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Vandergrift dance studio adds faith to fundamentals

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch
Cayden Bailey 9, (f-left), Tristan Vasko 13, Cicily Bailey 12, (middle row left), Shasta Stiffey 18, Deja Talton 11, Trey Gibson 16, (back left), Anastasia Pearson 14 and Chandler Bailey 13 during a break in rehearsal at the studio on Grant Avenue, Vandergrift, April 30, 2013.
Bill Shirley
From left, Nikki Bailey, Anastasia Pearson 14, Cayden Bailey 9, Shasta Stiffey 18, Cicily Bailey 12, Chandler Bailey, 13, Deja Talton 11, Trey Gibson 16, Tristan Vasko 13, and Joe Hesketh during a break in rehearsal at the studio on Grant Avenue, Vandergrift.

At Recruiters for God Ministries Dance Studio, learning means more than perfecting complicated moves or keeping time with the music.

That's because the Vandergrift dance studio is focused not only on the fundamentals of dance but also the fundamentals of faith.

The nondenominational Christian effort was founded with the idea in mind that dance can serve as a powerful witness of faith and also positively impact the lives of the group's young dancers.

“I like the idea that not only do I get to do what I love but I can have God show through me,” says 16-year-old Trey Gibson, a student and dance instructor at the studio.

That's just what director Nikki Bailey had in mind when she started the program about a year ago.

“I just had the idea of dancing for Jesus,” she says. “We're structured, but we're also like family if the kids need it. We're kind of like mentors to those kids.”

It's also the general public that the group reaches out to through performances at local events, according to assistant director Joe Hesketh.

“It's more than just a dance studio,” he says. “We go out into the community and minister to it.”

The program — which teaches students contemporary dance moves using Christian rap and hip-hop music — offers them the chance to participate in as many classes as they want for an affordable rate.

Doing so was key for Bailey, who had worked as a dance instructor previously.

“I'd see these kids come in and they'd love it and they'd leave,” she says. “And, it was because they couldn't pay for it.”

She came up with a way to change that by offering a monthly membership rate, $20 for individuals and $35 for a family membership.

The opportunity has been well-received. Within six months from when Bailey began offering classes, there were so many students she had to move to the Washington Avenue studio it now calls home.

Bailey's 13-year-old son, Chandler Bailey, an experienced dancer, teaches classes, too. At times, the studio's approach is a laid-back one.

“It's kind of just a place where you can be free; there are not really strict rules,” he says. “It's fun and free.”

Using music from Christian acts like rapper TobyMac and hip-hop artist Lecrae, the classes of Bailey and her fellow instructors help students learn the right moves not only when dancing but also navigating through the rest of their lives.

“Not many have been exposed to Christian music,” she says. “When we do the songs, I'll break it down and explain them.”

Doing so has been a positive experience for students like 11-year-old Deja Talton.

“I feel it's a good experience dancing for God, instead of doing bad things,” says the Vandergrift Elementary student.

“If you're having a bad day and you're there, it takes things off your mind.”

The positive impact is apparent to organizers, as well. The students, Hesketh says, display a newfound stability that he attributes to the message behind the studio's efforts.

“It's not just about the dance,” he says. “It's about the music and the words behind it.”

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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