News Articles

Church ballet studio performance centered on missions

Dancers wearing traditional Ukrainian dresses represent the people of the Europe Affinity Group as identified by the International Mission Board. Submitted photo

AMARILLO, Texas (BP) – Paramount Baptist Church has put a new spin on the oft-told story of Lottie Moon.

Doxa, a ballet studio based at the church, presented “In a Nutshell” the first weekend of this month. The show is a retooling of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker,” only instead of telling the story of Clara and her journey to the Land of Sweets, it tells the story of a girl named Lottie and her passion for international missions.

“We wanted to show that God is making a people of every tribe, tongue, language and culture that will be worshiping Him forever,” said Doxa director Brittanie Wooten. “We don’t know who will come, but we need to be faithful to share and complete the Great Commission that we’ve been given.”

As part of Lottie’s dream, dancers representing Tongues of Fire dance among the praying disciples as the Holy Spirit descends, igniting the spread of the Gospel. (Submitted photo)

“In a Nutshell” centers around Lottie making a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ at a church service and subsequently going on a journey of learning about missions and spreading the Gospel to different people groups around the world.

All of the proceeds from the performances went to Paramount Baptist’s missions offering, with 75 percent going to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and 25 percent going to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

Wooten grew up attending Paramount and has served as director of Doxa (the Greek word from which doctrine and doxology derive) since it began in 2009.

“I love performing at our church because that means people are coming to the building and interacting with our pastors,” Wooten said. “Yet, one thing that people always tell us about our productions is that ‘the Bible came to life’ or ‘I’ve read that Scripture before but I’ve never seen it that way.’ It’s meant to be a visual representation of Scripture whether someone is familiar with it or not.”

The studio will perform one or two biblically-focused dance productions at the church each year. Many other local Southern Baptist churches are represented among the students, but some students and families are simply looking for a quality ballet studio.

Wooten explained the plot of the production is not an exact retelling of Lottie Moon’s story, but is instead an original story loosely patterned after “The Nutcracker” and inspired by Lottie’s ministry.

After the Lottie character makes a profession of faith in Jesus Christ at a church service, she is transported to various biblical events teaching about missions, like Pentecost.

Next, she is shown eight different people groups around the world and learns about sharing the Gospel. The people groups represent the affinity groups identified by the International Mission Board.

Wooten said the ballet studio has become about much more than dancing over the years.

“God has just really used it,” she said. “It has kind of morphed into a discipleship arm. There are lots of Bible studies and times of prayer in the classes and they have become very evangelistic.”

One example of training beyond dance is the additional tasks asked of the students for the most recent production.

In addition to learning the choreography, each student was assigned research related to international missions.

Students had the option to do a report on the biography of a famous missionary or on one of the IMB affinity groups or compose a fictional narrative about a lost person hearing the Gospel.

Wooten hopes the project will spark evangelistic passion in the students.

Women in the church’s congregation bring delicious treats to share following the Christmas Eve service at which the central character, named “Lottie” in honor of Lottie Moon, discovers the love of Christ and a passion for global missions. 

“Ultimately I want every single one of them to feel a burden for the lost, and to commit to pray, give and go,” she said.

“Very few of these students will go on to a professional dancing career, but my hope is anything they do in life they will do for the glory of God.”

For Wooten, leading Doxa represents something deeply personal and restorative.

Despite having danced ballet growing up, Wooten never thought she would return to dancing. Injuries and some disappointing auditions changed her focus after high school.

It wasn’t until much later she realized a new mindset could be applied to dance.

“I thought dancing was something I would do professionally and trained with that in mind,” Wooten said. “I had a very solid spiritual upbringing, but as far as passion, ballet was it. Ballet was very much the center of my identity.

“I eventually realized that I had to surrender my passion for my purposes and goals, and He later gave it back to me in a much more beautiful way than I ever would have achieved if I went for my own goals. It’s extremely fulfilling to me to use it in this way.”

Upon graduating college and getting married, Wooten was asked by a church staff member about creating a ballet-related ministry. A first class of just over 20 students in 2009 slowly became what Doxa is today – nearly 500 students participating in almost 75 classes taking place throughout the week.

In a strange way, Wooten said her students are sometimes the ones who are teaching her valuable lessons.

“They’ve shown me that dancing doesn’t have to consume their identity, and they don’t find their ultimate meaning in it,” she said. “They can work for something with excellence, diligence and passion, but it has no effect on their standing before the Lord. It is a big shift in thinking.

“It’s redemptive for me in a lot of ways and takes memories I have and reshapes things from my past.”

Wooten hopes the unique Gospel opportunity dancing provides will encourage churches to better embrace creativity.

“Dancing crosses language and cultural barriers because you’re not using spoken language, you’re using a visual picture,” Wooten said.

“We hold the most beautiful thing in the world in what Jesus has done for us, and why not use the beauty of performance and creative arts just to adorn that message. We need to embrace the artistic gifts that the Lord has put in our people and raise them up to use those good gifts.”