WINTER PARK—The soothing sounds of classical music filter through hidden speakers as leotard-clad youngsters concentrate on plies, port de bras and patadas while tightly gripping the barre.
Learning ballet movements isn't an activity typically found in church, but at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park, children can learn classic and modern dance in a full-scale dance studio.
|The dance program at FUMC Winter Park currently has 60 children enrolled in classes, ages 3 to 13. Hopes are to expand the program to include a second studio for older teens.|
It's called Studio 150 after Psalm 150: Praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with timbrel and dancing…
“Our intent is to promote Christian values through the art of dance,” said Studio 150 artistic director Jenny Logus. “We don't just teach dance. We teach children to respect and care for themselves and others, to be responsible and disciplined, to work together in harmony and to use their talents to serve others. They may not become professional dancers, but these are Christian values that they'll take into adulthood.”
While The United Methodist Church has long heeded Psalm 150's command to praise God by making music, few churches have incorporated dance into their ministries.
“I think it makes us unique,” said Logus. “We've had this ministry for more than 15 years, and we are so fortunate to have our own dance studio complete with mirrors, a dance floor and barres.”
While Studio 150 has instilled dance skills and Christian values in hundreds of youngsters over the years, Logus only arrived to witness these accomplishments in August 2015.
“I was raised in Orlando but spent most of my career in New York City,” she said.
It proved to be an illustrious career.
Logus studied dance at The City College of New York (CCNY) before serving as the director of the world-renowned Broadway Dance Center, where she worked with professionals in dance, acting, theater, film and television.
It was the church's mission and outreach coordinator, Laura Toshie, who asked if Logus would lead Studio 150.
“Laura and I grew up dancing together,” said Logus.
Among her first acts as artistic director was to put together a diverse board of directors made up of church members with talents in the arts and business.
|Studio 150's board of directors includes FUMC Winter Park members with talents in business and the arts providing valued support to the project.|
“I love the collaboration of the board,” said Logus. “They've worked so hard to expand our outreach and make this a true ministry of the church.”
There are currently 60 children, age 3 to 13, enrolled in classes at Studio 150.
“We are open to any children in the community, not just members of the church,” said Logus.
Logus said the program has proven so popular, the board is planning to add a second studio for teens over the age of 13.
Serious dance students have an opportunity to join the Studio 150 Dance Company. Members of the company rehearse two hours a week, participate in worship, attend dance camps, perform for other ministries in the church and take part in concerts collaborating with the Children's Choir at FUMC Winter Park.
“Studio 150 has become immersed in all of the church's ministries,” said Logus.
Among them is the church's Brain Fitness Club.
The ministry serves members of the community who are experiencing memory loss due to mild cognitive impairments, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 shows that dancing dramatically reduces the symptoms of dementia because it requires concentration, memorization, split-second decision-making and balance.
“Through a grant, we work with the Brain Fitness ministry twice a week,” said Logus. “It's done amazing things for these people.”
While she admits to missing the change of seasons she became accustomed to experiencing in New York City, Logus said she's happy to top off her full career by exposing young people to the art of dance in central Florida just as she was.
“It's very rewarding to help lead this unique ministry and watch as these young people develop and grow through the art of dance,” she said.
--D’Ann Lawrence White is a freelance writer based in Valrico.