The Culture House and Störling Dance Theater have given believers a voice in the local arts scene and beyond, meanwhile bringing a bit of racial peace to the Kansas City area.
... Since that time of uncertainty, however, the Ennas and fellow leaders at The Culture House and Störling Dance Theater have given Christians a voice in the local arts scene and beyond, meanwhile bringing a bit of racial peace to the Kansas City area.
Starting something new
Enna, who received a theater degree at UCLA and performed with a dance theater group in Sweden, began organizing a board of directors that would help lay the foundation for The Culture House, a grassroots arts organization with schools of dance, theater, and music. Störling-Enna, who received her professional dance education in Helsinki, Finland, and Paris, continued honing her skills in order to lead what would become Störling Dance Theater, a neo-classical dance company known for its powerful storytelling.
With both projects, the two wanted to merge excellence in the arts with their faith in a way that benefited the Kansas City area, meanwhile raising the bar for Christians in the arts. With the community's increased support for the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Chorale, the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, and the Lyric Opera on the Missouri side during the 1990s, they arrived at the right time. The seeds for what would become the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2011, were also planted during this time.
"We saw that the whole community was starting to focus on the arts," Enna says. "We came here not to 'take over the city for Jesus,' but to at least sit at the table because of the quality of our work."
The vision of The Culture House, which includes the residency of Störling Dance Theater, is to enable quality artists, believers and nonbelievers alike, to have a platform in the marketplace.
The Culture House launched in 1996 in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. It initially resided between a Chuck E. Cheese's and a Hooters. In 2005, the organization bought a larger facility in neighboring Olathe. The extra space proved useful.
"That's when we expanded our school of music and started our school of theater," says Enna, executive director. "We went from 100 students to 450 in one cycle. Then another 650 the next year, and it just grew from there. We now have about 800 students [and are growing."
While The Culture House is a Christian organization, Störling Dance Theater is a dance company run by Christians, not a "Christian dance company." As such, some of its dancers are not Christians. Yet "people still do, even if they're not Christian, ask for prayer," notes Störling-Enna, artistic director. "I'd say 90 percent of the dancers who joined the company and were not Christian have become Christian through the company." ...
... While not explicitly Christian, Störling does operate the Artist Development Program, which provides pre-professional dancers with nine months of intensive instruction, and helps them develop tools for their life and career, spiritual maturity, physical and mental discipline, and an appreciation of the arts.
"That is a specifically Christian discipleship program," Enna says. "You don't have to participate in the spiritual development, but besides dancing day and night, they take design classes, as well as an apologetics course and a discussion group about Christianity and culture. It's to help those young artists have the discussions, think about their faith, and be prepared for the marketplace . . . It's not just so their faith survives in the arts, but that it thrives and they have the support and the integrity with them going into it."
Today, graduates of the program are receiving scholarships to top dance and theater programs around the country, including the Ailey School, part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, and theater programs at the University of Harford in Connecticut and Oklahoma City University. Students have also received full scholarships to the Joffrey Ballet's summer program in Chicago. ...
... "If Christianity has been so ineffective during the past 150 years in the arts, it's moving to see that we're part of a bigger picture and that the ship is turning," Enna says. "Christians are now being known for their good work."