Universal Language Theatre major uses African dance in outreach to local children

alisha-taylor

Passion for theatre, passion for kids and a passion for her cultural heritage.

Alisha Taylor found a way to combine all three as she led an African dance workshop for local children that emphasized more than just style and technique.

More than 20 children attended the workshop, many of whom were from Treadaway Church of Christ, Taylor’s home church. Because of this, Taylor had already invested time and was now able to pour into the youngsters in a very different way.

“I wanted to show them a different side of life in the arts – something other than sports and football,” she said.

Taylor, who is a senior theatre major, did not want to limit her ministry to a church setting. She wanted the children to see someone who cared enough to give them the encouragement and assurance that dance was something they could do, too.

“Many don’t have exposure to the arts at home or in school due to lack of funding and emphasis, so I wanted to give them tools to help them grow in a different way,” she said. “It was interesting getting them out of their shell and actually participating.”

Even the next day at church, the children were coming up to Taylor asking when they were going to learn the rest of the dance – their newfound passion alive and well.

 

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Excitement and enthusiasm aside, Taylor explained why African dance is so unique and important for the kids. The African dance style is in tune and intentional with each movement, she said. The movements symbolize the circle of life and also establish a foundation for various other dance styles.

“African dance shows the universal language of dance,” Taylor said. “No matter where you go or what language you speak, you can all dance together.”

It is this universal language that reflects the mission of ACU’s theatre department.

In the theatre industry, money and entertainment is often the goal, Taylor said. But ACU theatre’s approach is different.

“Our department is about being a Christian artist and actor, first and foremost,” she said. “Rather than focusing on funds for big shows, our department chair [Dawne Meeks] focuses on smaller pieces of art that impact these kids’ lives and our culture on a greater scale than any of us could imagine.”

The combination of arts and outreach is nothing new for Taylor. Growing up with parents in church leadership, she often assisted in the children’s ministry. Taylor’s father, Dr. Jerry Taylor, is an associate professor in ACU’s Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry and has preached at various congregations over the years.

Taylor’s passion for theatre was ignited in high school and led to her involvement in ACU theatre. However, pursuing a career in the arts was not her initial plan.

Then, her sophomore year, the department performed Godspell, a modern-day musical recreation of the Gospel story – a production that turned the cast into a community.

“After that production, I knew theatre was what I wanted to do with my life,” Taylor said. “Jesus used stories to reach people, and theatre artists have that same power and influence if they choose to use it.”

As her college career draws to an end, Taylor knows God will use her passion and talent to reach children.

“The minute I don’t know what I want to do, God somehow puts a child and arts right in front of me,” Taylor said. “It’s crazy how he places these undeniable signs.”

Taylor’s call comes as no surprise to her father, who sums up his daughter’s heart for the Lord perfectly.

“My wife and I raised our kids with a healthy reverence for their gifts they’ve received from their Creator, and to look at those gifts as a part of stewardship,” Dr. Taylor said. “She has simply seen the arts as a mouthpiece and tool to encourage others in truth and unify humanity.”
 

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