Why use dance and movement through Lent?

Last week, as I sat and looked through the coming events with UC Grace and where they sat in the wider calendar, I suddenly realised that Lent was just a week away. It got me thinking about how Lent is approached in the wider world, and how much emphasis people place on it.

Many people strive to give up things, or try to focus on something specific, but how many actually use those 40 days to draw closer to God, to deepen their relationship with him, learn something new about themselves and God? Probably not as many as we’d think.

Then my thinking all got a bit radical, and I thought, why don’t we dance through Lent??

Lent is set aside as a time of reflection, prayer, and preparation. What better way to prepare ourselves than to move the bodies God has given us in surrender when words don’t suffice.

In him we live and move and have our being… Acts 17.28

This is one of my favourite verses, the essence of dance summed up in 10 words! Tim Hughes song, God of Justice emphasises it very well too, with the phrase ‘move us into action, we must go.’ God moves us into action, fills our hearts and initiates our movements.

So, the idea has grown, to 6 week resource, to encourage us all to step out in some form of movement each day. My heart is that those who are both inexperienced and experienced can access it, with different options for people to dip into depending on their time and circumstance.

The Layout

Each day there is a bible reference and a themed word assigned to it, the word is there to help you prompt other feelings as you do the study.

Over the course of the 6 weeks we are going to look at 4 areas, the Psalms – 2 weeks, Armour of God – 1 week, God’s Truths -2 weeks, and of course the Easter story.

How will it work?

Each Wednesday the next weeks study will come out. When completing the study, there are two levels. If you’re short on time, concentrate on the first 3 questions, these can be done in 10-15 minutes. If you’ve got more time and want to go deeper, do the next set of 3 questions which will also take 10-15 minutes. So, if you decide to do both it can be around a 30 minute movement time!

How much movement will I do?

That is really up to you, the studies are designed so that you can put as much action into them as you want, or if you just want to isolate a single word and do a single action you can do that too.

Do I need to have danced or moved before?

No, this study can provide a great way to introduce you to movement. There is no right or wrong way to move, if you are putting Jesus at the centre of your movement. My encouragement would be to start simple, by thinking of movements connected to words in the literal sense.

What if I don’t understand what to do?

Drop me a message! Ask in the Facebook group! There is a UC Grace worship chatter group where the main ‘talk’ of the series will be happening. This is so other platforms aren’t constantly bombarded with what’s going on.

This sounds awesome! How do I sign up?

Already on my email list? Drop me a message here which says ‘count me in’.

Not on my email list? Then head here …. and I can make sure you get all the information you need.

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Teaching Faith and Dance | Passion, Purpose and Freedom

I was asked recently why I teach, and more specifically why I teach faith and dance together. Big question, that has lots of foundation, journey and hope behind it.

The simple answer is I teach because I love doing it, and I use faith and dance together as I see them as one thing, intertwined together, where one can’t function without the other, so it makes sense to teach them both!

Let me explain a little bit more…

Dance to me is an embodiment of your soul, your heart, your very essence. As you move and dance, more of who you are gets revealed. Often, people know that there is something greater inside them, but to tap into it, to release it… is scary, and not a journey people want to go on, on their own.

Our faith helps us display who God has made us to be, the qualities and purpose he’s written on our lives, things that should be celebrated, encouraged, grown and then released.

My passion… is to help each one of those things to develop, to provide a safe space for people to dig deep into who they are, fall head over heels in love with God, to lay at His cross those things that they are struggling with, to lean with their whole body weight onto God in complete trust, and feel safe and secure in the knowledge that he is for them 100%. But to do that, using the tool dance and movement.

I want to share two stories that helped to lay the foundation of where I have come from with dance.

  1. I began dancing from about 4 years old, tap first, then jazz, and ballet was my last subject. I loved it, it wasn’t my passion at this point, but I chose it over sailing. From an early age I was given the opportunity to take part in Solo’s and duets at competitions… which I enjoyed… but there is one memory that sticks with me. The time when my memory failed me and I forgot my dance. I was embarrassed, upset, ashamed and so much more. It made me shrink back from performances.
  2. Who has felt that tug of the Holy Spirit, the nudge that you should do something, or that total abandonment feeling that the Holy Spirit is there right with you? Who has had that through movement? What an experience! The first time this happened, my eyes were opened to how I could share my heart with God and be lost in the process. There was no pressure to do things a certain way, or wonder about whether I was doing it right. It was just purely sinking into God in that moment to grow closer to him through dance and movement.

