Demonstration of military and fighting force –
each tribe had one rallying point for the fighting men of the tribes. They
could look to the horizon and know the banner they need to get back to.
Tribal unit identity – 3 on each side NESW, so
they knew exactly where they belonged – their identity.
Family clan units – based on the location of
other banners, families always knew where to camp. The banners acted as
reference points, therefore giving individuals purpose and vision.
What can banners do?
Tell people who you represent, but like a signal
pole always high on a hill.
Signal of intent about what is to come –
Indicate past victories they’d come through –
different ribbons are attached to their pole under their banner depending on the
battle won. Psalm 20.5 and 7
Indication of Gods presence – Moses and Aaron’s
staff are banners that have been lifted and a response occurred. Exodus – 25
Put enemies to flight. Isaiah 31.9
This is very quick overview of the use of flags and banners,
but hopefully offers you an insight into what the Bible says, and areas to think
about when you choose to dance with flags.
I like to remember it as a visual demonstration of a spiritual
truth. Just like moving normally, you never know the impact moving with flags
and banners can have on you and others who may witness it. The colour you use
can create just as much impact.
Finally, want to come try using resources during your worship? Then join us on Saturday 9th February where you can try out ways of moving with flags, ribbons and material. No prior experience necessary, more info is here!
I don’t know about you, but from the moment you find out you’re
pregnant all the ‘preparation’ that you are told about, explore, look up seems to
centre on most of these topics – how your pregnancy will develop, how the baby
grows, things you need to be aware of at birth, what to remember at birth, breastfeeding,
bottle feeding, what changes the baby goes through and much more. What isn’t spoken
about enough or made aware to mums enough is the reality of how you and your body feels physically post birth.
When I had my daughter, this was the bit I struggled with
the most, since then I’ve spoken with many mums about how they actually felt
post birth and it’s shocking. It’s the one thing they weren’t prepared for,
hadn’t been told or heard about, and it’s the thing that had one of the
greatest impacts on them as they came to grips with being a new mum.
I want to share with you two things – my post birth pain
story and how you can help yourself to get out moving after birth that will aid
healing in the right way. I recognise everyone’s story is different, and for
some mums, they may be the lucky few that experience a positive birth, with
minimal visible damage and easy movement after. But sadly, there are a lot of
mums that don’t get that.
The birth of my first child wasn’t what I pictured it would
be. To start with she was 10 days late! I was in slow labour, with sporadic contractions
for 5 days. My waters broke but I didn’t have any regular contractions and I
was scheduled to be induced. A high-powered walk eventually shifted things into
regularity. However, in the final pushing stages it all went wrong… very quickly,
and I ended up in theatre with an episiotomy, forceps and a baby not breathing,
after 6 very long minutes we heard our baby. Thank you, God.
In the hours after the birth I eventually managed to get up,
although I could walk, albeit very slowly, I could not sit. What followed as I
attempted to recover, navigate a very painful breastfeeding journey (a story for
another time), go through all the new mum, baby, family processes. Was the
realisation that whilst I was prepared to ‘become a mum’, I most definitely was
not prepared (nor had I read anywhere) for the immense pain, immovability and
recovery of my body. The hardest part was transitions, once standing, or
sitting in a fixed place I was okay, but moving from one to the other, turning
over in bed, getting baby in the night to do feeds, was excruciating, it was at
least 4 weeks if not longer before I could sit comfortably and transition between
standing and sitting comfortably.
Mentally I really struggled with this. I’m a doer, some one who likes to keep busy, and realising that I still needed to be on a ‘go slow’ a lot longer than I thought, I struggled with. It was around 4 months post-partum that my friend invited me to try out Buggyfit. What a God send! By this point I had worked out that sleep and my daughter didn’t mix. But the outdoors and buggy produced a small amount of sleep, hallelujah! Over the next 3 or 4 months with Helena at Buggyfit Farnham, I learnt a lot more about our post-partum bodies and rehabbing them in the right way. Plus, the importance of knowing if we have diastasis recti (tummy gap), and how strong our pelvic floor is (let’s be honest, we all mean to do the exercises, but the reality of actually doing them…?!).
