Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 Post SDI Update | What's Next!

Returning home after a month of living on the Belhaven University campus for Ballet Magnificat's Summer Dance Intensive (SDI) is always an adjustment, a happily made one. After SDI, Ballet Magnificat company members are given a much needed one week off to recuperate. All the running around, dancing around, teaching classes, chaperoning, ministering, and what not, ceases to be. I return home to quietness. All the kids are gone. No more cafeteria food. I can eat what I want. And the best part of returning home is sleeping in my own bed again AND leaving the overly air conditioned fridged dorm rooms behind me.

Though glad to be back home, I do miss the students [a lot]. With them gone, I ponder that perhaps the sensation I am feeling right now can be compared to that of someone having 'Phantom Limb Syndrome'; me screaming inside "Where are my girls?", "What time is it! I can't be late for meeting with my small group!", "Ephesians 6:10?!?(inside joke)". My heart fell at the sight of their empty dorm rooms as I was packing up mine, and now that I'm off campus and doing normal life again I can't help but think about them constantly; recalling to mind the memories we've made and their prayer requests pertaining to returning back home themselves! I pray in my heart that they stay encouraged and that even when that "camp high" wears off that what they've learned here this summer will stick, that the progress they've made in the Lord will not be compromised, and that He himself will guide and protect them. If any of you students are reading this, know that I am praying Philippians 2:13-16 over you:

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life."

Aside from the 'Phantom Limb Syndrome' that wears off with time, this one week of off time following the SDI is always something I look forward to; definitely a highlight of the year for me. For me, it is a week to process all that happened the month before relishing in the Lord's goodness and faithfulness. As if on a retreat, I spend most of my time during this week taking life slowly, journaling, reading, and indulging in my introverted-ness. It is not often in life that I get to be so still for such an extended amount of time. I set aside chunks of time for intentionally talking with the Lord and listening for him to respond. I prioritize intensely seeking him in his word, and altogether make it my goal to press hard into him in a way that results in leaving me spiritually undone, refreshed, and renewed in preparation for the upcoming new season.

There is much to look forward to and pray about concerning this upcoming season, but before I get into that I can not pass up sharing with you in a little more detail about what went down this past month. It was phenomenal! The Ballet Magnificat Summer Dance Intensive is so much more than just an intensive for the students to perfect their ballet technique, but it is also a time for intensely growing spiritually as well, for students and counselors alike! The SDI experience feels as if one is on a missions trip, only it takes place right here in town! I couldn't have gotten through this summer dance intensive without guidance from God. Counseling, overseeing, and mentoring the 11 girls I was assigned to was at times challenging, but overall a blast! I was given the opportunity to teach on the book of Ephesians to the students, and to minister to them in any way they needed. In all situations, I sought to follow through in obedience to the Holy Spirit's promptings and then just took steps back and watched the Lord do the rest.

It was an absolute privilege and honor any time the students chose to be transparent with me or ask for prayer. This summer the Lord allowed me the blessing of witnessing more girls in my small group than I can count on one hand, fully surrender their lives to the Lord for the first time. I was blown away witnessing the power of God's word soften hearts and seeing lives changed. The Lord worked in people's hearts all over the place during SDI, including mine! I am truly floored by the fact that God chooses us, weak and broken vessels; He chooses to use us and work through us and endows us with kingdom authority and power for doing his work. What even?!? Every year at SDI as I watch my friends and fellow laborers in Christ pouring themselves out, operating by the Holy Spirit, and relying on the love of the Lord and his power and might, I am reminded that it doesn't take much to serve the Lord in this way, but just a willing, humble heart and a full *surrenderance to him.

"Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

~1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Yes, SDI was amazing, but now it's over and I return back to the daily humdrum of things... BUT I am reminded that the amazing work of ministry does not have to stop. This summer the Lord has given me a renewed heart and vigor for ministry and evangelism and I am excited to see where it takes me. It was only a couple of weeks ago during SDI that I got to publicly share my about my faith and share my personal testimony over the microphone. This experience served to remind me of the blessings that can be reaped in doing so. I've learned that when we share our faith, firstly, God is blessed by it! Secondly, the sharer is blessed and then usually the hearers are blessed by it too, and that just amazes me. I want to get better at looking for and praying for more opportunities to share my faith with people, not just only with students during SDI, but with people I come across with in the daily humdrum of life. Let's be challenged together in this, that we together might receive the earthly and heavenly blessings that are available to soul winners.

Image Source

The newly promoted apprentices for the 2017-2018 season. 
Let me go on now to share with you what all I've got on my plate for this upcoming season. As I have expressed in a previous blog entry, "Closing Time", the season that Ballet Magnificat is about to be entering into is going to look very different from the previous ones. The Alpha company alone has recently said goodbye to five of our dancers which means we will be having five new apprentices join us. Newness can also be found in Ballet Magnificat's leadership, our repertoire, and our mode of transportation for our tour season this year. All the change around here is strange and like the apprentices coming in this year, it makes me feel like I'm brand new to the company myself!

