Our Founder's Story
Dance saved my life. I am truly not sure where I would be without it. I grew up in a Baptist church. I was a preacher’s kid who knew God but felt like I did not have a voice. Many times, I witnessed the power of God in our church, but in my life, I wondered did God see me, know me, or hear me. We lived on the North Side of St. Louis at Grand & Carter, the inner city. Most of my young life, we literally lived in our church, and church was my life. I witnessed the ills of the community daily, but also saw the mercies of God daily. As a youth, I saw the crack epidemic first-hand, saw gang activity on a regular basis, dead bodies, domestic abuse, and I experienced the horror of molestation, and even physical abuse. There were so many questions, so much pain, but as a child in my culture, in church, I did not have a voice. Then one day it all changed.
As far as I could remember, I was always a dancer at heart. I danced and sang whenever music came on. I took lessons when I was young, but it was one moment at my 10th birthday party where my destiny would take form. My mom & dad tell this story about me just being lost in dance to the point where the rest of the room seemed to fade. In that moment, God spoke to them that it was my gift. DANCE! As they acknowledged and invested in this knowledge by finding avenues of development in dance for me, my life changed. The things I cried about when I laid down at night, feeling misunderstood, not knowing myself, or my value, the fears of not being enough educationally, or hopelessness of never making it out of the woes of North St. Louis, all these things that tormented me, I began to overcome as I figured out how to use my voice. In my youth, dance was my voice. I remember my first teacher at church, Barbara Broussard. It was the first time I saw praise dance. I thought wow, as I move, this is my prayer. It gave me voice. Then I went to see a professional dancer who did a dance of worship at a talent show in Alton, Il through a church member, Donna Henry. She was a dream! She was professionally trained, and her heart of worship for God stirred me so on the inside, I had to meet her. She inspired me so, that I took the video home and watched it a million times and learned her solo. It became my solo, Vickie Winans, “We Shall Behold Him”. The first time I ever danced solo at my church, I experienced real freedom. I no longer saw people, or things that were happening in my life, but I saw God and I knew He saw me. My body tingled all over and tears poured out as my heart was opened, and my soul was released. I no longer felt tormented because I had found my way out. I discovered hope. I did not have to shout it to the roof tops, and I did not have to prove it to man, but I was free. Each time I moved, it was an expression of what I was feeling, a conversation between me and God, and me & myself. As I could express it, I could release, it, and somehow in my heart I knew what my next step was. I pursued my voice, my weapon, my heaven on earth. I begged my parents for classes. They pursued scholarships and opportunities for training the best they could. My most influential teachers were Andrea Smythe and the late Theo Jamison of Katherine Dunham Centers for Performing Arts. They believed in me when I did not know enough to believe in myself. They gave me a glimpse of my future. The discipline, the passion, the purpose, it's still with me today. This is my testimony, my journey. I continue to experience the healing power of dance and it is my mission to unlock this gift for others. Whether inside a church or in a dance studio, or on a stage, dance SPEAKS. Dance is expression, therapy, a conversation that gives voice to the dancer, and opens the heart to know the way of healing and hope.