Inspiring Lives Magazine Spring 2017: Issue 4 - Page 22

GINGER PILLAR: Dancing Through Life’s Storms By Jen Forsyth G inger Pillar has been integral in bring- ing a passionate side of worship to life in multiple churches. She cares for those coming into this world. She cares for those in danger of leaving it. She has been in the position of almost leaving it herself. She has also been in charge of making change in legislation so other women are better off. As powerful of a force as she is, she is humble beyond words as we sit and discuss her beginnings as a dancer. “My first performance was at Ingomar Methodist Church in Pittsburgh, Pa. I started when I was 16. Northway has always had a dance ministry. It used to be more integrated. Then when we did all those pre- sentations, it just became this big huge thing. Then we would do the presentations at Easter and Christmas, we cut down performances, and then throughout the year, we would probably do about three or four in-service pieces that were special. It’s just always been a part of our worship.” “It’s such a blessing to be able to do it. I didn’t have a huge dance background. I took six weeks of ballet in early high school. I just had a strange childhood where my parents weren’t ab le to get me into classes, so I learned in the church. I trained under dancers who had degrees from Point Park, master’s degrees from Ohio State. So I worked under those girls learning not only technique, but spirituality as well.” So why does Ginger’s style of dance resonate with people? “It’s not totally about the technique. It’s more about the spiritual expression and what that invokes for people.” For the past several years, Pillar has been in charge of the Dance Ministry at Northway Christian Communi- ty Church in Wexford, Pa. The Dance Ministry had to be put on hold as she was forced to deal with a personal struggle: breast cancer. Pillar was diagnosed in October 2011. “We were in the throes of rehearsals,” she remembers. “We had a bunch of little kids who I was choreograph- ing for, and then we had the adult pieces. When I was 22 INSPIRING LIVES SPRING 2017 diagnosed, first of course, I couldn’t focus on rehearsals. I started chemo the week of Thanksgiving. Nine days later, we did our first performance at Northway.” “So I was worrying when I was diagnosed and trying to figure everything out—‘What am I going to be like during chemo?’ I pulled myself out of one of the pieces, but the one piece I just couldn’t. ‘Praise the King’ was the piece that we did, and it was the most powerful piece. And it was my declaration!” Pillar exclaimed. “I can still praise my King!” Pillar brought in another dancer as an understudy, just in case. Thankfully, she was able to perform with no problems. Her hair began to fall out the Monday after the performances, eleven days after her first treat- ment of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, she was too ill to dance after that. Wondering if she would ever dance again was one of the hardest things for her. “I knew, number one, I was getting older,” she laughed. “As a dancer, longevity isn’t completely on your side anyway. It didn’t bother me that I was going to lose my hair. I mean it did some. The first time I danced when my hair was just started to grow back was after my double mastectomy. I took the scarf off in the mid- dle of the piece, and I just had peach fuzz. When I was choreographing that piece, I got all emotional because I hadn’t realized even my long hair was part of my move- ment! Like when I would do an arch, with the long hair flowing in the back. I am a very visual person, so I would see what the audience would see, and it was like ‘Oh, I don’t have that prop anymore.’ It was like some- body took an arm. I didn’t realize I would react that way, and I’ve learned since then, and you learn to adapt. But that was part of the beauty of the dance too.” Physical symptoms such as webbing and lymphede- ma also cause issues for Pillar, but after five years, she shows no evidence of disease. Pillar’s personal experience has made her a force to be reckoned with. She has become active as an advocate and involved with several Pittsburgh organizations. “I started working with Glimmer of Hope when I was early in my diagnosis. I got involved with a com-