But regardless of all the changes, we know God has great plans for us.

Granting I raise enough money for my airfare in time, it looks like I will be traveling quite a bit internationally this year with Ballet Magnificat! For starters, we have our first booking for South Africa in just 45 days! It is going to be an exciting 3-week missions trip. Unlike our typical international tours filled with performance bookings, on this trip we are going to be emulating our summer dance intensive that just took place here in Jackson Mississippi, but for students over in South Africa. To be honest, personally, at first I was a little disappointed that we wouldn't be performing as much, but after God renewing my heart for ministry and evangelism, I don't care what shape or form it takes. I am excited to get hands on with the students in South Africa and do SDI all over again! We do have some performance bookings scheduled during our time there as well and will be presenting our ballet "Deliver Us", which will be the last time it will be performed in a while.

The rough draft of our South Africa tour schedule that our tour director is working on

It's hard to believe I find myself preparing to enter into my sixth year of touring with Ballet Magnificat and preparing to go on my fifth international tour with them. If you are reading this it is most likely that you are familiar with Ballet Magnificat and our mission to share the gospel to the widest audience possible through the very expressive and communicative art form of dance. Maybe you have even experienced the effectiveness of what we do by having attended one of our productions. Then you will know that our productions are powerful displays of God's goodness and love in an avant-garde way, but without deviating from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our productions have the power to cross language barriers. If you haven't yet experienced what we do, we tour all around the country and world so I encourage you to check out our booking calendar to see when we are at a venue near you!

What I am trying to lead up to is asking that you would prayerfully consider supporting me, with a monetary donation to my personal airfare and expense fund. I want to offer you the opportunity to partner with me and Ballet Magnificat, and share in our efforts to obey Jesus' command in Mark 16:15, so that His Kingdom and gospel can be presented to people of all walks of life AROUND THE GLOBE.

Some of you have already shown me such constant support and encouragement in my endeavors over the past years and I am so thankful for that. It has been such a privilege over the years to serve the Lord using dance. The ministry opportunities and missions trips that I've gotten to experience would not have been made possible without you, so thank you!

If you are interested in blessing me with a monetary blessing click the big yellow button below!

Support via prayer is always appreciated as well and can go a long way! Thank you! If you are interested in receiving exclusive details on Ballet Magnificat's tour season, would like to hear more on our trip to South Africa, and are interested in receiving our prayer requests straight to your inbox please sign up for my newsletter below!

If you've made it to the end of this blog post, thank you SO much for reading!
I appreciate each and every one of my faithful readers!
And special thanks to Jesus for blessing my life with interesting things to write about.
Now I will leave you with lyrics to a newly-discovered favorite hymn of mine.

Rescue the Perishing

Rescue the perishing,
  Care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
  Weep o’er the erring one,
  Lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.

  Rescue the perishing,
  Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful,
    Jesus will save.

Though they are slighting Him,
  Still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
  Plead with them earnestly,
  Plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart,
  Crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
  Touched by a loving heart,
  Wakened by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing,
  Duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
  Back to the narrow way,
  Patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.
*I just discovered in the making of this blog post that the word "surrenderance" IS NOT A REAL WORD! The noun form of surrender is simply, surrender. I chose to use "surrenderance" anyways as I typically would use this made up word in my daily conversing anyway...but Hey! Ya learn something new every day! Your welcome. ^_^
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What's In My Dance Bag

I've always wanted to do a post on what is in my dance bag, and many of you have been asking me, so finally... Here it is ! Enjoy !

Check  out  what 's  inside  my  dance  bag :

My dance bag is an AWESOME Swissgear backpack. though it is not the cutest or most fashionable bag in the world, my mother convinced me to leave my trendy tote and messenger bag ways behind me and switch to the classic backpack which she would tell you is a better more healthy alternative with equally distributing weight between both your shoulders and back. Momma knows best! I've used this backpack as a dance bag and for international travel for going on three years now. It is very durable, has lots of pockets, and I love it!

  • In the front most pocket is where I store my bible, my journal for recording class or rehearsal corrections, notepads for merchandise inventory and scratching down random information, and sometimes other miscellaneous papers.
  • In the smaller zip up compartment up top, I usually store some mints, pencils and pens, and my favorite travel-sized Bath and Body Works spray.

