Dancing to the Beat of God's Drum
By Stefanie Tong
The Art of 5, 6, 7, 8
For a dancer on stage, everything revolves around numbers one through eight. It’s how music is divided. It’s used to keep a dancer on time, a guideline of rhythmic space in which movement can be choreographed or used for freeform expression. Between each count, there are a myriad of invisible counts to be used, the thump of a drum, the rhythm of the bass, the cadence of the lyrics, the melody of synthesizers and more.
Choreographers use the numbers “5, 6, 7, 8” to count in a team of dancers so that everyone knows when to begin dancing. Each count is integral in helping to tell the story from beginning to end. These numbers have significant meanings in the Bible and have helped to shape my story.
Five represents grace.
I started dancing in January of 2002, and by September of that year, I had been offered two teaching contracts by local dance studios and earned performance awards. By God’s grace and favour I was able to step into this new art form on an expedited timeline.
Six represents man.
Two years after working as a professional dancer, I was involved in a car accident that ended my full-time dance career. Perhaps I was supposed to stop dancing all together, but there was so much more I wanted to pursue. I pushed my body. I pushed my flesh to perform and endured the physical pain every movement inflicted. I had my own plans, human plans.
Seven represents perfection.
I believed in God’s perfect time I would be restored physically so that I could return to my mission field—the dance floor. Dance was my tool to reveal my Creator. The last performance I had on stage was the day I found out my husband and I were expecting our first baby. It wasn’t the redemption I had been praying for, but it was the perfect way to take the final bow from the creative outlet I was the most passionate about.
Eight represents new beginnings.
The journey of expanding my family is where I discovered writing. The grief of delivering two babies into heaven was more than I could bear. Dance would have helped me cope, but due to two additional car accidents, movement was not an option. Words have become my outlet. By sharing the stories of my miscarriages, I am able to connect with other parents who have experienced loss and advocate for pregnancy loss awareness. It is a new beginning—a new mission field.
While dancing and writing are art forms that don’t often cross paths, in my experience there are a lot of similarities.
I used to choreograph dance routines, now I choreograph words. Every written piece requires rhythm, flow, cadence and dynamics to complete the story, much like I used to do through movement.
On stage, I used formations, patterns and levels. On a page my formations are displayed through paragraphs, punctuation, font styles and word placement.
Timing has been essential in both writing and dancing. Each piece, whether through word or through movement, has to be composed during a time that is relevant to the message being portrayed, helping to put moments into perspective. Whether it is a personal piece for my private repertoire or something to be shared, timing captures the essence of the story.
For a long time I considered that each of my creative outlets had a season, that my season of dance concluded and that my season as a writer is now beginning. But through writing, I am realizing that though both art forms may have different seasons, they are both still in bloom. Both dance and writing are used to tell my story. Whether it’s on a stage or on a page, it’s still the One who counts me in with a “5, 6, 7, 8” and keeps me creating according to His timing.
Have you been writing to the beat of God’s drum? Stefanie Tong’s soon-to-be-released book, Chasing Light, was shortlisted in the 2015 Women’s Journey of Faith Publishing Contest. Learn how you can join with writers across Canada in this year’s WJOF Contest and our general Free Publishing Contest.
About this Contributor:
Stefanie Tong was a hip hop dance choreographer for over a decade prior to her work as an early childhood educator, freelance writer and speaker. Her upcoming book Chasing Light is a memoir about finding hope through the loss of miscarriage. Connect with Stefanie online through her blog (ecemom.com), Facebook (facebook.com/ecemomblog) and Instagram (instagram.com/hi_ecemom).