The Dance Ministry has always challenged the conventional notion of what it means to praise God.
Contributed By Jeremy Chua
With 206 bones, connected to each other by hundreds of joints by muscle, tendons and ligaments, the human body is one of the most complex “machines” around. Capable of amazing feats of strength, agility and flexibility, our body is arguably the ultimate tool that we have to express our innermost emotions and thoughts.
Capturing perfectly Roman 12:1, the members of the Dance Ministry of City Harvest Church offer up their bodies as “living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God.” The ministry’s dancers electrify crowds with their gravity-defying moves, smooth grooves and slick choreography at special church events.
Founded in the 1990s when CHC was worshiping at the former Hollywood Theatre along Tanjong Katong Road, the dance ministry spearheaded the notion in the church that it was possible to express one’s love and praise to God through contemporary dance. Kenny Low, the managing director at O School Ltd and CEO at City College Holdings was one of those who led the charge into then-uncharted territory.
“The first performance in church we had was for the Bible School graduation that year. At that time, the final task for the School Of Theology students was to put up a dance performance,” he recalls. This proved to be the genesis of the Dance Ministry.
A dance performance at Ngee Ann City—part of a special Christmas show—made the pioneering members realize that there was a strong interest in dancing among the youth, and a group of them started getting together regularly for practice. Low says, “We didn’t really have a specific genre when we first started. It was all rather simple; we just choreographed the steps together with the ultimate aim of praising God through dancing.”
None of the ministry members were professional dancers or choreographers, and they were always faced with a lack of time for choreography and practice. Whenever the ministry was called upon to put up an item, they just had to put in the extra effort to make magic happen on stage. Today, the dance ministry has a more rigorous structure in place, with weekly training conducted by O School instructors, and auditions held for aspiring dancers.
But the foundation of this ministry has not been lost even as it has grown more sophisticated over the years. Dancing is an extremely demanding discipline, and making the moves look effortless on stage requires more than just raw talent. “Singers have the chorus board and musicians have scores, but dancers need to remember their routine by heart; a single misstep is painfully obvious, and it sticks in the audience’s mind,” Low notes.
While a short three-minute dance item on stage easily gets the crowd excited, there is a lot of hard work and dedication that goes unseen. Dancers practise for hours just to get their moves perfect. “The values we would like our dancing to communicate, especially to the youth, are discipline, teamwork, excellence and freedom of expression,” Low says.
One of the greatest opportunities that the ministry had was during the early 2000s, when CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee conducted revival meetings in Taiwan that led to the rapid growth of Taiwanese churches. The task was daunting: Taiwan boasts a popular culture that sets, not follows, trends. At each meeting, the dancers had only a few minutes on stage to engage the audience, to prepare them for the preaching by Kong. “You couldn’t just rely on dance steps to do what we wanted to achieve, you needed the anointing,” states Low. That series of meetings became a seminal element of that revival in Taiwan’s churches, one that continues today.
That is why aside from just looking out for raw talent or a good work ethic, the ministry also looks for individuals who possess humility, discipline and a servant heart. In Low’s words, “only a broken vessel can pour out God’s presence.”
Today, dance has a burgeoning appeal among young. Coupled with the access YouTube provides to a wide-ranging variety of dance styles and unique moves, the dance ministry is faced with a new challenge. They have to constantly strive to push themselves to greater heights, to wow, impress and inspire a well-informed crowd.
The ministry has, over the years, proven to be a highly effective way to reach out to the youth today. Dance has a social aspect that is often overlooked; dancers are drawn to the camaraderie and unity that is forged in pushing their minds and bodies together to the limit. The dance ministry strives to be an outreach to embrace those who are passionate about dancing, but who may not yet know Christ.
Despite its glamorous profile, the dance ministry ultimately communicates this simple fact: that dance, with God’s presence and anointing, impacts the lives that it comes into contact with. The ministry hopes to increase its reach by training up more dance teams within the zones and other ministries of CHC, like the Indonesian Service.
If you are under the age of 25, and have a passion for dancing, auditions for the Dance Ministry are held every quarter. For more information, email email@example.com.