  • The next largest pocket is where I keep my dance shoes. I store them inside a mesh laundry bag so they can "breath" and be properly aired out.
  • I always carry a number of different colored flat shoes and pointe shoes depending on what rep we are doing for the season. a 'Super-dead', tan pair of Capezio pointe shoes, three moderately broken-in pairs of pointe shoes; Capezio pink, and two pairs of tan Griskho 2007's are pictured along with three pairs of Sansha flat shoes in various colors.
  • Since my feet sweat so much, I prefer to alternate between wearing two pairs of shoes to give the one pair a chance to dry and air out.  

  • In the same pocket, at the bottom of my bag, you'd most likely find the following items: a Thera-band, a 28-inch bicycle inner tube that I use (...or should use...) to stretch my splits, a towel for drying off sweat, a back warmer, and my Mukluk booties that I wear to warm up my feet.

  • A couple years ago I had a group of summer workshop students who purchased this rubber pig purse for me after finding out about my obsession for pigs. I still use it! I store random shoe supplies inside it.

  • a mini sewing kit, elastic and ribbon, make-up for coloring shoes, corn pads and toe tape, nail clippers, Orajel for numbing pain, Neosporin, carpet tacks, and super glue can all be found inside my pig pouch. What an assortment of items, wouldn't ya say!

  • In another pocket, you'd find the rest of my warm-up clothing and dance apparel: My Ballet Magnificat company jacket (If I'm not wearing it because I seem to live in it!), a pair of Soffe shorts or trash bag shorts, a ballet skirt and a pair of rolled up leggings.

  • My AWESOME Swissgear back pack does also have a compartment for storing a laptop which my laptop will sometimes occupy if I plan on going to the library and blogging after a day of dance. And of course, my swell bottle is with me wherever I go. It fits perfectly in the side pocket of my backpack so dehydration is never an issue while I'm at dance. 

Bags, bags everywhere! Ya know it's Summer Dance Camp time when the hallways become lined with double the amount of dance bags and shoes than what's normal! Makes me wonder, What's in YOUR dance bag!? Comment down below!

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The Daze Phase

“ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness ”  

- 2 Corinthians 12:9

The verse above seems to be the scripture I keep falling back on these days as we enter into week four of Ballet Magnificat's Summer Dance Intensive 2017. At this point, students and teachers alike are all relying on the grace of God to carry them through. We always should be doing so of course, but it seems like now more than ever we are in need of his strength physically. Spiritually there have been some battles, but over all, our souls are soaring. God has done so much. It is hard to describe in words everything that He has been doing in me, but I will try, as well as inform you on what has been happening around me! Keep reading! 

  • The first 2-week session of our summer dance intensive finished up with the student gala performance Friday and a shop trip on Saturday to break-up the weekend for the 4-weeker students.

I taught the level-six students "Gypsies" from Ballet Magnificat's Snow Queen. Here I am with "my gypsies" in a group photo!

Pictured here are all the students involved in the first session of Ballet Magnificat's 2017 SDI; over 300 students! They all did such a marvelous job in the student gala!

My small group at Renaissance Mall posing for a group picture in front of this beautiful fountain on shopping day. Boy, was it a hot day!

A post shared by Lillian Marie Ortiz (@oqpiedoptimist) on

  • The second 2-week session begins ushering in new students, and teachers for our teachers workshop coming from all over!

Pictured here are the teachers enrolled in our teacher's workshop this year out on an outing with the founders of Ballet Magnificat Keith and Kathy Thibodeaux. Aren't they a beautiful bunch!

  • The Brazilians arrive! Our friends and partners from Ballet Magnificat Brazil arrive on the scene visiting our home base in Jackson, Mississippi for the first time! So exciting for them AND us! We love our Brazilian friends!

Vanessa Zuliani the operations manager for Ballet Magnificat Brazil, Kathy and Keith Thibodeaux, and Vanessa's Husband are fun people! 

Some dear friends and trainees of Ballet Magnificat Brazil watch the companies perform and enjoy taking it all in.

  • Last Tuesday I was given the wonderful privilege of sharing my testimony during morning chapel.

In the words of Paul: 

"When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

    • The choreographer Tara Thibodeaux Drew came back to town to finish what she started from last month.

    Stealing a peak from the upstairs window, I snapped this photo during Tara's rehearsal with soloists Margot Truelson and Deborah Meis.

    • Choreography is not the only thing brewing around the Ballet Magnificat studios. The following pictures feature the costume team working on their latest project.

    • The first week of the second session finished with a company performance of "Light Has Come."

    The days are loooong but the summer program is flying by fast!
    Stay tuned for more updates coming soon! SO much to write, SO little time!
    Feel free to follow me on my other social media platforms for more live real time updates, for when I don't have time to update here at The Occupied Optimist! Links are found on my about me page. I'd love feedback on any specifics you are interested in me writing about! 
    Please share any thoughts you may have in a comment down below.
    Gotta Run, but until next time, Blessings in Christ Jesus!
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