Dancing to praise and thank God

Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry: From left to right, Amber Brown, Tina Welch, Jasmine Johnston, and Kelli Starks-Harris.

Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry: From left to right, Amber Brown, Tina Welch, Jasmine Johnston, and Kelli Starks-Harris.


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

FOREST PARK — In the daily struggle, all people carry, in the words of Kelli Starks-Harris, “their stuff.”

Those concerns can include children, elderly parents, money and career, personal health, challenges in the larger community.

For Starks-Harris and her three fellow members of the Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry, dance, of course, is a way to release those worries and open the spiritual channel to communicate with God.

“We’ll pound on the floor. It can be dramatic and physical,” she said.

Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry, part of Zion Global Ministries in West Chester, will perform Nov. 13 at Evening of Faith. The regular event sponsored by the Urban League Guild will be held at Inspirational Baptist Church, Forest Park.

In addition to the Dance Ministry, Evening of Faith will feature national gospel music recording artists J Moss and Byron Cage. The Urban League Mass Choir will perform its own hymns and will sing with Cage on “I Will Bless the Lord” and “The Presence of the Lord Is Here.”

Cage, 52 — music minister at churches in Maryland and Virginia — has released seven gospel music albums, including “An Invitation to Worship.” It was nominated for a Grammy for New Gospel Album of the Year in 2006. Moss, 44, a Detroit native, is a singer, songwriter and producer whose 2007 album, “V2,” was nominated for a Grammy and rose into the Top 20 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

The Urban League Mass Choir is in its fifth year under the direction of A. Michael Cunningham, minister of music at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Carthage.

At Evening of Faith, Tabernacle of David dancers will perform to the recorded spiritual “When Sunday Comes” by Daryl Coley.


The song opens:

When Sunday comes, my trouble gone,
as soon as it gets here, I’ll have a new song.
When Sunday comes,
I won’t have to cry no more,
Jesus will soothe my troubled mind,
all of my heartaches will be left behind;
when Sunday comes.

For some faithful, music heals. For others, answers come in the preacher’s sermon. For Starks-Harris, 49, and dance ministry co-director Tina Welch, 52, dance is where they find most of their peace and the place they express their faith.

“For me, my world is so structured, analytical and bottom-line oriented,” said Welch, who works in operations for a technology company and has a computer sciences degree from the University of Dayton. “Dance is a release in a number of ways.”

The other two dance ministry members are Amber Brown, 32, who owns a daycare center, and Jasmine Johnston, 17, a Wyoming High School senior.

“Except for Jasmine, we are all parents,” Welch said. “As a parent, you carry the burdens and issues of your family. When you dance, you let it go.”

Welch and Starks-Harris, the latter a teacher in a charter school, both have formal dance training. Starks-Harris uses dance with some of her students who are struggling with behavioral or academic issues.

“We will go into a dance room, and I will start dancing,” she said. “The student will say, `Why are you dancing?’ I say, `I am relieving stress.'”

So she will start dancing, too.

“Dance allows me to express how I am feeling,” Starks-Harris said.

In a spiritual sense, for Tabernacle of David Dance Ministry members, dance is an expression of their love and trust in God.

They dance on the third Sunday of the month at services in their church. The group dances at special events, including funerals and weddings. Recent appearances include the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington in 2013 at Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill, with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in 2013, and in April at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots performance at Cincinnati Music Hall.

The group ties its choreography to the service or event’s primary message but is anchored to Biblical foundation spelled out in Psalms 149 and 150: Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tumbrel and harp.


What: An Evening of Faith, presented by the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio Guild

When: Friday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Inspirational Baptist Church, 11450 Sebring Drive, Forest Park, 45240.

Tickets: $35 for the main floor and $25 for the balcony in advance; $40 for main floor and $30 for balcony at the door.

Available in advance at gcul.org, or at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, 3458 Reading Road, Avondale, 45229. Tickets also are available at Inspirational Baptist Church; I Hear Music in the Air, 11804 Conrey Road, Suite 150, Sharonville, 45249; and Lifeway Christian Store, 1183 Smiley Ave., Forest Park, 45240.

More information:
Contact Candie Simmons, (513) 559-5443.

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.