By Melanie Smith
The prominence of the arts in our world and culture currently presents a wonderful opportunity for the Body of Christ to influence and take ground for the Kingdom. Christian ministries utilizing dance, drama, art, etc. and rooted in purity, integrity, and Christ’s love, are able to bring the Gospel into places and to crowds that would otherwise be unreachable or disinterested. Light of the World Ballet is a striking example of this. Based on scripture, Light of the World Ballet strives to bring technical excellence and ministry together to reach the community and the nations. The nonprofit organization, consisting of a professional ballet company, a trainee program, and a ballet school, is focused on developing Christ-like character and a lifestyle of purity and love.
Light of the World Ballet had its beginnings in 2005, and is now in its 13th year of operation. It was started by Ashley Rollinson, who is a mature Christian and professional ballet dancer. Ms. Rollinson trained and danced professionally with Ballet Magnificat!, a prestigious Christian company located near Jackson, Mississippi. She was with Ballet Magnificat! for seven years (toured 6 years with Alpha Company) before returning to her hometown of Syracuse, New York. Upon her return, she was led to found Light of the World Ballet and currently heads up the ministry as director, along with a wonderful board of experienced, godly men and women.
The leadership is entirely led by the Holy Spirit and seeks His will in all areas and decisions.
Ms. Rollinson began with a small group of little girls in the basement of a church. Today Light of the World Ballet is located in Eastwood Plaza with two spacious state-of-the-art studios. Here classes are held for students of all ages, ranging from the three and four year old Pre-ballets to the high school age Ballet 7s. Along with excellence in dance, Christ-like character is a priority. Each class is begun with prayer, and weekly Bible times are held with each of the levels to develop the students from the inside out. The young dancers are trained in ballet, and as they progress and grow, modern dance, pointe, and conditioning. Older students have the opportunity to be a part of the Youth Ballet. The Youth Ballet is designed to be a safe environment for dancers to grow in their performance and outreach ministry. Participants learn Light of the World Ballet repertoire, how to set up and strike the props, floor, and costumes, and perform several times a year at venues ranging from adult homes to community centers to the mall in Syracuse. After each performance the dancers interact with their audience and offer prayer and encouragement, and whenever able, the Gospel.
For those who are out of high school and wish to continue their dance and ministry education, Light of the World Ballet’s trainee program is a wonderful opportunity. The program is typically two years long, and draws dancers from all over the nation with the goal of becoming skilled in unconventional ministry. It consists of technique classes, rehearsals, performances, teacher training, health and anatomy, and ministry training. Trainees are taught to write and share personal testimonies, lead devotions, build relationships, and cultivate a lifestyle of following Christ and reaching out to the people they come in contact with on a daily basis. Trainees perform many times a year, often with the company, or Youth Ballet, but also alone, and put into practice the training that they receive. Again, the dancers learn how to setup and strike, to share over the microphone and simply speak encouragement into the lives of their audiences, large or small.
Leading Light of the World Ballet is the company, composed of professionals from many different states and backgrounds. These mature and accomplished dancers move to Syracuse to perform and travel, teach in the school and trainee program, pray, choreograph, and carry out many other vital functions of the ministry. Each Company member has Christ as her focus and strives to live and lead with wisdom and integrity. Light of the World Ballet company members perform a repertoire of story ballets and single pieces choreographed by Ms. Rollinson and company member Cayla Noreau. Each piece or story communicates a message and has a purpose. Light of the World Ballet’s desire is to be a light in the darkness, wherever that may be.
The company has presented at conferences, churches, prisons, theaters, orphanages, hospitals, public and private schools, refugee centers, and many other venues. Twice a year, at Christmas and in the springtime, Light of the World Ballet holds large performances that involve the entire ministry. The Company, trainees, and school come together to put on a professional production with the aim of worshipping the King and sharing the Gospel.
Light of the World Ballet’s vision for bringing light to the darkness extends far beyond the borders of the United States. The Company travels overseas two times a year, and has been to China, India, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Peru, Burma (Myanmar), and Israel. They have performed in Chinese government theaters, for Hindu school and college audiences and a leper colony in India, a children’s ward in the Philippines, and on the historical Southern Steps in Jerusalem, Israel. Using the art of dance to transcend language barriers, Light of the World Ballet is able to communicate the love of the Gospel message around the globe. Each trip has brought forth unique fruit and changed lives. This 2018 Light of the World Ballet is very excited to travel to Hungary and Slovakia, reaching Europe for the first time.
Light of the World Ballet’s activity is not limited to the regular school year classes and performances. Each summer, three programs take place for dancers of all ages. Firstly, Ballerina Camp is enjoyed by ballerinas ages three to nine. Students take part in worship and Bible times, ballet technique class, craft time, and learn a dance to share with their families at the close of the week. For ages eight to twelve, the Jr. Summer Dance Outreach is an exciting time to dance and learn how to use dance for outreach. The Jr. SDOers take ballet technique, are introduced to ministry training, and learn choreography to share in an outreach performance at the end of a fun-filled time.
Finally, Summer Dance Outreach, for ages ten to nineteen, is a two week intensive packed with activity and learning opportunities. The first week, young dancers from around the country take part in a full day of challenging ballet, pointe, modern and conditioning classes and rehearsals to prepare for the second week of performances all around the city of Syracuse. A story ballet is put together and testimonies are written and practiced to be shared with diverse audiences at sites including a refugee center, an adult home, and a children’s hospital. The students build friendships and bond over the course of two weeks to form a close knit group of powerful young ministers in the heart of New York State.
Light of the World’s ministry is certainly unconventional. Aside from dancing, Light of the World Ballet company, staff, trainees, and students are regularly in prayer for new ways to reach the community and beyond. Recently, company members and trainees engaged in twelve hours of continuous prayer. Each dancer took a two hour watch to cover different topics and simply seek God’s will. The effects continue to show. LWB has also put together outreach performances in the local mall and been involved in park outreaches organized in conjunction with local churches.
Light of the World Ballet is committed to being a light in the darkness of this world, and is a powerful example of how the arts can be used for God’s glory. For more information about upcoming performances, programs, bookings and to donate (LWB is a 501(c) 3 not for profit), visit lightoftheworldballet.com and like Light of the World Ballet’s page on Facebook!