All her life, Kathy Thibodeaux dreamed of being an accomplished ballerina. “It was my god,” she confides. From the age of 6, she spent hours in the studio pursuing her dream. By the time she was 20, Thibodeaux had achieved her goal by landing the position of principal dancer for the Mississippi Ballet.
A few years later, at the age of 23, Thibodeaux’s husband Keith led her to Christ. “People immediately told me I would have to give up dancing now that I was a Christian,” Thibodeaux recalls. “They were well-meaning, but as I prayed I felt I was supposed to keep dancing. I sensed God had given me this talent for a purpose.”
In 1982 Kathy entered a prestigious international ballet competition, dancing to “We Shall Behold Him” by Sandi Patty. Her instructors insisted their star pupil was making a terrible mistake and were afraid that the non-Christian judges might be offended.
“But I was sure that the Lord wanted me to dance to this music,” says Kathy, who viewed it as a wonderful opportunity to share her faith with dancers and judges from around the world.
Despite the naysayers, Thibodeaux ended up winning the silver medal. That prize opened the door to further advancement in professional dance, but Thibodeaux sensed God calling her to form a company of Christian dancers who would glorify Him through dance.
Her husband, who played in the Christian rock band David and the Giants, was very supportive and understanding. “He was a musician and felt that if he could play for the Lord, why couldn’t I dance for the Lord,” Thibodeaux says.
Every year when her contract with the Mississippi Ballet came up for renewal, she would pray, “This year, Lord?” Finally in 1986 Thibodeaux sensed God telling her to leave the company and trust Him.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” she says. “I didn’t know how to start a company. I wasn’t sure of anything except that I had to leave.” It didn’t help matters when the dance company board told Thibodeaux her idea would never work and she would never get support or dancers. “Then they asked me, ‘What do you really want? Do you want a raise?'” she remembers. Thibodeaux quietly turned them down, explaining she was certain God wanted her to start a Christian ballet company.
The story hit the Jackson, Mississippi newspaper the next day. Offers of help and invitations to perform immediately began pouring in. “There wasn’t even a company yet — it was just a vision,” she says with a soft laugh. “Then people started sending money.”
Dancers who heard of the company then started showing up. Just one month later, in October 1986, Ballet Magnificat! Held its first performance.
“It was just amazing the way God supernaturally moved and put it all together,” Thibodeaux says. Today Ballet Magnificat! Tours the country, performing 80 to 90 times a year. They also have a training program, a dance major offered through a nearby Christian college, and their own performing arts school with more than 300 students.
“In the beginning it was a struggle,” Thibodeaux admits. “We lived day-by-day, trusting the Lord to supply our needs. At the end of each performance the group took the money collected in the offering and put it in a pile. Whoever had a need took what money they needed. God was — and is — so faithful.
“It is wonderful to be able to use your whole body — all that you have — to worship the Lord,” Thibodeaux says. “The Lord has blessed us more than we ever could have imagined.”
This article first appeared in Chrisma Magazine Copyright © 1999.