Bonded over dance and a shared love for the creative nature of Holy Spirit and Bill T. Jones, American Contemporary Choreographer, Clearpath.life creative director, Camille DC Sutton, sat down with the captivating Tehillah Hartmann.
Tehillah is a professional dancer, dance teacher and creative storyteller in Houston, TX, and runs a beautiful movement on social media and beyond called Being Salt. You can find her hosting worship-improvisation workshops, reading a good book before hitting the sack, and enjoying a cup of rooibos tea (with a little milk and honey). Check out her platforms at the end of this interview!
Being Salt documents my connection to God through movement in worship. The word ‘salt’ has become significant as I work to embrace my God-given identity and be fearless about being myself in every setting and season of my life. Being Salt is a reminder that as His daughter, I bring the flavor, authority, and presence of Heaven wherever I go. Being Salt – Layers of covenant, soulfully savored. – Tehillah Hartmann
CDCS: Tehillah, tell us the meaning of your name, what you do, and what excites you most at the present?
TH: My name is Tehillah. It rhymes with tequila. My name means spontaneous praise. Specifically, tehillah praise is the spontaneous praise that explodes from the heart…praise with a punch. My name opens the door to what I do…which is dancing. I’m a professional dancer in Houston, and I currently dance for Open Dance Project, which is a dance theater company, and I love it so much.
I love acting and mixing dance with acting. We speak and talk while we’re moving. It’s immersive work, and I’ve been coming alive with that process. It’s very personal because you’re generating your own movement based on certain prompts. But it’s also just really fun. It’s fun to bring your whole self to a project – my physical body and my voice.
In my own creative work, I feel myself going in that direction as well and wanting to explore all of that. I make my own work – just finished a project in January called the Highest Price, which was a dance theater piece based on game show theme songs, and it’s just all about exploring identity and worth and value. This genre is where I come alive – connecting the song inside to the song that comes out!
CDCS: How would you describe God’s best for us to receive, observe and participate in watching dance? Could you describe some of his possibilities?
TH: I’ve found that there are whole and holy ways to observe and partake in dance, and in stark contrast, there are broken and dysfunctional ways of watching dance as well. Even in the believer, envy, self-worship, pride and the worship of others can get in the way of the purity of receiving goodness from dance.
I’ve had so many different experiences while watching different kinds of dance, and when I’m watching it by myself, I have these internal thoughts that are like “Ah, yea, that’s been done before” or “I don’t really agree with that statement in this piece,” or “That toe should’ve been pointed.” I’ve noticed a distinct difference if I open up with a prayer, “OK Lord, let me watch this with you.” Being connected to the Father’s heart while watching dance and asking Him about meaning, purpose, seeing agendas behind it, has opened my eyes. It’s guarded me from a critical or jealous heart.
CDCS: What has Being Salt/dance specifically revealed to you about the nature of God?
TH: You could be twiddling your fingers, and He could be screaming I LOVE YOU. It’s not about being perfect, but being yourself in the way He created you to be. And this being yourself thing has been a discovery for me – not about what kind of dancer I am – but understanding the deeper calling of what He’s teaching me in each moment.
Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling distracted, and I felt like God was saying,“Can you believe before the beginning of time, before I knit you together in your mom’s womb, I was looking forward to our time together today?” And of course, I was like “WHAT??!!” To have Him always speaking gives me a broader perspective. My biggest battle is carving out time, but every time I do, He shows up and tells me about myself. Much of that process has been Him speaking identity to me and taking me through the process of discovery.
CDCS: What specific role do you see dance fulfilling in the body of Christ?
TH: I think dancers are so aware and present of their physical bodies, maybe way more than non-dancers. Being a facilitator and a teacher to others of how to get in their body – I mean being aware of the tension, anxiety, peace, the cues that tell people what they’re feeling – has been such an eye-opener. Christian dancers have a huge role to play in connecting bodies to spirits and souls. I see that being a huge thing in believers across the world. You don’t have to be a trained dancer to move.
CDCS: How would you define prophetic dance?
TH: I think I would very simply say that it’s being connected to the Father’s heart and hearing/receiving his dance for people.
CDCS: In what ways have you seen dance minister to people?
TH: Wow, so many. I’ve seen a lot of personal breakthroughs when people are improvising. Professional dancers are so trained that improvisation can be super fun, but only when you fit into a certain style or something you already know. But true improvisation, when it’s spontaneous, has no agenda or prerequisite. It’s just coming out of your flow of the heart. When people embrace their own voice, I’ve seen healing and freedom and breakthrough on both the side of the dancer and the side of the viewer.
CDCS: If you don’t mind sharing, what’s one of the craziest, most uncomfortable artistic prophetic risks Holy Spirit has asked of you?
TH: I think Being Salt definitely is. It’s one thing to be dancing like David, who was exposing everything about his heart, and then another thing doing that on the streets. One time, I posted a video of me laughing and just being touched by the Holy Spirit. Just being open with that and not being afraid of it having to be perfect – I think those are the big risks for me! And I’ve danced on the streets in a ministry context, and it’s beautiful to see people touched not just by words, but by the power of God in movement.
CDCS: What’s the coolest feedback you’ve received thus far from Being Salt?
TH: I would say the coolest feedback is from my non-christian friends who see the vulnerability in my unedited material. I never thought this aspect of what I do would minister to people. So many times you see the filtered version of peoples’ lives on Instagram, and I’ve heard people say how much they want to be confident to give the world their unfiltered selves. And it’s not like I’m extremely confident or so deep with the Lord that you have to be like me to make it happen – it’s not a result of my maturity or my expertise, I’m just sharing my journey.
CDCS: If you could improv and dance anywhere in the world, where would you like to go “Salting” and why?
TH: I think Israel would be amazing. If I go out of my bedroom, it feels like an adventure, so anywhere really!
CDCS: What is God’s invitation to the untrained dancer in their personal spiritual practice?
TH: I think for non-dancers, it’s what you see in the Bible – lifting your hands, jumping up and down, shouting, laying down on your face. There are so many physical prompts in the word – David leaped for joy. The words on paper are not just poetry, they’re secrets for the kingdom. Try it sometime. You’ll get breakthrough.
Bill Johnson says, “Physical obedience brings spiritual breakthrough.” There’s something about the physical acts you take that are linked to the spiritual realm. Try something simple – march to a beat, lift your hands as high as they go, lay down. It doesn’t have to be trained necessarily, but I think there’s breakthrough in the movement.
CDCS: What is God’s invitation to the trained dancer?
TH: Improvise and let Him develop in you new and other movements. There’s so much freedom in improvising, but I think there’s alot of rich stuff to be had when you break out of your box.
Be vulnerable on stage. WIthin choreography, you can connect what you’re doing to the Lord and his purposes. You can see the difference of someone trying to perfect the steps and someone who is connecting with the Lord and allowing their movement to flow from that place of connection.
My personal invitation from the Lord has a story with it. We performed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on Easter weekend last year. And those performing and in the audience were a mixture of believers and non-believers. I asked a simple question before our performance, “How do I honor you, Lord?”
He said, “You dance your story with me and do not hold back.” I was Susan so I saw Aslan get defeated, and on stage, I started weeping. And I had this feeling that I needed to get it together but just kept hearing “don’t hold back.” So I just danced while weeping. And when Aslan came back to life, I found myself beaming. I had multiple people come up to me after and said: “Tehillah, it felt like you were seeing Jesus.” So don’t hold back! Yes, there’s value in doing things well, but be open to His voice.