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Finding God on the dance floor

Posted: October 24, 2008 8:26 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Wiley Simpson and Janet White strike a pose during a ballroom dancing class at Pamela Johnston's Dance Studio in Canyon Country. Simpson is kicking off regular lessons at the studio starting Tuesday.

Ballroom dance helped shape Janet White's view of God - and of herself.

"Ballroom added the color to my life that was missing," she said. "In the Bible's Song of Solomon, God says ‘You are lovely, you are beautiful, my daughter.' When I went into ballroom it made me believe that can actually be true."

White, 51, who recently moved to Santa Clarita, admits she was once a jaded and broken woman.

That was until Wiley Simpson and his ballroom dance classes came along. Three years ago Simpson, who attended White's church in Chatsworth at the time, bugged her to come to his dance lessons. When she finally complied, her life and spiritual walk with God went through a metamorphosis.

"It gave me a full understanding of who God intended me to be as a woman," she said. "To the scared little girl in a closet, God said, ‘See, I make everything new.'"

His calling
As a professional dancer from the age of 18 and a graduate of The Julliard School, Simpson has done it all in the professional dance world; competed, choreographed, danced in videos. But he said his greatest vision was "giving birth to Celebration Dance USA, a nationwide Christian social dance organization that is growing by leaps and bounds and may soon become a worldwide organization."

Simpson focuses his expertise on group ballroom lessons; teaching beginners and non-beginners, Christians and non-Christians, the ballroom moves and the spiritual significance of dance.

Celebration Dance USA started at The Church at Rocky Peak in Chatsworth four years ago.

"We just had our twentieth marriage," he said. "We're not even a singles' organization. We've had at least a dozen couples on their way to divorce court who have reconciled through these classes.

"We don't whack people over the head with a Bible, it is fellowship evangelism."

Although Simpson's professional agents dropped him a year and a half ago, he has never regretted the calling God brought to his life.

"I don't get rich off of this," Simpson said. "My agents dropped me because they could not respect me for my beliefs. I've completely forgone the entertainment industry to do this and taken a 90 percent pay cut along with that decision. But I feel more valuable than I ever have in my life now, and I'm employed by the best agent in the universe."

Her story
White also feels more valuable as a result of the training Simpson's classes have given her.

"I became a Christian six years ago," White said. "Before, I lived a life of a woman without boundaries - the contemporary lifestyle. So when I became a Christian, I didn't have any skills to interact in a meaningful way with Christian men. I was in women's Bible groups, but there was no place for practical application for my new role as a godly woman."

When White came to dance, she said she suddenly saw what the appropriate spiritual and physical boundaries are between a man and woman.

"In ballroom dance, you have to maintain a frame where ‘this is my space' and ‘this is your space,'" she said. "It sounds cliche, but dance is like life. In order for it to work well, men lead women and women follow - there's a biblical context there."

White's husband proposed to her at a Victorian ball.

"When I applied dance to the outside world, I didn't end up in relationships I shouldn't have," she said. "My interaction with men changed 100 percent; waiting for men to come after me instead of me chasing them."

White is part of the reason Simpson is bringing his dance lessons to Santa Clarita. She relocated to the SCV after she got married.

White and Simpson attend Church on the Way in Valencia. Simpson will teach dance from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at Pamela Johnston's Dance Studio, 17716 Sierra Highway. For more information about Celebration Dance USA classes, contact Simpson at (818) 402-3863.


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