For those who may not know Chelsie Hightower, she was recently a semifinalist on the popular television dance series “So You Think You Can Dance.” She made it to be one of the top three girls on the nationally syndicated show, which is quite an achievement. She also happens to be a member of my ward. In fact, in the first episode of her audition they featured a clip filmed in her home and the recreational areas of the same residential complex in which I live. She also is an excellent ballroom dancer, a talent and sport which I have been involved with and have personally competed in for many years.
Chelsie was asked to give a talk in our sacrament meeting today. Having shortly returned from filming the show live in Los Angeles, I can only surmise that they asked her to speak on her experiences dancing on the show. The stake president was invited to the meeting and was on the stand presiding. I’d like to share some of the things that she related which I thought were very thoughtful and honest.
She said that she’s been highly blessed of God to have the talents that she does, and that she gives credit to Heavenly Father for everything she’s been given. She said that being in the ballroom world has given her the unfortunate opportunity to be around many people who smoke, drink, or do drugs.
An experience she had one summer in North Carolina was particularly poignant. She was there for some ballroom training when she was invited to go to a club one night to Salsa dance. She went and didn’t feel like dancing so she sat on the side. She saw all around her people who were smoking, and drinking, and doing drugs. She had a gut wrenching feeling inside her that told her something was wrong. She asked herself if that is what she wanted in her life and received an unmistakable feeling and impression from God that she would not find happiness in those things. Thereafter those things were never a temptation for her anymore in her life.
When the time came for the audition in Salt Lake for “So You Think You Can Dance,” Chelsie was extremely nervous. As she sat in the Capitol Theatre seats awaiting her turn to dance she doubted herself and her abilities. She said that she even doubted God at one point, which she hadn’t ever done before in her life. She related to us that she said a long prayer to God that He would bless her in her auditions, and she testified that He did. She felt God’s sustaining power as she danced that day. That feeling continued with her week after week after week of auditions and call backs.
Chelsie said that she’s been blessed greatly through this experience to be able to share her beliefs and standards with others around her throughout her time on the show. She said that she only had time to relate a few experiences.
Prior to her final solo dance on the show she realized that she didn’t have a dress to wear. This was just 10 minutes or so before her turn to dance. She went to the wardrobe people and they had an immodest piece for her to wear with some fringe but it didn’t cover her stomach. She knew that it wouldn’t be right to wear that. She looked all over to try to find another dress. She checked with other wardrobe people, the dresses she brought with her, and in other places. It was coming down to only about 5 minutes before her solo. Usually, she said, the dancers at this point were warming up to go on stage and focusing on their routines. But she was all flustered trying to find a good dress to wear. Finally, just minutes before going on the floor she was able to find a dress to put on. She said that she was always nervous for the solo dances, and having this problem finding a dress only made it worse. When she stepped out on the floor she felt an overwhelming sense of peace and confidence, that God was giving her strength and assistance to dance her best. She knew God was there for her because she had done the right thing.
An interesting sidenote that we learned from her mother a few weeks ago was that for the first live show Chelsie went out shopping and personally bought a different piece of clothing that she thought was more modest for her choreographed routine. Unfortunately, thereafter the producers of the show told her that she had to wear what the wardrobe produced for her choreographed numbers.
Concluding, she said that she was glad for these innumerable opportunities that she has had to share her beliefs throughout her experience with those around her and the viewers of the show. She said that she couldn’t have done everything she did without God’s providence. At several points in her talk she wept with gratitude.
I know Chelsie, and she is a great young woman in our ward. I think she did a fantastic job on the show “So You Think You Can Dance,” and that she represented the Church well to those around her. The feeling she was able to express in all of her dance routines, I think, came from her experience and activity in the Church, similar to the way I believe David Archuleta was able to express feeling in his songs on American Idol. The Church has seen a surge recently in the arts, and I think the LDS talent that we are witnessing on these television shows is evidence of that. These young artists are letting their light so shine that others may see their good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16; 3 Nephi 12:16).
(Bryce Haymond, is the editor of TempleStudy.com, a blog dedicated to sustaining and defending the LDS temple by comparative studies of religious worship found around the world and throughout history.)