Can Baptists Dance?
Baptists and dancing—the two may not always go hand-in-hand, but some Baptists to dance. In fact, some can just plain bust a move and Ministries of Jesus is helping all sorts of people learn how to do so in style. The Transformation Dance Club is part of the Ministries of Jesus, a center for spirit, soul and body healthcare, a free medical program started by Henderson Hills Baptist Church.
Edmond resident Gary Olson explained that the program has been (unofficially) in the making for nearly 32 years. He and his wife Shouna celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on December 21.
“My wife wanted me to take her dancing for the last 32 years,” Olson said.
Gil and Rhonda Harryman, Edmond’s fire chief and his wife, invited the Olsons to a dance club in April 2006. Olson admitted the lesson he received made him feel more comfortable with his moves on the dance floor.
“I hated it before,” he said.
Rhonda Harryman explained that she and her husband have been taking ballroom dance lessons for four years. Gil’s first lesson was on “wife’s choice” night for their monthly date. Today, the Harrymans view ballroom dancing as a fun, family event.
“One of our greatest joys is bringing our 14-year old daughter April so she can dance with her daddy,” Harryman said, adding that she also enjoys watching young Preston Olson—“the most enthusiastic dancer on the floor!”
After taking that first lesson and talking it over with a few more friends, Olson received positive feedback. He found that other people wanted to take ballroom dance lessons, but did not know where to go. In June, Olson organized a “trial dance” to see if there was enough interest for a full-fledged club. He found that interest and the club began holding monthly lessons and a dance in August.
Each dance since has included 45 to 81 people. Olson said the club does not really have members in the traditional sense, but volunteers are recruited each month to help the core group of participants. Both singles and couples attend the dances.
For scheduling reasons, two different dance teachers take turns giving the lessons. Olson reported that the skill levels and the learning curves of participants are very broad.
“Some are like me and very slow and some are fantastic,” he said.
The style of dress is just as varied as each person’s skill level. While Olson explained that jeans and shorts are discouraged, most people opt for the “dressy casual” look. Some, however, wear more formal ball attire.
“It is great when the ladies are in their dance dresses,” he said.
When asked if he plans to give any ballroom dance performances, Olson said, “Absolutely not.” He joked that he would not want his lack of skill to discourage others from trying. He said the Harrymans and a few other couples, as well as some of the Henderson Hills staff, are wonderful dancers and are really the ones to watch. Olson said anyone who attended the church’s Christmas program had the opportunity to see them in action.
Also, the group held a New Year’s Eve dance complete with a potluck dinner for snacking. The big event was held on the basketball courts at the Transformation Fitness Center (formerly the Adam’s Course) located at 14701 North Kelly.
Olson said new participants are always invited and are “absolutely” welcome to attend the dance lessons. He said no alcohol or smoking is allowed as the events are set in a family-friendly environment. Required attire is dressy casual, dressy or formal.
The entry fee is $7.50 per person. The money pays for expenses such as hiring the teacher. Any extra money goes to support the Ministries of Jesus medical program, which provides free medical aid and counseling services to those in need.
To make sure new participants feel welcome, Olson said they try to hold a dance lesson at the beginning of each session. This learning opportunity puts newer dancers more at ease so they do not feel as out of place with those who have been attending the dances for several weeks or months.
Harryman said she has heard wonderful responses from participants. People really seem to enjoy spending time with others who have similar interests and values. Some have even pointed out that dancing is a great form of exercise.
“Dancing is a fun and even romantic activity in a comfortable atmosphere that prepares us for weddings and other events where dancing is offered,” Harryman said.
Olson said the club would continue as long as volunteers and participants show their support. So far, he is amazed at just how many people attend the dances and enjoy the lessons. The support of the community is what keeps the club going.
“They seem to love it,” he said.
Beginning in February, the Transformation Dance Club will meet at the Transformation Fitness Center on the third Friday of each month from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information, contact Gary Olson at [email protected] or (405) 410-2918.