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Ballet draws Pell City friends closer to God, each othercomment (0)

July 1, 2004

By June Mathews

On the surface, friends Virginia Bagley and Grace Pyo don’t appear to have much in common. Fair and willowy Virginia, 13, stands over a head taller than petite dark-haired Grace, who is 11. And two years can be a big age difference between kids.
But in reality, the girls are much alike. They are both members of Cropwell Baptist Church, Pell City; they are both homeschoolers and they both share a common passion — ballet.
During the summer of 2001, Virginia and Grace enjoyed a unique opportunity to take ballet lessons at their church, thanks to a college student named Katy Dornberger. At the urging of some parents who knew Dornberger to be an accomplished ballerina and who wanted their kids to take ballet minus explicit movements and revealing costumes, the dancer organized a summer ballet program.
Conducted three days a week in the church’s youth room, the small classes began and ended with prayer, and stretching times were punctuated with discussion about spiritual matters. The benefits of the program soon became clear.
“Dancing definitely can bring a person closer to God, but only if they let it,” Virginia said. “I also think of dancing as a form of prayer. I have certain songs picked out for when I practice. When I warm up, I use a song about a prayer to the Lord to bless the worship time.”
According to Virginia’s mother, ballet opened spiritual doors for her daughter that might otherwise have remained closed.
“I wanted Virginia to learn that everything we do needs to be to God’s glory and that if she wants to dance, then let’s do it to God’s glory,” said Pam Bagley. “I didn’t want her to take dance anywhere the physical and spiritual aspects of dance would be separated.”
After the Cropwell program ended, Virginia continued her training with the ballet program at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. Last spring, Virginia danced in her first full-fledged ballet.
“I can relate a lot of things from dancing to real life,” Virginia said. “For instance, sometimes God puts a challenge before you that looks impossible. Then you keep trying and eventually, you finally get it.”
Grace has also continued her training at Briarwood, and her mom has almost identical views of dance to those of Virginia’s mom. Like Bagley, Thuy Pyo wants her daughter to consider dance a spiritual exercise and not a way of drawing attention to herself.
“God gives us certain things, including ballet, to use to His glory,” said Thuy Pyo, “so I want Grace to go where she can get a solid dance foundation but where the underlying emphasis is to honor Him and not self.”
In addition to the spring program last year, Grace danced in Briarwood’s 2003 Christmas production. Her participation required huge chunks of the preteen’s time and multiple weekly trips to Birmingham for Grace and her mom. But both mother and daughter obviously felt that going the extra mile was worth it.
“I like ballet because it’s a fun way to express myself,” said Grace. “Ballet makes me feel special because it’s one of the things I am really good at and it makes me feel closer to God.”
Although the Cropwell program only lasted one summer, for Virginia and Grace, that introduction to ballet became a significant opportunity for the two young dancers to start discovering their gifts and to begin moving toward the fulfillment of God’s plan for them.
“I was watching Virginia dance at the (Briarwood) program last spring and had a vision of her dancing with little children,” her mother said.
“That same night, a girl asked Virginia if she was planning to take ballet lessons again next year. Virginia told her she wasn’t sure, that she’d been called to the missions field and didn’t think she needed ballet for that.
“The girl said, ‘But Virginia, don’t you know that God can use your dancing in your missions work?’ I knew then that the Lord gave this to Virginia to do, and I want her to do it.”

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