The Word in the Wings
From the studio: introducing company artist Hannah Long
By: KAYA PRASAD
Kaya: Hannah, thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me about your dancing, your faith, and how those things fit together. I’m excited to get a little taste of what you’ll be bringing to Glorify this coming season!
To kick things off: what inspires you to dance?
Hannah: The creativity of expressing myself through the art of dance inspires me. What also inspires me is the way that we dance to share stories, and we don’t have to use words. We use our body through dance to express ourselves.
Kaya: What is one of your favorite stories that you’ve told through dance?
Hannah: Any dance that expresses a deeper emotion and a deeper story is my favorite.
Kaya: It’s interesting that you used the word story and then jumped to the idea of deep emotion. How are those two things related in your experience with dance?
Hannah: Dance should provoke some emotion in someone, in the way of inspiring someone or making them happy, or even sad. I think that you can tell a story at the same time as telling an emotion, and I think that’s what impacts you as you’re dancing and also impacts those who are watching.
Kaya: One of the unique things about how dance works is that you tell a story not just to provide an illustration for an argument but to convey meaning through the manner of telling the story, and as you said, you as the dancer experience that as well as inviting the audience to share the experience.
How has your faith shaped the way you approach dance as an art and as your profession?
Hannah: I’ve been dancing since I was little, but it wasn’t until later in life that God started to put on my heart a way to see things differently about dance. I started to see how dance, and art and entertainment in general, can be self-focused, and I started to evaluate my life and to evaluate me as a dancer. What is the purpose? I’m a Christian, so how can I use that? I felt God put on my heart the desire to dance for God’s glory in a Christian company. I realized that I don’t want to dance for myself; I want to dance for God.
Kaya: That’s huge–the fact that it’s guided where you want to be, that means it has guided the kind of people you want to surround yourself with, who will influence how you dance.
Having read through your bio on our website, I’m curious to hear more about your time in London as well as your time at Reformation Bible College in Florida. How has each of these seasons shaped your development in faith and your journey as an artist?
Hannah: When I went to the missions base in London, it was an arts base, so they focused on Christian arts and entertainment. That was already on my heart, so that’s part of the reason I went in the first place, but it reinforced my desire to be a part of a Christian organization and to do the arts and dance for God.
Reformation Bible College–I really desired to know more! I always have desired to know more about the Bible. The college pointed me to the truth. I wanted to know how to share my faith and what exactly I believed. Going there definitely helped me grow in my knowledge of the Bible, knowledge of God, of truth.
Kaya: Are there any habits or practices that you learned through your time either on the missions base or in school that you think you will carry with you?
Hannah: In my time of trying to learn so much about the Bible and everything, I began to learn not to believe everything everyone has to say. It doesn’t necessarily mean everything is true just because someone says it and they’re a Christian. I’ve taken with me [the practice] to test things with Scripture.
Kaya: That rigor is part of faith-seeking-understanding. If you know you trust what the Bible says, then you test what other people say against that. Hopefully through that you continue to develop your own sense of how to interpret what Scripture says as well.
Is there a person in your life who stands out as having a formative influence on your art or your faith?
Hannah: My parents have definitely influenced my faith, always pointing me back to Christ. I have a memory of my dad, who would take me to dance all the time–I feel like he would say this every day: “Hannah, you dance for an audience of one.” Basically he’s saying I’m dancing for God, and not to get all wrapped up in my head and try to dance for other people or dance for recognition.
Kaya: What a gift to have someone speak that truth to you through your formative years. I think the way you framed that idea of dancing for an audience of one, that one being God–there’s a resonance between that and what you’ve said about testing what other people say against Scripture to search for truth. In the same way that you’re not just taking at face value everything that other people say about the world or about theology, you’re also not taking at face value everything that other people say about you and your dancing. You hold that up next to what you know God thinks of you when you dance. God’s word is your standard for truth, and God who sees you is your standard for how you feel about your dancing.
As a performer, you have an opportunity to influence audiences through what you do on stage. What is one thing you hope to offer audiences through your dancing with Glorify?
Hannah: I want to inspire others in their faith through the stories that we share. I also want to inspire others to be creative. When I watch shows, I always want to create something! I want to inspire others to create beauty and to create for God, not just for themselves.
Kaya: You just made my day by saying that! That’s the big project that we’re engaged in: we worship the creator God who gave us the gift of human creativity as a way of reflecting God’s image. To say that you want your act of participating in creation to inspire others to come along and participate in creation, to me that sounds like you want other people to feel invited to participate in God’s good, creative project. That’s fantastic.
You also have experience with teaching dance, where I imagine you experience that potential to impact people in a slightly different way than you do as a performer. What’s one area where you’ve been challenged or grown through your experience of teaching dance?
Hannah: Teaching made me evaluate myself and how I was taught by my teachers. I knew that I didn’t want to put the dancers down as a way of making them better. I wanted to encourage them to do their best in everything that they do. It made me try to find balance between doing my best and not being super self-critical, where I’m obsessed with myself, trying to be a perfectionist instead of dancing for God.
Kaya: That is such a challenging balance.
Last question: you’re also taking on an additional, behind-the-scenes role with Glorify, so would you share a little bit about what else you’ll be doing and what motivates you to participate in that capacity?
Hannah: I’ll be joining as a Program Development Assistant. I’ll be assisting with leadership, doing administrative tasks, marketing, and helping behind-the-scenes with shows. I believe in this company so much, and I believe in the Christian arts–we need so much more of it! I’m excited to be part of something I’m so passionate about.
Kaya: I’m excited to get to work with you in the studio and behind the scenes, and I can’t wait to see the work that God does in you and through you as you work with us this season!
Hannah is a Corps de Ballet dancer with Glorify Dance Theatre. Read her bio to learn more about where she’s been!
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