I took a lot longer to recover than I thought I would, in
fact it hadn’t crossed my mind that it would take long to recover – I mean
nothing is said in any of the magazines. But think about it, you’ve taken 9
months to grow your baby, allow it time to recoup, recover and regrow as
Fast forward to now, I’ve been a Buggyfit instructor for 3 years running classes in Odiham, Hook and Alton (more info here), I love it. I’m passionate about ensuring mum’s get moving in a safe, supportive and fun environment and I love being able to encourage them not only in their fitness journey, but also in being a mum.
So what can you do to help your movement post birth? Here’s
3 things that I would make a priority –
Slow and steady wins
the race – giving birth is equivalent to doing a marathon, not only pace
yourself during your labour, but also after it. No consistent* running, high
impact, jumping, HiiT, Boxercise or similar until you are 5-6 months. This
sounds like you must wait an eternity, but although you might look and feel great
on the outside, there are many layers of muscles and healing that need to take
place deep down. Follow the advice of your postnatal trainer but depending on
your recovery some of these can be started sooner. Walking is the best place to
Little and often –
get out for a walk every day. This might mean on day one, you walk to the end
of the driveway or garden and back and that’s it. But firstly, you’ve moved and
secondly you got outside, win win! Fresh air helps you to regroup, blow away a
little bit of tiredness and help you feel like you’ve done something. Moving,
wakes up your muscles to help them to start contracting back to where they
should normally be. Each time you walk, walk as fast as you can, this might be
like a snail to start with, but you will get quicker!
Remember your breathing – just like during labour, breathing is your lifeline. Taking several lots of deep breaths, a day will not only send more oxygen round the body to your muscles, but also help rebuild your pelvic floor and tummy gap.
If you’re keen to get out and get moving soon after birth,
then I’d recommend heading to a local Buggyfit class where you can get your
outside fresh air fix, baby can go to and all the instructors are postnatally
trained, so you will be in the safest of hands to get your body moving and
active post birth.
When looking for classes postnatally, it is really important
that you check (ask to see certificates if need be), that your class instructor
is qualified to teach postnatally. You will do more damage to your body if you
go back into exercise and begin throwing weights around, doing sit ups, running
sprints and more. There are many other exercises that work more effectively to
rebuild your core, tone your muscles and build strength.
Put your body first, let it recover, know that it might be painful and accept you might need to watch a little more tv whilst you recover!
Ribbons are another way to bring colour and movement into
dancing. Not only do they raise the eye level upwards, but the colour and the
way the ribbon moves speak to different people in so many ways.
There’re short ones, fat ones, thin ones, long ones,
multilayer ones, it’s only your imagination that can limit the type of ribbon
you can make and use. But just like with flags, there are a few things that you
should always remember when choosing to move with a ribbon.
It’s all about the
wrist! The ebb and flow of the ribbon is created via the flex, rotation and
flick of the wrist. It’s always best to hold the ribbon wand at the end to
allow greatest movement and extension during your dancing. Much like with the flag,
the ribbon is an extension of your arm, but unlike a flag, it moves, wraps,
knots and twists a lot more easily. Clear precise movements of the wrist and
body (!) help to maintain the ribbon in a place of hover and shape in the air.
The length is important!
As mentioned above, you can have ribbons in whatever length you want. However,
I would say there are some exceptions. Children can operate a ribbon best under
2m, and I’d recommend 1m or even shorter (on a curtain ring) for children aged
2 – 5 years. Children will naturally want to move with a ribbon, instinctively
they are drawn to it. But, their spatial awareness, movements and concentration
can cause the ribbon to get wrapped up, knotted, hit someone and sometimes used
a weapon or toy.
For adults starting out I’d recommend starting at around 1.25m or 3m, no longer. You need to build up the strength and movement technique with your wrist before moving onto something longer. Some dancers move with up to 6m of ribbon, but the understanding and movement capabilities of the dancer is much greater.
Dancing with a ribbon you can sometimes get stuck using the
same sort of movements, but you have your whole body too. Unlike the flag, this
lovely piece of ribbon really can mimic your movements in the shape it creates
and the way that it moves.
The video below demonstrates how ribbons can be seen up
high, but also how their movements flow and sit well with how the rest of the
body naturally moves. The dancers in this dance were from all different
backgrounds, some with no dance experience, some with lots. In this instance
the ribbons allowed everyone to be on the same level, take part and move together.
