Since its inception nearly 40 years ago by a group of families who loved God and loved to worship, Northcity church has always fostered performance and creativity. In 2003, two young dancers at Northcity – Jesse Boyce and Alicia Barrell – formed a hip hop dance crew called Zion. Their dream was to share their passion for dance with other Northcity youth, to build enduring relationships with each other and explore their faith ideas together. They also wanted to challenge the idea that a faith-based dance crew would be limited in ability and irrelevant to the current culture. Within a very short period of time, Zion crew established a reputation for both excellent skill and attitude, creating a public face for quality hip hop in Christchurch. At that time the only other crew in Christchurch was a breakdance group and to be selected to join Zion crew was the goal of many young dancers.
In 2003, Northcity church was converting a newly purchased warehouse building into a church and exploring ideas of how the huge space could best be used. At the same time, as part of their Youthwork training, crew members Tash Britt and Emily Gallen interviewed Papanui community members – influencers in the youth area such as kaumatua, police, pastors and teachers as well as youth themselves. It became very clear that boredom and a lack of belonging was prevalent in Papanui youth culture. With the success of Zion crew as proof that hip hop dance could be a positive way of engaging and investing in a wide range of young people, Northcity church leadership was successfully petitioned to create two custom built dance studios in the new building and Zion Studios was born.
Zion was created with five foundation values which were:
To create a positive environment that young people and their families can belong to
To have a high level of dance professionally and competitively
To be a bridge between the community and church, outworking the love of Jesus rather than “preaching” it
To employ staff that love people and, as much as is practicable, who also love God
To provide performance opportunities, including public concerts at the end of each term. These performances act as an outreach to share our heart, vision and messages through dance, as well as offer the students a goal to work toward and a feeling of pride in what they do.
These foundational values continue to be relevant to us today. There have been many changes and challenges over the years, however we continue to hold God at the centre of what we do and why we do it. We are still expanding and evolving, but continue with our intention to provide opportunities for young people to develop confidence, resilience and a positive sense of identity for themselves – and through them for their families and communities. This is done not only through dance skill development, but also through personal and professional skill development strategies such as our staff development, mentorship and intern programmes.