Dancing to the Beat of Shalom: Christians Revive Kansas City's Arts Scene
When Jeremiah Enna and Mona Störling-Enna prayed to find a city where they could launch a world-class dance company, they expected God to respond with a cultural hotspot like London or Helsinki.
Nearly 20 years later, the two classically trained dancers and husband and wife team smile when they think about where they landed.
"We prayed for about a year-and-a-half and just couldn't get a grip on it. Then we came to visit my brother in Kansas City, Kansas, for Christmas," says Enna, who grew up in the Kansas City area. "My brother said, 'Why don't you move to Kansas City?' We both said, 'Why?' (laughs)"
But after learning of the growing arts community in nearby Kansas City, Missouri, the couple moved into Enna's brother's attic during the summer of 1995 with $800 in their pockets and God's calling on their hearts.
"We were like little immigrants," Störling-Enna says.
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.