LEAP OF FAITH: Noble, who still walks with a limp, has reason to smile.
SEVEN years before I started Praise Academy of Dance, I experienced the most intense emotional storm that rocked me to the core and tested my mettle. This was in the 1980s, and I was on quite a trajectory – from trained dance student to dance educator at the Edna Manley College to accomplished ‘secular’ dancer. I was on a career high, making my own plans for a great future. But God had other plans for my life.
I was on stage dancing with wild abandon to the words of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” when out of the blue I heard a voice ask me, ‘Who are you edifying when you dance like this?’ Suddenly, an excruciating pain hit me in my leg and I leaped off the stage. The following Monday, at Jessie Rippoll Primary, where I prepare students for the Common Entrance Exams, I tried getting up from my seat but my legs wouldn’t budge. Down came the salty tears. I was struggling to breathe. I was crippled for a week. I had to find a way to talk to God.
I met Gene Denham, a member of the Kingston Open Bible Church, who guided me through the scriptures, with fasting, prayer and deep fellowship with God. I felt changed. The Holy Spirit was now guiding me.
Within a year, I gave up my job at Edna Manley and the Lord invited me to embark on a new journey with him, developing a new dance experience based on praise and worship. With two other women, Ann-Marie Williams and Curline Thompson, I took up the challenge of creating this Christian dance – interpretive worship – and that’s how Praise Academy of Dance was born, in 1993.
It’s been more than two decades since. In fact, next year brings our 25th anniversary. I consider this a journey of faith that’s changed many lives and opened a lot of doors. We not only have branches in Kingston and Portmore (populated by dancers from five years old to thirtysomething), we managed to branch out to establish Praise Academy Barbados in 2003 and in Trinidad in 2007. Cayman is next. Some of the dance teachers and administrative staff have been with me since the very beginning.
Unity, fellowship and love have kept us together. I see where our young kids become leaders at their schools, displaying the discipline and hard work that we’ve instilled in them. But what I cherish most about the experience is that it has taught the dancers how to have a deep fellowship with Christ.
For the 25th year celebration, there are so many things we want to get done. Right now we’re at rented premises, so we’re working toward setting up our own home base and expand into a performing arts academy. We are also preparing to welcome more male dancers into the company, and for the 2018 season, we’re inviting back some of our past dancers to join in the celebration.
I just published my first book, The Journey Continues, which shares my story, and I’m working on getting it into the bookstores. We did a first printing of 100 copies, and we have only 10 left. My life is a series of lessons that I want people to know about. It’s a testimony I want to share with the world. – As told to TALLAWAH Magazine