Theology of Dance Class

My son is taking a dance class. Because he’s an Ericksen. Which means he’s cursed.

Let me explain. Ericksens, at least my strand of Ericksen, are not athletic. It’s a curse. It’s not for lack of trying, but it’s true. And it’s for one simple reason: We have the coordination of a baby elephant riding a bicycle on a sheet of ice.

And so my wife decided our 4-year-old-son should take a dance class. The specific kind of dance taught in this class is ballet. There are currently 12 ballet classes at our city’s park district. Each class is open to ten children, ages 4-6. In sum, there are roughly 90 children taking the dance classes. Of course, both boys and girls are welcome to participate in the class, but out of the 90 children in Morton Grove’s Park District Dance Class there are 89 girls.

And one boy.

My boy.

That tells me something about American culture. Boys don’t take dance class. Boys play football and baseball and (sometimes) soccer.

Girls dance.

Boys hit and kick things.

I’m willing to bet that someday Gavin will receive this message. A group of boys will shame him for wearing ballet slippers and performing in a recital with a bunch of girls. They may even question his “boyhood.”

But, for now, Gavin thrives in ballet slippers. He loves it. Every Saturday morning he yells, “I want to go to dance class!!!” When we arrive he takes his rightful place among the girls in their pink leotards. Parents are not allowed to be in the room during class, so I don’t know if he’s tripping over the cracks between the tiles on the floor, but ballet isn’t hurting him. His instructor is confident enough. At his upcoming recital he will be center stage as he dances with 89 girls to the song from the Lion King “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.” His instructor told my wife, “I had Gavin in mind when I picked that song!”

And Gavin will love it. This may sound strange, but I mean it in the best possible way: Gavin has no shame. He’s free from shame and so can freely do the thing he loves to do, which is dance.

The great educator William Purkey once said, “Dance like no one is watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like no one is listening, live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Notice the spiritual dimension of that quote. It culminates in “live like it’s heaven on earth.” I’ll risk sounding a little dramatic here: that’s what I experience as I witness Gavin’s excitement for Dance Class.

Heaven. On. Earth.

In fact, Christian tradition claims that the spiritual dimension of dance is central to God. The Greek word it uses to describe God is horribly intimidating and academic and should probably never be used in public. But I’ll use it on my blog:


The word breaks down like this: The Greek prefix peri can mean “around, about, or near.” The ending, choresis, comes from the Greek word choreia, which means to dance.

Because it’s so academic, instead of saying God is Perichoresis, in public I prefer to say, “God is Dancing. God always has been Dancing. And God always will be Dancing.” As Princeton theologian Daniel Migliore says, God is “united in an exquisite divine dance” (Faith Seeking Understanding, 79).

The point of God’s Dance is that God is infinite Joy – without a trace of shame.

If he sticks with Dance Class, Gavin will likely experience shame from other boys. They will scapegoat him as they unite against him and tease him. But shame never comes from the God-Who-Dances. It comes from us. So, when the boys tease him, it won’t be because they are necessarily “bad” kids; it will be because they haven’t experienced the Dance.

But Gavin has. And I’ll keep encouraging him to participate in Dance Class and continue to learn the Dance of Joy.

I don’t know if he’ll ever overcome the Ericksen curse, but I do know the Dance is making him more graceful.

That’s the ballet step he learned on Saturday. It’s called the “tendu.” Yeah. My boy can tendu. Cuz he’s awesome.

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