by Andilyn Jenkins (I originally wrote this piece for the ANWA Founder and Friends blog who invited me into their ranks. Check them out.)
Five foot and three inches at 118 pounds, I sat on the laminate wood floor in my black leotard and mustard yellow Sofie shorts holding my slippered feet and leaning forward in the butterfly stretch. My hairline and back were misty from a hard workout as we sat in a small half circle cooling down and stretching before heading home.
I don’t remember how the conversations began, but they were always thought-provoking and nourishing. Several years later, I have to Google “ballet terms” to recall the pirouettes, piques, and rond de jambs, but I always remember listening to my dance teacher Julie open my eyes to the limitless possibilities of the eternities.
Julie wanted us to understand why she worked us—why she pushed us further when our muscles trembled and our breathing huffed, the precision required seemingly beyond our physical capabilities. She wanted us to understand the beauty of dance that was linked to our souls.
“Our bodies,” she encouraged, “are imperfect. We are fallen. But when you and I are resurrected, our skill with our bodies will be limitless because we trained them in their fallen state.” She visualized that we would feel our ankle weights drop off as we leap with the grace of queens.
Julie chases dance because her spirit hungers to reconnect in mortal measure what she knew and will know in eternity—a link we could all feel for dance but one that I suspect is magnified for her because she has cultivated it. Because when you drill a fouetté jeté thirty-two times only to complete it perfectly once, you feel for a moment what it is like to be perfect. But the beauty of the connection she has for dance is that we can all feel it for something. We are all created eternally, which means we lived before the world was and we will live again after death. And in the infinite befores and afters, we did not and will not sit endlessly on feather pillows gazing listlessly into infinity. Surely, we danced, sang, wrote, acted, taught, painted, and built.
Pondering Julie’s lesson, I realize that what is true for her in dance is true for me in the written word. I mine my soul for nuggets of truth that I must craft into language. And in the crafting, I am foiled by my mortal education and a fallen language. I pause when the stuff of my spirit knows the right words to unroll the truths stuck in my core, and yet, the frustrating state of this fallen place hold me back from reading the word etched on the tip of my spiritual tongue, and I feel a phantom itch on that part of my brain encasing the memories I no longer have. So in a yearning to articulate those truths, I dig to the bottom of my pit and crudely describe the dirt under my fingernails because the dirt is all I have left to taste from the eternities.
So I must breathe every fallen, imperfect word because it is all I have. And much like a plastic bottle of Coke, only if I wrestle my mortal brain vigorously enough, will my words reach the heavens when I remove the cap. Until then, my hungry soul will grumble for the words it knows and cannot utter.
Julie dances. I write. Where is your sliver of eternity? Feed your soul and prepare to lose your ankle weights.
“Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man” (3 Nephi 19:34).