Hallelujah… the power of story

The power of story never ceases to amaze me, writes Halina St James. On successive nights last weekend I was privileged to see two  talented young people touch the hearts of audiences with story.

The storytellers are Nova Scotia’s outstanding ballroom dancers, Brenton Mitchell and Julie Poirier. They’ve only been dancing together 18 months, but already they’re winning national and international competitions. To compete at that level costs these amateurs $40,000 a year. Over the weekend they asked me to MC two fund-raisers.

Which brings us to the story they told – through dance. Brenton dedicated their Viennese Waltz to his grandmother, “my greatest fan”, who died shortly before they won gold at a competition in Los Angeles on Labour Day. Their interpretation of Hallelujah brought the audience to tears.

In my role as MC I was able to use story throughout the night, during the costume changes. I told stories of Julie falling in love with latin dance as a child on a family holiday in Cuba; about the hours spent recycling sequins to give an old dress a new look; about the inspiration Julie and Brenton have been to the next generation of dancers.

Halina with dancers Brenton Mitchell and Julie Poirier
Halina (centre) with dancers Brenton Mitchell and Julie Poirier

Most of all, I told the story of the way they’ve responded to their internationally-renowned coaches Jane Edgett and Barb Child, who brought them together at the Dance Centre in Halifax.

Afterwards, a lot of people said how much they liked the stories. They knew of Julie and Brenton’s success on the dance floor – but the stories helped them to discover a whole lot more about the dancers themselves.

So whether you are speaking, writing – or dancing… tell stories.

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