So, they can be an excellent tool at drawing those who could
be nervous, interested but not tried it, or have different abilities, together
to move and dance as one.
Do you use ribbons already? How did you find getting started
with them, getting the movements from the wrist right and using your whole body
If you’re interested in trying out moving with some ribbons you can head here, where you can find some different colours and lengths to get you going. There are one’s available on curtain rings too, for the little ones. Pop back and let me know how you get on.
Many people ask me how you can incorporate the use of flags
into a dance without just simply twirling them. The simple answer is that you
consider it as part of your body! I’m going to unpack some of what I mean by this.
To begin with let’s talk about how you hold your flag and
some simple movements you can do, to start to familiarise yourself with dancing
Flags (or banners) essentially consist of some form of rod
and a piece of material. The exact make up of these two, is dependent upon your
preference. I teach using dowelling as the rod and a rectangular piece of
material, as I believe these offer a great foundation for beginners.
When holding the flag, the ideal placement is thumb and index
finger sandwiched around the base of the material where it is on the rod. This
means that as you move the flag you can also untwist the rod if the material
begins to get caught around it – I’ll be talking more about this later in the
Initial movements with a flag involve circles, side ways
figure of eights, ripples, throws, turns, rainbows and twists. Although with
these you can travel and move them, they can be quite static in comparison to
‘dancing’ with the flag.
So how can we move from a static place to incorporating
fluidity with the flag?
Firstly, you need
to remember two very important things when choosing to move with the flag:
The flag is an
extension of your arm – when you choreograph the flag sits at the end of
the arm, which means that yes one arm is longer than the other, but that doesn’t
mean your usual movements are inhibited.
Moving with a flag
brings Gods power – moving with a flag/ banner should not be done lightly,
it’s an act of bringing Gods power down to earth in an almighty and visual way.
So, know why you choose to use a flag and know that you are declaring Gods
power in the process.
choreographing without a flag first makes adapting with a flag easier. In the
video below I first choreographed, movements using my body alone. I went over
and over these movements until I knew them well. Once that was done, and only
then I picked up a flag to use within the already choreographed moves. Some of
the movements naturally transposed to using the flag with them, others needed
It’s good to note that there are many ways to develop
movement using the flag. But this is a way I would encourage for those that are
not used to choreographing with flags. It allows dancers to see a difference
between moving with and without, and the effect some changes can make in order
to use the flag effectively. In addition, the more comfortable you get with
moving with a flag, the more spontaneous your movements become, creating the
fluidity you might see in others who are more experienced using them.
I’d love to know what ways you choreograph and develop
movement with flags?
‘Pictures say a thousand words’ I love this picture for so many reasons, but there as two main ones I want to chat about today.
Embracing the mud
Being child like
Are you a mud lover? Do you mind the mess it makes? I’ve mostly embraced mud in my life, but when my daughter came along, I really had to learn what embracing mud, mess and chaos meant, as they are 3 things she loves!
In our faith we can have an expectation that it will all fit into neat boxes and not be messy, but the reality is that it is rarely like that! Lots will splash up at us, getting us dirty along the way. Allowing our selves to live a ‘messy faith’ opens the doors to possibilities of connecting with family, friends and non-Christians in an unrestrictive way. God doesn’t want our faith put into a box, he made us to share it – the delight, mess, pain and laughter that can all come from it.
Children have much less inhibitions than adults, which makes them much better at ‘just getting on with it’. They embrace things with their whole body, mess and all. So, when I talk about a ‘messy faith’ I’m referring to embracing God through those messy moments, when life might be hard and you don’t understand why life is like that at the moment. It’s seeing the joy in all circumstances, jumping in and getting messy too.
When my daughter discovered this puddle with her friend Theo, to start with they just walked through it backwards and forwards, and then did a little tap on the water here and there. When they realised the mess it made the look of shear delight on their faces was incredible. They both went a bit crazy and finished completely covered in mud (sadly no picture to show you the full extent!).
This reaction can be what we experience in our faith. We go backwards and forwards over something checking it out, maybe testing the ground but never quite going all the way. We hold back. But, when you do make the decision to stop tapping and go in fully, what God gives you, is beyond what we can imagine. There is delight, there is comfort, there can be tears, but God carries us through it all.
So, what things now do you need to embrace the mud in? What things do you need to be more childlike and push your inhibitions to the side?