The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > From the stage: freedom, constraints, creativity

From the stage: freedom, constraints, creativity


When you watch the three ballets in Glorify Dance Theatre’s Mixed Repertoire performance, you might notice the dancers’ unusual footwear. In the first, one dancer precariously dances on a single pointe shoe. In the second, everyone wears black sneakers, altering the appearance of the body’s lines and changing the parameters of possible movement. Sneakers make running easier, but they make turning more difficult.

Footwear and the limitations it confers signal other boundaries Melody has placed on the style and quality of the choreographed movements. These details aid in characterization, visualizing the setting, and perceiving tension and resolution. In Be Ready, the two groups of dancers marked by two different types of footwear each have a distinctive movement quality. Those in flat shoes dance with downward, angular qualities, whereas those in pointe shoes move with levity and upward focus. In Trecho, sneakers pair with stretching, lunging, and jogging to show that the dancers portray runners in a race.

The third selection uses footwear more typical of contemporary ballet, but hopefully by that point you’ll be asking: 


What parameters define the movement in each piece? 

What movements are possible or impossible within the chosen boundaries? 

How are those constraints limiting? 

How do boundaries generate greater creativity?


The apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia after they’ve been taken in by false teachings, and in his letter he says, 


You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7) 


Paul’s question suggests that, out of two available boundaries – obedience or prevention – the Galatian Christians are accepting parameters that limit their access to truth.


Paul also tells the Galatians, 


For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1) 


Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean there are no limits; it means making a choice about which limits to submit to. Paul goes on to illustrate this using an example that was relevant to these first-century, non-Jewish followers of Jesus:


Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that, if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. (Galatians 5:2-3)


After Paul had preached the good news of Jesus to people in Galatia, other teachers arrived who told the Galatian Christians that in order to belong to the people of God, they needed to be circumcised, as all Jewish men had been since Abraham. But Paul insists that he left circumcision out of the picture intentionally because trying to enter God’s family by following the law, including the law of circumcision, would set up the wrong limits for faithful living. Trying to be made righteous through their own actions would leave the Galatian Christians restricted to life under a law that was impossible to live up to.


You who want to be reckoned as righteous by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4)


Most critically, to seek righteousness through their own actions according to the law would be to decline the righteousness offered as a free gift of grace through Christ. Righteousness cannot be free if it is earned. The boundary is set for followers of Jesus: we give up any hope of meriting righteousness on our own.

Paul goes on to tell the Galatians,


But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (Galatians 5:18, 22-23)


But within the bounds of obedience to this truth, freedom is found. More than that, by remaining in the truth – by not crossing outside the bounds of obedience – the actions that are possible lead to life and flourishing.

As you watch Glorify Dance Theatre’s Mixed Repertoire performance and observe how different movement possibilities emerge from different sets of limitations, I invite you to reflect: how does God’s Spirit empower you to be fruitful within the parameters in place in your life, whether by choice or by circumstance?

I hope this performance encourages you to trust that as you run with discipline, God’s Spirit is at work to bring forth fruit that promotes life and flourishing for you and those around you.


Scripture quotations in this post are from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.

Join Glorify Dance Theatre for a Mixed Repertoire performance on November 10-11, 2023. Tickets are available here.

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