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Divine dance

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Divine dance

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SOMETIMES THE BEST IDEAS come from just being observant about your surroundings.
Josette Leacock knows this first-hand. Back in 2009 she started teaching dance to the children in a group called the Sunbeams at Abundant Life Assembly. When the parents brought their children, they would stay to watch them.
“I used to watch the parents in the pews bopping and dancing and really looking as if they could get up and dance as well,” Josette said. “I got the idea to start something for adults without the pressures of performance, and just using dance as a tool not just for exercise, but to help them to relieve stress and feel refreshed. I also saw it as another element of community and fellowship.”
The idea took root and SONburnt Ministries was born. Along with the exercise and dance component, there is also time for devotionals as well.
“As much as I extend it to men, a man has never showed up, so I guess I have resolved that it’s for women,” she said. “For 15 minutes before the start of the class we have a devotional session, which I prepare for the class and then we discuss it. It’s really a time for people to come, share and be transparent and open and just offload.”
At 25, Josette often interacts with women who are older than she is, but her commitment to dance and spiritual prowess make her seem wise beyond her years.
But though she may be young by many people’s standards, she has always had a passion for dancing since she was 12.
“I’ve been dancing for about 13 years, but I started out in African dance. I went to the Alexandra School, which has a great dance programme and I got a lot of my training there,” Josette said. “I moved off from there after I got a scholarship, and now I dance with Praise Academy.”
Josette said that when she first started dancing she was overweight and lacked confidence, and it proved to be a great avenue for her.
“Dance helped me to realize I was good at something, and it helped me to lose weight because African dance takes a lot of stamina,” she said. “I put myself in this art form and it’s the most transparent art form and it’s been very therapeutic for me. So now when I teach the girls it’s about confidence, and do the moves with confidence and purpose.”
For Josette the religious component is just as important as the need for exercise and movement.
“People feel a bit more comfortable to invite a friend that might not be a Christian to the class because it’s not anybody forcing something down your throat,” she said. “They come for something else and while they’re there they get something more than what they expected.
“There are a lot of Christian women who don’t get the opportunity to express themselves at church, or who don’t want to go into a secular gym or do aerobic to secular music.”
Josette said the devotional aspect to the class has always been very important to her.
“God gave me the idea, so ultimately it needed to be God-focused,” she said.
“I believe everything about it is godly, even the exercise and the movement, understanding that the body is God’s temple and it’s really important to be active.”
But along with the activity, Josette also cherishes the relationships that have been forged over the last two years of the exercise class.
“So many friendships have been made and we’ve just kept those bonds,” she said. “I believe God is pleased with that.”
Just as women and children have blossomed from the class, Josette admits that she too has grown from the experience.
“When I first started this I was extremely petrified, because I was shy, and this was something I was embarking on for myself,” she said. “I was going to be at the head of something and it was a bit challenging to push through those initial feelings of fear. But I don’t experience that to the same degree anymore.”
Josette said her own confidence has risen as result of SONburnt. She has even increased the mailing list on her devotionals, which she sends out weekly via email to offices and individuals.
“When I teach the girls it’s about trying to instil confidence, perseverance and having a good attitude,” she said.
“A lot of valuable life lessons are taught. Both kids and adults present different challenges when I’m teaching. I’m just trying to show kids that in God we need to strive for excellence.”