Friday, May 1, 2009

Tell the Story

When Olivia was eight, she was a tiny dancer, and one of her first performances was Happy Feet. She was a tiny little thing, yet quite indignant that she had to lie on the floor with her ballet feet up in the air.

I am not sure we realized how prophetic this dance and song would be for her. Each year, each performance made her physically stronger, enabled her to mature as a dancer, and fed her passion to express herself through the art of dance.

Her family has been at every performance, and for the most part our eyes and attention have been mostly for her. Our eyes have been riveted to her—her smile infectious, her enthusiasm contagious, her energy transferred. We dance through her. I, her mother who has no rhythm and no tempo, can dance if just for a brief few moments through her.

Before each performance we have a deep conversation: dance your best, dance as if no one is watching, dance as if you aren’t being evaluated, dance from your heart.

Also during this period before the performance she zones and becomes tunnel-visioned. She can only see what is directly linked to the performance; everything else is forgotten or stored away until it is over.

This performance is based on the parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25 1-13. Perhaps you know the story.

Ten young women are preparing for the wedding week of their friend. They are waiting for the bridegroom, waiting for him to arrive, waiting for him to escort them to the festivities. But they must be ready; they must be prepared. All ten take lamps filled with oil. All have thought about what they needed in the moment, but only five take extra oil to fuel their lamps if the wait is longer than anticipated. Only five think about the wee hours of the morning.

The glorious bridegroom arrives. They all jump up ready to follow. All. Did you notice—all? But a problem surfaces: five of the young girls discover their lamps’ oil supply has been depleted in the long night. They panic. They turn to their friends, their companions, and plead with them to share their oil. There will be no sharing. There is neither enough time nor enough oil. The wise virgins go with the bridegroom and the foolish are left. For lack of preparation they miss the wedding celebration. For a lack of vision they miss the wedding banquet.

This parable breaks my heart. I vacillate between anger and pity. Between angst and urgency.

Tonight my daughter will dance the role of a foolish virgin. She volunteered for this role. Why? At first I thought it was because she thought it would be more fun to play one of the bad girls of the Bible. Given her incredible bent and propensity toward theater, I am sure this was part of her decision. But this was not the whole reason.

Her instructor, a beautiful woman, told the dancers in dress rehearsal that she wanted them to tell a story—more than technical perfection she wanted them to interpret the roles and the music for the audience.

Olivia will be the words tonight of the story. That is what dancing becomes—the words of the music. The words of the story.

Tonight Olivia will interpret the heart and the mind of one of the foolish virgins. And as the bridegroom comes and gathers Olivia's wise companions, how will she feel? How will she feel to be left behind? How will I feel to watch my daughter realize the consequences of her lack of preparation?

How will I see myself in this parable? If Olivia and all of her company tell the story tonight, if they dance in a way that draws all of us in, then these are the questions we will have to ask.

Am I prepared? Am I ready? Have I filled my own lamp and brought extra oil in case the wait is longer than I anticipated? Am I waiting and prepared for the glorious appearing of my Bridegroom?

Tell the story tonight, beautiful Olivia.

Remember you are anything but foolish.

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