Jesus and getting jiggy may seem incompatible, but a new Christian dance company at Yale is determined to prove that the two belong together.
According to Grace Kalisha ’07 and Happy Kinyili ’07, the founders of the new group, called Under Construction, the organization is unique not in its dance style, but in the purpose stated on its poster advertisements: to dance for Christ.
“It brings together two things I’m really passionate about,” Kalisha said. “First, my belief in God, and then my love of dance.”
Under Construction is the newest in a melange of already existing Yale dance troupes ranging from hip-hop to Korean traditional dance. In addition to campus theater performances, Kalisha and Kinyili said they hope to perform at churches, shelters and popular spots on campus. They plan to place their dance in its Christian context through drama or the lyrics of the songs. Above all, leaders said, they hope to express the joy they have found in their faith through as many different forms as possible.
“We want to bring together all cultures [and] demonstrate the kind of unity Christianity talks about,” Kalisha said. “We’re going to incorporate all kinds of dance, from hip-hop to ballet to jazz.”
Kinyili said the group will provide “a ministry for people who aren’t patient enough to sit through a sermon.”
For those who view dance as inherently sensual, the idea of a Christian dance group might seem like an oxymoron, but Kinyili says that she hopes Under Construction will shift its audience’s expectations. “We don’t want to forget that we are ministering in God’s name,” she said. “The Bible commands us to dress modestly, so our dress will be modest. If we are doing a hip-hop dance, the style will be similar, but the audience will know that this is a Christian dance group, not a Jay-Z music video.”
The sophomores, originally hip-hop dancers, said the idea for Under Construction has been percolating since they arrived at Yale.
“I thought of this as a freshman, finding out about the various Christian ministries on campus,” Kinyili said. “Last semester I started talking to various people about the possibility of starting a Christian dance group.”
Kinyili’s inquiries brought her into contact with Kalisha, who had also been contemplating starting her own dance group.
“When Happy brought it up, I thought, ‘Bull’s-eye,'” Kalisha said.
The founders said Under Construction, which has grown to seven members since Kalisha and Kinyili began advertising at the Freshman Bazaar, takes its name from the Christian belief that all people are God’s worksmanship, to be continually improved upon. Kinyili says they picked the name to emphasize the role of God’s power in realizing their talents.
“In the Bible, David was a man after God’s own heart and he danced so much his wife had to restrain him,” Kalisha said, laughing. “But I think God was happy with David wanting to express himself like that. It’s so down-played, and it’s such a beautiful thing to do.”
The group currently holds its practices on Thursday nights in William L. Harkness Hall. Kalisha and Kinyili said they encourage any interested student to try it out. But they stressed that the number of members is not critical.
“Even if it ends up just being two of us dancing,” Kinyili said, “we will still dance.”