- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Lately I've been going through something that's really got me down.
I need someone, somebody to help me come and turn my life around.
I can't explain it, I can't obtain it, Jesus your love, it's so amazing.
It gets me high, up to the sky
and when I think about your goodness it makes me wanna Stomp.
Makes me clap my hands, makes me wanna dance and Stomp.
My brother, can't you see, I've got the victory, Stomp.
"Stomp," lyrics by Kirk Franklin, 1997


Four girlfriends try a little hip-hop to the upbeat gospel jam heard in churches and clubs, alike. It works. They try some modern moves. That works, too. The rehearsal session in the mirrored basement studio of Christina Broadnax's home in Forestville, Md., is starting to roll now.
Miss Broadnax, 18, and her friends have discovered something interesting: People can dance just about any way to God's music and pull it off.
The four call themselves the Anointed, a group of rhythmic sistas blessed with a talent for dance and a knowledge of how lyrics and movement fit together. They are trailblazers on a mission to spread the gospel by incorporating modern dance moves, traditional ballet techniques and contemporary hip-hop, freestyle motions to soul-stirring music.
It's their ministry the way they serve the Lord and the way in which they distinguish themselves.
"It's important to spread God's word through any talent or gift that you may have because He's given you the gift and that's what you were created to do," says Miss Broadnax, the artistic director and chief choreographer of the Anointed.
"Dance is the capacity in which we chose to praise and worship the Lord. We want audiences to see God's power manifested through our dance," she says.
Since 1997, the Anointed Miss Broadnax; India Smith, 18; Ayana Purnell, 23; and Ericka Kelly, 13 have toured up and down the East Coast performing at various churches and opening the acts of gospel greats like Richard Smallwood and Vision and singer CeCe Winans.
Collectively the dancers share 50 years of formal dance training, which have given them opportunities to perform with well-known companies like Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theater of Harlem. Individually, members of the Anointed have performed in productions choreographed by Howard University graduate Debbie Allen, the actress and choreographer best known for her acting, directing and choreography on TV's "Fame."
At the request of Peyton Gray, youth pastor of Evangel Church in Upper Marlboro, Md., Miss Broadnax established a dance youth ministry there three years ago. On alternate Friday evenings she danced at church services with other interested members. The Anointed came together and started performing at venues outside of the church, says Miss Broadnax, a senior at Grace Brethren Christian School in Clinton.
There's a method to the Anointed's ministry before one step is choreographed.
"I listen to a song repeatedly, and it has to be able to touch me. I have to feel the song. If it touches me then I know it will touch the other members of the group," Miss Broadnax says.
"I get visions of different movements for different songs. I listen to the words, and I try to adapt the movements. If a deaf person were watching, they would be able to understand what the song is conveying through the movements," she says.
Members of the Anointed move as one, says India Smith, the group's assistant instructor. Before they get down to the business of dance during Wednesday night rehearsals at Miss Broadnax's home in Forestville, group members discuss prospective recordings and offer their opinions, she says.
"We're all pretty close, so we talk about our day, issues that are going on in our lives and how we like a particular song that we're about to choreograph," says the Howard University freshman.
For example, Miss Smith, who lives in Camp Springs, Md., cites Yolanda Adams' recording "Worship Christ." They discuss the song's meaning and how it affects each member individually, she says. A clear understanding of the lyrics allows their dances to be passionate and powerful.
"That's why it's so important for us to continue to meditate on the song and really let it sink into us and into our spirits. When it's time for us to minister the song it comes out naturally," Miss Smith says.
She says her association with the dance ministry challenges her to stay on top of her studies in fashion merchandising and to grow spiritually.
"We're here to serve people and to impact people with dance. To whom much is given, much is required. The Lord has given us this ministry, and we're required to stay focused on Him," she says.
"Our goal is to get people into a session of worship to heal their spirits and to save lives. This is really about bringing people to know the Lord," Miss Smith says.
That's why Miss Broadnax established Also Anointed, an offshoot of the original group with four younger dancers who show an affinity toward dance.
"They're young, but they can hold their own. I feature them a lot because they're very talented and extremely gifted for their ages," she says.
Based on the reactions from audiences of all ages, the Anointed and the Also Anointed deliver the message, says Miss Purnell, a member since 1999.
"Young people say 'Wow,' and adults say they're really blessed by our ministry. We always try and give all honor and glory to God … Dance praises God. We're all talented, and the fact that talent comes from God, we try and totally give it back to Him," the Greenbelt resident says.
Ericka Kelly, an eighth-grader at Thomas Pullen Arts Magnet School in Landover, Md., and the youngest member of the core group, enjoys both the dance and the outward demonstration of praise. With nine years of dance training under her belt, she has performed in two productions choreographed by Miss Allen "Brothers of the Knight" in 1997, and "Dreams," at the Kennedy Center last month.
She says her favorite dance is "Be Connected," by the Rev. Jackie McCullough, with its fast, upbeat tempo. The dance fuses modern movements with hip-hop, Ericka says.
It's the message that's important: "You should always stay in touch with God stay connected," she says.

WHAT: Youth Night with the Anointed Dance Ministry
WHERE: New Vision Baptist Church, 8 Crain Highway, Bowie, Md.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. May 26
ADMISSION: Free
PHONE: 301/218-1555


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