Elizabeth Bailey was just 6 when she saw a performance of “Dance for Christ” for the first time. Even at that young of an age, she was in awe of the way that the dancers were telling the story of Jesus’ love without saying a word.
“It exposed me to this love,” she said. “At 6, the only love like that is your mom and dad. But this huge love that you can’t even comprehend from Jesus is just awesome.”
This is the 17-year-old’s eighth season of performing in “Dance for Christ.”
Being on stage dancing makes Bailey feel “really powerful. I’ve always struggled with insecurities. I’ve always had dance to be something that I felt completely secure in, completely powerful, even at times I’ve had to walk out of my comfort zone.”
Her favorite number is “Cry Freedom.” She likes the awareness it raises about human trafficking.
“Being able to portray that kind of message, to try to put yourself into the mindset of a victim, even though there’s no way you can comprehend that kind of drama, calls us to action,” Bailey said.
She hopes the production makes the audience feel loved.
“It all comes down to the love that we’re trying to show them,” Bailey said. “We’re trying to show as much love as we can as human beings, but also trying to give them a glimpse of the love that Jesus has for them.”
Ryan Kimble, 18, also hopes the audience takes away the love that the dancers are trying to portray through the numbers.
“Even through what they’ve done in their lives, Jesus Christ is always there for them to help them through something they’re going through,” he said. “I believe that we hit almost all of the many things that people struggle with through our dances.”
Kimble is in his ninth season with “Dance for Christ” and is in several numbers this year.
“But ‘Mercy Seat’ is my favorite because I believe that through that number, it shows that no matter what you do, Jesus is still always there for you, even if you’ve gone so far and you feel like you can never be saved,” he said. “He’s always there to fight those battles for you.”
Kimble said when he dances, he is spiritually and emotionally free, with nothing on his mind. He’s just praising God through his dance.
That’s exactly the kind of ministry Patricia Warren wanted when she started “Dance for Christ” in 2002, a ministry that spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ through the art of dance.
“Each dance piece either tells a story from the Bible or talks about life circumstances with Jesus in the center of world and our lives and how he helps us through these circumstances,” Warren said.
“I started this ministry because I had always wanted to do some type of ministry and dance is what I do and dance tells a story. And I thought what better way to tell people about Jesus than through a story of dance. It’s entertaining. It’s a way to connect my students to Christ. I can teach them dance and about God, and we can share that with our community.”
Rainee Coakley, 17, said the dancers are giving people hope through “Dance for Christ.”
“I know we’ve all walked through some really tough things recently,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot of things that we have to walk through behind the scenes that the audience doesn’t see. We have to walk through these things in order to give people the message of hope. We have to have hope before they can.
“I think that’s the message of the whole thing. Miss Patricia started this after she beat cancer. She had so much hope that she wanted to give it to everyone else.”
Coakley said “Dance for Christ” has changed her throughout the nine years she’s danced in it.
“I can’t even put into words what ‘Dance for Christ’ has done for me,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “It just teaches you little lessons that you can take throughout your life.
“There’s this one dance called ‘Heaven.’ It’s all about how it’s going to be like when we get there. My grandpa passed away, and doing that dance taught me that once you get up there, you’re going to feel so much happiness. I went through his death knowing that one day I’m going to see him again. There will be this huge reunion and it’s going to blow my mind how amazing it will be.”
The production has also changed 17-year-old Caroline Foy, who has danced in it for the past eight years. She started in “Dance for Christ” because it was at her home studio. But she said as she got older, she began understanding what the message was about and thought it was a great ministry. Now she is happy to be part of delivering that message.
She is looking forward to doing “Even If” for the first time this year.
“We’ve never done a dance like this before and never had a message where like sometimes you’ll not get better,” Foy said. “Sometimes the Lord will not heal you, but you have to understand that it’s all part of his plan. It’s a really hard pill to swallow. But you will be healed in heaven.”
All of the dances tell a story. And through the production, Warren hopes the audience gets a better understanding of who Jesus Christ is, that he is who he says he is, the son of God, and that God is real.
“I hope people will come that may not walk into a church, but they would come see a friend or relative and support them, and in that moment, they’re actually going to hear the gospel through dance and hopefully open their hearts and minds that there is a God that created them and loves them and wants a relationship with them,” Warren said. “And I hope they will want to know more about him. We are there to plant a seed. It’s their job to water it and let it grow."