Local ballet instructor starts dance ministry

Published 8:36 pm Friday, July 18, 2008

The Clanton School of Ballet has a specific goal: “To disciple young girls and women into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, through the art of classical ballet.”

But whoever heard of taking ballet classes at a church? Where does one bridge the gap between the arts and ministry?

For instructor and School Director Anna Curtis, there is no gap between the two.

Curtis is partnering with Liberty Hill Baptist Church to start a ballet ministry consisting of three classes for girls ages 5-13.

As a ballet dancer with 17 years total experience and 10 years professional experience, she hopes to pass along her classical training to young minds while incorporating Bible study and prayer.

“The goal of Clanton School of Ballet is to connect the excellence of ballet training with the truth of the Gospel, with a long term goal of raising up strong Christian artists that redefine the level of Christian performing arts as we know it,” she says.

Curtis, a native of Eugene, Ore., was exposed to the arts at a very young age. Her grandfather was into opera and ballet, and her family soon started taking her to performances.

The performance she remembers most vividly is “The Nutcracker.” For Curtis, it was love at first sight.

“My mom took me when I was 3, and I didn’t fall asleep. I sat on the edge of my seat and was completely mesmerized by the whole thing,” she recalls.

At age 5 she enrolled in ballet classes, and by age 18 had her first paying job with the Dance Theater of Oregon.

In 1998, while still a student, Curtis was among 25 American teens selected to compete in the VI USA International Ballet Competition.

Competing with some of the best dancers from around the world, Curtis was “on cloud nine.” Still, something was missing.

“I saw a need for the dancers to know Jesus Christ,” she said. “All they had and all they were looking for was their dancing.”

Feeling the call to explore dance and ministry, Curtis joined Ballet Magnificat, an evangelical ministry company based in Jackson, Miss. Desiring to better utilize her classical training, she began investigating other companies and in 2003 toured with Hosanna Sacred Arts of Birmingham.

“That was when I felt the most free and fulfilled, when I was able to perform not for a director but for the Lord and try to reach people for the Kingdom of God,” Curtis explained.

She soon felt God leading her in a different direction and took an opportunity to teach at Birmingham Ballet for four years. There she was able to be very open about her faith.

While in Birmingham, she met her future husband, Scott, who lived in Clanton and attended Liberty Hill. After about two years they were engaged and started attending church together.

After about four months off, Curtis accepted a contract with Montgomery Ballet, where she became involved in a Bible study started by a Christian friend. She often shared her experiences with her pastor, Kent Dodson, asking him to pray for her friends.

Soon, Dodson began to feel that maybe Curtis’ ballet training was something the church could use. Ironically, he was unaware of her desire to start a ballet ministry.

“God has given Anna a talent, and I believe any talent should be used for God’s glory,” Dodson said.

The school is currently enrolling and has a target date of Sept. 5. For more information, call (205) 294-2781 or 755-1694.