Ballet 5:8 is a Christian professional performing company based in Frankfort, Illinois and is dedicated to serving the people of Chicago proper and surrounding areas through dance performance that is engaging, excellent, creative, and most significantly, purposeful. Some performances are designed to provoke discussion among the audience members, while others are dedicated to encouraging specifically Christian audiences. Regardless of the bent of each performance, however, Ballet 5:
8′s staff and dancing artists are passionate about pursuing the art form of dance performance in an excellent manner not for the end of personal glorification or “showing off” of our individual talents, but rather, for the purpose of using the gifts we have been given to celebrate God and for the benefit of our audience members and the community at large.
Ballet 5:8 is a ballet company modeled after the typical classical/contemporary ballet company, but inspired by the words of Romans chapter five, verse eight: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT). The company currently boasts six professional dancers and apprentices from around the world and a mixed repertoire of pieces set to a mix of traditional and modern music styles–but most importantly, a desire to use our art to connect with, encourage and inspire our audiences.
The School of the Arts is Ballet 5:8′s official training ground for students of all ages interested in dance. The school includes a pre-professional training program for students ages six through high school age who are interested in pursuing careers in professional ballet, a Children’s division with pre-ballet and other dance classes for students ages three and older, and an Open Division including ballet and fitness classes for children, teens and adults. The School of the Arts staff includes many of the professional dancing artists of the company and other experienced instructors who share Ballet 5:8′s desire to help students learn about dance in a constructive and uplifting environment. Students are able to put their hard work to use each year as they participate in two full-length original story ballets designed to be a blessing to the school families as well the community at large.
Ballet 5:8 had its beginning in 2009, when founding directors Julianna Slager and Amy Kozol first moved to Chicago. The city seemed to be brimming with creativity–a hub for artists of all kinds and dance companies of all varieties, from ballet to modern to ballroom, classical and contemporary, big and small. Still, one type of performance group remained unrepresented–there was not a single faith-based ballet company in the city or in the entire upper Midwest region.
The idea of starting a ballet company surfaced first in the occasional joke or offhand remark, but it slowly made its way into late-night conversations and mid-day daydreams. An initial attempt–Freedom Company–failed after only a month of part-time rehearsals and a single performance opportunity at an Intervarsity conference. The problem was not the idea, simply the timing, a big idea hatched a bit too soon.
As the demise of Freedom Company began to wear off, the need to start afresh began to become apparent. The company gained a brand-new name during the winter of 2010, the “5:8″ included as a way to symbolize the summary of the Gospel–our motivation for dancing–found in Romans chapter five verse eight. By then, Amy and Julianna were beginning to feel not simply the adrenaline of a big dream, but more significantly, the sense that God might be calling them specifically to act on bringing a Christian company to Chicago.
In January of 2012, the company idea had become the running inside joke–something to be acted upon “someday.” Everything changed, however, after Amy had a serious conversation with a good friend who had volunteered early on to pray about the company.
“I don’t think there’s anything left to pray about.”
Many of the hurdles that had initially caused Freedom Company to fail, including a major lack of time, resources and people, had disappeared. The only remaining detail was some kind of a sign that said “go.” In the weeks that followed, the sense of calling that Amy and Julianna had started to take for granted took on a new layer of urgency, for no particular reason besides the possibility that the time could be right. After another round of asking God for specific direction and guidance, there were no objections–and Ballet 5:8 released audition information for the first ever, 2012-2013 performing season.
Now, well into our first season, the directors, staff, dancers and families involved with Ballet 5:8 are all amazed at how God has provided over and over again for every need that arisen in the process of starting the company. We are also thankful to God for bringing about our partnership with the Chicago campus of Turning Pointe School of Dance. The Christian dance school, started in a church Sunday school room in New Lenox in 2006 by Julie Kapenga, became Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts over the summer of 2012 after growing beyond its initial sponsorship by Turning Pointe. Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts is now privileged to be able to continue the work Julie Kapenga began, serving the Southwest Suburbs with the opportunity to access affordable and yet excellent faith-based dance education, dance performance and outreach.