In Houston, Texas I had the opportunity to sit down with two amazing people, Tammy and Andreas Tolås, to hear more of their powerful story about using dance as a tool for Christian Ministry. With the iconic Texan atmosphere in the background of Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q, both the food and the conversation were wonderful! As we dug into our grub, we talked about how they were first inspired to dance and how dance and movement is an ideal medium for reaching out to people of all races, creeds, and histories. There are some powerful messages that we are able to communicate through dance.
When and how did you start your dance journey?
A: My family is very musical and they all play instruments. We had a piano in our living room and there was constantly music in our living room. I started kind of young moving around and spinning to the music. And then I loved acrobatics and handstands, martial arts moves. I saw a video of a Michael Jackson concert and there was something about his energy and his attitude that was really intriguing. I also saw a Run DMC music video and there was a ton of breakdance in it. So I think all of that kind of accumulated into me wanting to start to learn breakdance. I started to try things on my own and then also took a class in Norway. That was about 14 – 15 years ago. Two years ago I studied at Broadway Dance Center in New York City so within the last few years I really started more technical training with ballet and contemporary to expand my horizon a little bit.
T: What got me interested in movement with music was a kids ministry team that my family joined in 1989. And we would use really simple movement to Christian music to share the gospel or to share testimonies. We would take moves from street dance or things we had seen in music videos and even sign language and put it to music. We used swing dance and had acting, skits and singing as well. Our group was called Hearts on Fire which is part of the YWAM organization for youth. I ended up taking a hip hop dance workshop and I thought it was so cool! From there I was inspired to create my own dances. My brother got interested in breakdance and because he thought it was cool I did too. We would practice in the garage with our bicycle helmets and try all these crazy moves that we would find on breakdance forums. My mom signed me up for another dance workshop that was put on by a Christian dance studio. It was my first experience in a real studio that focused on ballet. I ended up taking an African dance class and showing a dance I made up for a middle school talent show. Afterwards, a dance teacher asked me to join her dance company and that’s when I started to take Jazz and Ballet and other styles.
Why is dance important to you?
A: For me, dance has become a journey of trying to feel alive, to express that volcano of emotions you have inside of you. Dance has become that outlet for me. It’s very connected to music. Listening to music is the only time when I am wholly connected to that sublime, profound, larger meaning and the whole experience with the universe and God. Dance is the best way to enjoy music. And its the joy of feeling my body move with strength and vigor. Dance is important to me because it is trying to express the life that I have in me. And having that positive mindset trickles out of your body as well. It is a way to be grateful and feel alive.
T: I came from a place where dance was used to communicate a message. We used it to communicate who Jesus is, what love is, things like that. It has always been a means to communicate with others. I’ve done a lot of traveling to different countries and so dance crosses language boundaries. So you can communicate something through your dance that maybe you can’t communicate through singing, acting, or speaking. It definitely reveals whats going on in people’s hearts. Like the saying “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks” but also, “Out of the heart, the body moves.” Whatever’s going on inside, you can see it through your movement. We have used it as a discipleship tool because it brings things up in people that they didn’t know where there. And because you dance with your heart, you not only see what’s going on inside with an individual person, but also from a whole culture. You can learn a lot about other cultures through their movement. “The arts is the voice of the time.” To me, it is like a prophetic voice because you see something deeper. I think that with music and dance, you can also breakdown the walls within other and have a deeper impact on them.
Can you explain a little bit more how you can use dance for Christian Ministry:
A: I’m still realizing the power at play with this. For me, being a Christian breakdancer has been a really big blessing. You can have a bigger impact on kids and people of today’s culture as far as witnessing. It allows for easier access to starting a conversation about being a Christian to others. So that’s something I try to use in a positive way to connect with the youth. That is something I am really thankful for.
T: With dance and the arts you can have something that is very dark and you can feel a darkness and heaviness afterward. But you can also go to a show where you leave feeling like there is something good to look forward to, and I think that is is spiritual warfare. It provides a shift in the atmosphere. And I think that dance brings that shift and that we can use it to bring a positive, glorious, and heavenly shift on things instead of letting that darkness and heaviness in. And I think that’s one of the huge things with dance and to be able to do that as a Christian and do it in a way that’s not in your face or rude. To say it out of a place of love. As a dancer one benefit is we can take a message and share it and get people who would never care to hear a message about Jesus to actually want to see and learn more.
Artist’s have such a place of influence on the public. As a dancer and as a Christian, dance is the ultimate expression of emotion, especially love. Anywhere there is passion, there’s is something more that moves people and there’s a lot of power.
Learn more about AD DEUM by visiting www.danceaddeum.com.