Written by Shanna Kirkpatrick, Chara Founder
Steven Curtis Chapman. Cindy Morgan. DC Talk. Watermark.
Many of you are probably familiar with these names.
These Christian artists helped shape my personal theology and outlook on life. As a child, my home and my dance studio were both filled with Christian music. Now as an adult, I can see how that music—and those artists—influenced my focus on God’s goodness, grace, and eternal hope. I was growing towards adulthood with the input of not just my family and role models, but of the glorious sounds and lyrics of musicians who spoke of God’s character and love.
Our hearts connection to music can lay foundational groundwork for a child’s love of God and others. Kids love to move to music; they love to sing, dance, and imagine. What never ceases to move me as the leader of Chara Christian Dance Academy is the profound influence the music we choose for the classroom and the stage has on our students’ lives.
Our kids are bombarded every day with messages from outside sources: television, social media, school, church, sports, friends, and yes, dance. Many of these messages contradict the ones we wish to communicate as parents. Rather than shield our children from the world, we must be intentional about leading them and connecting them to the messages we desire while talking through the messages, in an age appropriate manner, the ones we do not. It is up to us to swing the input in the right direction according to our values.
At Chara, our teachers understand that kids are like sponges, ready to absorb what we bring into their lives. They need to soak up fresh, life-giving water—not murky, soiled sludge. That fresh water quenches droughts that our kids don’t always know they have. As influential adults to so many students, our faculty are able to see those needs ahead of time, and partner with parents to see those needs fulfilled.
The musical selections of our faculty are one of the things that gives me the most joy inside of the studio. When the playlist for recital is distributed to families each year, I listen and am overcome with joy and thanksgiving. These are the messages that are soaking into our dancers!
I hear lyrics such as, “I choose joy!” from For King and Country, “Death is defeated, the King is Alive” from Bethel Music, and “Open your eyes, breathe in The Light, You don’t have to hide, you belong,” by Francesca Battistelli. I also hear profound lyrics from artists that may not be explicitly faith based but the insignia of Jesus shines through their art regardless of a public profession. As the founder of the Friends denomination George Fox said, “There is that of God in every man.”
As I hear this music, I am brought back to my own childhood as well—those moments of dance practice where I felt seen by God; classes where corporate worship occurred between dancers practicing plies; rehearsals and performances that felt like a glorious celebration. I sense that many of our students are experiencing the same feelings of affirmation that I felt as a young dancer.
I have seen the continual impact the music we play at Chara has had on my own daughter as she calls out to Alexa to ask for a song she hears at dance, listening to it on repeat to the nauseum of her brothers. There is no sweeter sound than to hear her sing, “Sing a song to the Lord go on and lift your voice” (Ellie Holcomb) as she watches old recital DVDs in the backseat of my car. I am sure you have had one of those moments too.
Music provides an invaluable connection, that I know. Our students can feel closer to God because of what we play in class. They get to know who Jesus is. They feel encouragement and that they are understood and loved by Him through the songs they hear in class… or dance to for 10 months as a part of one of our competition teams. Hearing familiar values in music lyrics solidifies what we as parents demonstrate and teach at home. Chara is so proud to partner with parents in this way, regardless of a family’s specific faith or denomination.
In our community at Chara, there is a sense that it is so much more than just great dancing that runs deep in our kids. I can’t help but credit this to our shared intentions, faith—and the music that brings us all together.