Although, two very simple stories, they are what started my journey to where I am now.

The stall in my performance when I was younger has meant that when I get the opportunity to perform now, I must lean on God in every second of the dance and breathe! Such a simple thing, but the breathing keeps me grounded, allows me to focus on breathing in God and remember the movements. There have been many times since then, that I have struggled with performances, and I know during those times it was because I wasn’t leaning on God and trying to do it by myself.

Recognising the nudge from the Holy Spirit has made me more aware of my journey and conversation with God. That important thing, of both talking and then allowing time to listen back. Realising that the reasons you move, may be different to what others may see in your movement. Where you have the chance to be blessed and bless others. To look for the GRACE in that moment and seize that conversation with God.

But how does this bring me to where I am now with teaching about faith and dance?

I mentioned at the beginning about how I see them intertwined as one thing, as you grow in dance, you grow in God. As you grow in God, you expand you dance.

The opportunity to learn and be grounded in dance technique has helped my development of dance, furthermore, the development of my dance and faith together. Allowing the Holy Spirit into this interaction, provides an avenue to dig deep in your faith and who you are.

Living Colour February 2018

Three things have shaped how I have gone on to teach and develop my practice since these stories – Passion, purpose and freedom.

Passion…

To simply share. Share my love for dance, my love for Jesus and my love to encourage others. That as we move and dance our passion shines through to pass on from the youngest to the oldest the knowledge that Jesus is part of our everyday. That he carries us through those moments when we need to both receive and demonstrate grace.

Purpose…

That breathing in Jesus is so important! Breathing him in, to every part of lives, especially when we need him most. Imparting that a solid dance foundation – the understanding of posture, balance, core and travel – are paramount in aiding us to dance and move our best for Jesus. Whilst allowing the space and possibilities of the Holy Spirit to move.

Freedom…

‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free’. When words fail me, movement and dance transpose what’s on my heart. That importance of knowing that you can still have that conversation with God when words fail you, is so important. As I teach with passion and purpose, the ability to pass on the freedom in the Holy Spirit, freedom and comfort to lean on God in ALL circumstances, whether that is using the vehicle of dance or something else.

There is so much to say on the subject, but that’s enough for now. I started teaching informally in 2000, nearly 20 years later I am still going, and I love just as much teaching what I’m passionate about now, as I did then.

Join in me April when I run a dance training day about teaching children, dance and movement using faith. What’s your story? What got you to where you are, at the moment?

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Living Colour Morning January 2019

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 around us.

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.

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.

Teaching Children | Dance and movement – 13th April.

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Why is creativity so important?

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.

Creativity takes courage. Henri Matisse

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.

So, the soul of our Living Colour dance mornings, our soak evenings, dance days and dance weekends is…

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?

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Romans 8 – Death was arrested | Life through the spirit

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 the spirit

What has you week looked like? Where has the spirit been in it?

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.

Get Moving

Individually – 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 one in?

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.

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5 Top tips for Teaching Children Flags and Ribbons

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 their heart.

Moving Rainbows | Guildford

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.

St Albans Holiday Club

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 is available here.

Here are my top 5 tips for teaching children flags and ribbons specifically.

  1. 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.

Mothering Sunday | Emmanuel Church Guildford
  • 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

Repeat – 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.

Family Advent Fun

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 get in touch about running a Moving with Resources day at your church. You can get in touch with me here.

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Flags and Banners – what does the Bible say?

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 their faith.

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 –

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Tribal unit identity – 3 on each side NESW, so they knew exactly where they belonged – their identity.
  4. 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?

  1. Tell people who you represent, but like a signal pole always high on a hill.
  2. Signal of intent about what is to come – Jeremiah 51.12
  3. 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
  4. Indication of Gods presence – Moses and Aaron’s staff are banners that have been lifted and a response occurred. Exodus – 25
  5. 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.

If you’d like to know more about ways that you adapt choreography to use flags here. There are also some tips on using ribbons in worship here.

Finally, want to come try using resources during your worship? Then get in touch with me here to chat about me coming to your church, where you can try out ways of moving with flags, ribbons and material. No prior experience necessary!

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Dancing with Ribbons

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.

2011 Joyful Joyful performance

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 with them?

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.

Worship ribbons and streamers
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Adapting Choreography to flags in worship dance

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 with it.

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 month.

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.

Secondly, 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 adapting slightly.

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?

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