“Dancers have to devote hours and hours to training each week to be able to do what they do,” says Brittany Swain, who started dance lessons at the age of 3. By 9 she was dancing four nights a week and at 13 she was accepted into Atlanta Ballet’s pre-professional training program. For five years she had the privilege of dancing at the Fox Theater alongside the company and spent her summers with programs in Boston, Houston, and New York.
But in 2000, at the age of tender age of 15, Brittany lost her mother to breast cancer. Having already lost her father to a heart attack seven years prior, she felt very much alone.
“At first, I threw myself into my dancing even more. It was a place where things still felt normal. But it backfired. Long hours in front of a mirror paired with depression led to an eating disorder, and I thought about quitting altogether.”
With the help of family members and friends, Brittany did not quit and a few years later she was in Tallahassee pursuing a dance degree from Florida State University. There, she rediscovered her passion, but with a renewed purpose. “At that point I had decided I no longer wanted to pursue a professional ballet career. It was more important for me to be able to start a family of my own if I wanted to and it’s incredibly hard to do both.”
There was another even greater discovery Brittany made about herself while in our state capital. “I became very involved in a church and met an incredible mentor named Robyn Stuyverson. She directed a Christian dance school and as a teacher for her company, I got to experience this whole new purpose dance could have for my life.”
In 2007, after getting married and having her first child, Brittany and her family moved to Niceville to be closer to her husband’s family. There she connected with another incredible mentor, Noreen Poppell of Ballet Conservatory. “Instantly I had my new dance family. Noreen runs her studio like a family and makes everyone feel welcome. Dancing by nature is hard enough on your body; you shouldn’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable while you’re pursuing something you love. Noreen does a great job bringing it all together.”
Throughout her time with Ballet Conservatory, Brittany felt she could find a way to use her gifts of dancing to fulfill what she feels is her calling in life. In January of 2012, two dear friends, Shelley Thiess and Jessica Varnado, teamed up with Brittany and together they started The Calling Christian Dance Company. “Noreen allowed us to use studio space and our goal was a simple one: to use the gifts our Creator has given us to spread the news of His love to others.”
The Calling now has 25 dancers in a Senior and Junior Company and has performed throughout our local area including Niceville High School, The Light and Salt Festival (a Christian arts seminar) and at several local churches.
The Calling performs an annual June concert, and this year they are proud to also perform an original story production at Niceville UMC on March 14th called Coming Home. “I drew on my own experiences,” says Brittany. The story follows a young girl who tragically loses her father and the path that leads her to confront her faith. “We are dancing to contemporary Christian artists like Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, and Nicole Nordeman.”
Everyone has a calling for their life. For some it takes a bumpy road and some jagged rocks to help them recognize it. You can find out more about The Calling Christian Dance Company at www.thecallingchristiandancecompany.org