Durbin Church of the Brethren members Michelle Arbogast and Angela Vandevender were looking for a unique way to include the youth of the church in the annual Christmas program when they came up with the dance team, Rays of Hope.
“We had been doing the Cricket County play for several years and each year we would try to do something with the kids that were in church,” Arbogast said. “It resorted to a Nativity scene with an adult reading a passage or them saying something very short.”
Last year, Arbogast realized the adults acting in the play were getting all the attention and she wanted the youth to be recognized for their dedication to the church. The group started with a basic dance which progressed into the routines they do now.
“It was just going to be something really basic, and Angela got involved,” Arbogast said. “She said, ‘why don’t we do something more flowing and more like dance?’ From there, we got a good response last year and then we did a dance for Easter, and it just started to grow.”
From that time, the group has had four performances for the church, but they are looking to branch out to spread the message.
“Our church, where we don’t have preaching on fifth Sundays, we’ll have a fellowship dinner so we’ve tossed around the idea of trying to get something ready for one of those,” Arbogast said.
The group is willing to perform at other churches, as well, if space allows.
“Where we find the limitation is stage space because we obviously design our dances around the area that we have and when you have a smaller church asking, we would have to adapt to that and that would take a little bit of work,” Arbogast said.
At this time, the group has routines set to two songs, “Glorious Day” and “Angel’s Armies.” Instead of using more secular music, the group chose songs that are contemporary Christian.
“I didn’t want to create something where it was just dance,” Arbogast said. “I wanted to pick songs that had some theatrical words so it’s really kind of like a drama play with dance movements that correlate with the words of the song.”
Neither leader has had formal dance training but it doesn’t hinder their ability to create an inspirational dance.
“That’s God,” Arbogast said, laughing. “No formal training whatsoever. Kaila [Peck] is a cheerleader so they do a lot of the dancing at school, so she picks it up very easy. As far as Angela and I, we don’t have any training at all. It’s truly God inspired and it’s Holy Spirit filled.”
The group consists of six members, ages eight to 15. Kiara Davis, Rachel Davis, Tasia Davis, Kaila Peck, Emma Riffe and Olivia Vandevender are all members of the church and dedicate their spare time to learning the dance routines.
Although they are bashful, the girls say they enjoy dancing and sharing His message.
Realizing it is difficult to perform in front of a group of people, Arbogast said she is proud of the girls for their willingness and positivity each time they perform.
“It takes a lot of courage to get up there and to do it because when you get up to perform a dance unto the Lord, you want it to go as flawlessly as you can,” she said. “They work hard and they invest so much of their time and energy. They’re so courageous to do it in front of multitudes, and I often say that there’s not many adults that would do that. They do it with excellence, and I’m just very pleased they have the heart to do it.”
For performance information, Arbogast may be contacted at 304-456-3391 and Vandevender at 304-456-5349.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org