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The One With All the Bollywood Dancing

By Ginny, Sep 13, 2018

“You’re still doing it wrong,” my friend told me, pointing to the YouTube video on the computer screen for the hundredth time. “You’re supposed to sashay twice, hop three times, and then turn. And please work on moving your hips more. They’re too stiff.”

“Yeah, come on, white girl, get loose, okay?” Her little sister laughed at me from the other side of the room where she was stretching out her hamstring.

I shot her an exasperated glare and shuffled back to my designated spot in the dance routine. “Okay, but y’all just need to remember that you grew up doing Bollywood dancing. I grew up with the Cupid Shuffle and the Chicken Dance.”

If you had told me a year previously that I would be learning how to do a Bollywood dance montage for a South Asian wedding as part of my job, I would have laughed at you. And yet, here I was, rehearsing dance routines with four Muslim girls for 12 hours every week.

I had initially found out that my friend’s older sister had an impending arranged marriage with the nephew of another friend of mine and that I might be able to attend one of the seven (yes, seven!) wedding events. I was practically giddy with excitement. 

Then my friend asked if I would like to dance in the Gai Holud, one of the pre-wedding parties. “All of my friends are back in South Asia and I really want a friend to dance with,” she admitted to me. “Would you please dance with us?” Um, yes, of course. Count me in.

What she failed to mention was that since the wedding was only a month away, we would be rehearsing four times a week for three hours each night and that this month would be one of the most stressful months of my life.

Rehearsals that led to relationships
And then, during these long rehearsals, the girls opened up and shared their hearts with me. In the midst of catching our breath between workshopping dance steps and inhaling entire packages of Takis chips, we talked about faith and backgrounds and family dysfunction. I cried with the bride as she panicked about marrying a man she barely knew, and listened to her sisters vent about the level of wedding planning stress that permeated their home.

Their families welcomed me into their homes for dance practices and for some of the intimate close-friends-and-family-only wedding ceremonies, seeing me as a friend of their daughters’, no longer just the random teacher from the community center.

When I first moved to this large metropolitan city to be part of this work, I was flooded with insecurities regarding my age, my faith, my lack of teaching experience, my lack of knowledge about South Asian and Muslim culture, my feminist, Christian worldview, my tattoos, and my unintentionally culturally-inappropriate clothing. I worried that I was going to offend everyone, that nobody would be comfortable around me, that I wouldn’t be able to connect with students.

However, because of my age and the fact that I’m not married, I’ve been welcomed into the community as a friend of my students’ daughters. Furthermore, my adult students aren’t intimidated by me, but instead perceive me as a safe space and a friend.

Over the past year and a half of being here, I’ve clambered my way through learning how to teach well, be aware of cultural cues, get in the habit of practically glaring at all men who enter my office to ward off any suspicion of flirtation, and wear adequately modest clothing (I’m now prone to find a new sweater in a store and yell, “Yay! It covers my butt!”).

Meanwhile, because of the weird dichotomy of cultures in the city, I’m constantly wrestling to reconcile my identity as a free and forgiven daughter of Christ with the need to use my freedom to be culturally sensitive and respectful of my conservative Muslim friends.

And yet, in the midst of all of that, the Lord continues to provide opportunities for my team, both in our tiny classroom and outside, to share our faith, talk about Jesus, and build community with the Muslim immigrants here. The Holy Spirit is faithful to work in my heart and grow my faith. It is obvious that God has put me in this space and in this moment “for such a time as this,” and for that I am very thankful.

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)


Ginny serves with MTW in Global Muslim Ministry.

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