The art of the spiritual message and joyous expressions of reverence are what the dancers of Living Waters Pentecostal Church are all about.
The Living Waters dance troupes use rhythmic movement to enact the spiritual messages of gospel songs played during services.
It is an active expression of their faith and gratitude that they hope will uplift the spirits of the congregation.
“Music and dance are something to bless others as he has blessed us,” said Troy Williams, 23, Pastor Sterling Williams’ son.
The young man had a life-changing experience three years ago when he was accidentally shot in the stomach and thought he was going to die.
“My father always told me not to play with guns, but hanging around with friends who had guns, eventually, wanting to shoot … I (accidentally) shot myself,” Williams said. “That’s why I love praising him, enjoy dancing and going out trying to help others, so that I can bless others the way that I have been blessed.”
The pastor and his son form one of the dance troupes called Sonz of Zion. They use dance and mime to convey the lyrical stories in the songs they choose.
They wear mime face paint and brightly colored purple and gold robes with black, wing-like sleeves.
One of the gospel songs they enact is “Right Now Praise,” which is about pausing to reach inside and praise God, Pastor Sterling said.
In the song, the pastor enacts the role of spiritual mentor who guides a younger, lonely man suffering strife to remember the many blessings of God and a path of gratitude.
Each song has the power to raise your spirits, and the goal of the dancers is to bring people back to the moments of reverence and awe that nature scenes and acts of kindness can often induce.
“Our whole propose is to usher in the presence of God,” said First Lady Angelle Williams, the pastor’s wife. “With today’s struggles people are going through … sometimes you can break free of your trials, your tribulations, they’re still there, but you’ve got someone who kind of helps carry you through them.”
They don’t perform when they dance — they minister, she said.
Angelle dances with Tamara Mangram, who choreographs some of the dances for the Women of Virtue dance troupe.
One of the melodies they dance to is “Like Never Before,” which is about getting to the place within where the desire for God in one’s life is more urgent than the desire for material possessions.
“It’s a song about having the power of God supporting you as never experienced before,” said Mangram.
“When I’m choosing songs, I listen to the words, what it’s saying,” Angelle said. “If it meets us where we are, in our struggles — letting us know we can overcome.”
Anything that is encouraging or inspiring, she said.
“Because when we get up there and we’re doing it, sometimes they may not ever move in the audience, but you see people crying, you see some after church saying ‘You know what, that song touched me — I needed that, there was a message in that song for me,’” Angelle said. “That’s what it will do for all of us — touch us where we are, and it’s beautiful, beautiful.”
Jewels of Living Water is the youngest dance group of children ages 5 to 12. One of their songs is “Sunshine,” by gospel singer Kirk Franklin.
“Dance is how I express myself,” said 10-year-old Clarence Taylor.
His brother, Charrin Taylor, 11, recently won the talent contest with a song and dance routine at La Merced Elementary School in Belen.
Egypt Boykins, 15, choreographs the songs for the younger dancers.
“My grandma, she’s the one that came up with the name, and the First Lady would choreograph the songs,” Boykins said. “Once I realized I could pick up their dances … then I got assigned to be the choreographer. God kind of shows me the songs to do, and the moves to go with them.”
She has been in “praise dancing” ever since her family moved to New Mexico in 2004, she said.
“Dance shows my inner self,” she said.
The inclusion of dance in worship is a draw for the young people and the energy that accompanies youth.
“It’s fun, and there are people my age I can dance with and talk to,” said Victoria Williams, 16, a member of the teen’s dance group, Design for Praise.
Tapria Williams, 15, has choreographed two gospel songs for her group, and one for her solo dance.
She gets inspired by the mood of a song, and that’s how she chooses, she said.
“The melody, “Me Again” is about how someone lost their way and they find Jesus again,” Tapria said.
Pastor Williams softly sings, “Remember to cover me, that I might go in peace, remember to keep me lifted, that I might go in spirit.”
Tapria joins her father in a gentle soprano, “Keep my name on your lips, when you pray, remember this — I need you to cover me.”
The song “Cover Me” is about the one’s who have died asking the living to remember them in prayer, the pastor said.
Tapria also performed the song “Oh Peace God” in a play at the church’s F.A.I.T.H. conference. In it, she plays the role of an older sister whose younger brother is bitter about the death of their parents and having to live with their grandmother.
He saw that his friend had an iPad and iPhone, and he wanted the material things. He tried to push love out of the equation, Tapria said.
“He misses having a regular family with his mom and dad with them, and he wasn’t grateful for what he had,” she said. “He didn’t realize that his grandmother took him in, and by that he should be grateful. So, my role was to encourage him.”
The church’s foundation rests firmly on Psalm 150, and the reason they dance comes from verse four, the pastor said.
“Praise him with timbrel and dance,” Sterling recites. “We use it as our theme, because it tells you, ‘Praise the Lord with stringed instruments, cymbals and harps.’
“So, it’s really about praise, that’s where we are with our dance groups. This is the foundation that we stand on.”
The dancers currently rehearse in small quarters inside the church. They hope to find a larger dance rehearsal space for their growing dance troupes, and are praying to find something local and inexpensive.
Everyone is welcome to Living Waters Pentecostal Church’s Sunday morning worship at 11 a.m., and other services throughout the week.
On Sunday, Nov. 18, the church will have a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by members of the congregation, and on Saturday, Dec. 22, there will be a Christmas Masquerade Ball at 5 p.m.
The church is located at 209 Seventh St. in Belen. For more information, call 315-5036.
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