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Youth and Urban Renewal Center Launches "In One Accord" Dance Company

By Brett Wilson | May 1, 2013

From the beginning, the Youth and Urban Renewal Center (YURC), founded by Regent University's School of Divinity assistant professor Dr. Antipas Harris, has provided students with the opportunity to put their scholastic knowledge of the Gospel to practical use. Just as Christ related to his followers by glimpsing into their everyday lives and communicating creatively through parables, YURC is reaching out to the Norfolk community in a new, artistic way: dance.

The audition-only dance company, "In One Accord," began in the fall semester, adding another relatable facet of YURC's ministering opportunities into the heart of Norfolk. Micah Harris, wife of Dr. Harris, and director for "In One Accord," began the dance company in order to use the power of the arts and storytelling to transform the community.

"Dance is one of the most beautiful forms of living art; whether it's energetic, dramatic, simplistic, or abstract, it always tells a story," said Harris. "By using dance to tell the story of overcoming a trial, or just celebrating God's goodness, we hope we can reach others when our stories resonate within their lives."

Harris began studying the art of classical ballet when she was just nine-years-old. She has been dancing ever since, making it her goal as director of the dance company, to effectively express God's message to local churches and the realm of YURC's neighborhood outreach.

"Research has shown the power of the arts in community transformation, and part of YURC's mission includes community transformation and youth empowerment," said Harris.

Company-member, and College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) sophomore, Jenny Leary, shares Harris' passions for dance and youth empowerment. Leary first learned about YURC's dance company during a mission's trip to Washington, D.C. She was soon encouraged to audition for the group, and began dancing with the company at the start of its inaugural season last fall.

"Dance has always been an outlet for me," said Leary. "And now it's neat to be able to use this gift to praise and worship God."

Though she began her training in classical ballet at the age of five, as Leary has grown and explored the art of dance, she has found a new form of expression.

"Now hip-hop is my absolute favorite," said Leary with a laugh. "I know it's a huge change, but I love it."

Leary's favorite "In One Accord" dance is called "Ballet Dancer." The dance juxtaposes two groups of dancers, the "perfect" ballerinas, and the "flawed" hip-hop dancers. This, Leary explained, shares how followers of Christ are conflicted with their outside appearance, and how they are inside their hearts. Performing these dances has inspired Leary to pursue a future as an educator overseas—sharing the Gospel, worshiping and breaking communication boundaries through dance.

"Growing up, I never thought that this would be something that would glorify God," said Leary. "But now, being able to see the significance and the beauty behind dance, it's cool to have that perception and to think about it in that way."

Learn more about Regent University's School of Divinity and College of Arts & Sciences.


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