Bringing the Message Home through Dancing

Karoliina Gröhn

From about a hundred teens attending dance workshops every day to the heart-pounding, energetic dance parties every night, dance is without question one of the languages spoken at TeenStreet. Beginning with “Don’t build your house on sand” on Day 1, the dance team has wowed us with their moves daily, telling a heartfelt story each time. 

The team consists of five full-time dancers and “one extra” who participates in the free-styles and the morning session hypes. In the past, the team has been a bit more international, but this year it’s oranje bovenall the way – everyone on the team is from the Netherlands. 

“It’s actually made things a little bit easier, because we practice a lot prior to TeenStreet,” team leader Lianne says. 

Everything you see on stage has gone through a six-month planning process that begins in the middle of the winter. That’s when the programme team, which consists of individuals representing a number of different teams or areas (visual, dance, worship, teaching, and so on), starts talking and brainstorming about the theme of the year. The dance team then comes up with ideas which they present back to the programme team. The ideas that are likely to work best with the rest of the programme are chosen. Finally, it’s up to the choreographers – some of the dancers themselves – to put the actual performances together. 

“We try to use the dances together with the teaching, to really bring the message home,” Lianne explains. “We want to make the link that connects the teaching to the lives of the teenagers as clear as possible.”

That may mean choosing music that the teens are familiar with or pouring out of the dancers’ own personal experiences from when they were teenagers. It means thinking back to what they themselves struggled with as teenagers and remembering how God helped them get through it.

“Sometimes it’s very personal,” Lianne admits. “As a choreographer you have to pour your heart into it, otherwise it doesn’t work. It’s your own body that you’re using, so you have to give it your all, not just on stage, but also in the making process.”

Like with any performing artist on stage, the dancers are often admired and looked up to.  Lianne wants to remind the teens that the dancers are “normal people” who struggle and make mistakes. 

“I don’t know why but the stage sometimes creates this false idea that we are perfect people who have a perfect relationship with God,” Lianne says. “So we try to be humble and we share our testimonies at the workshops and we tell the teens that they could be performing just as well. We want to empower them.”

Through their performances on stage, the dancers want to foremost encourage the teens to grow in their faith.

“We hope that the dances serve as a tool to bring the teens closer to Jesus,” Lianne says. “That is the reason why we dance. We want to tell them: Go closer to Jesus.”