SYRACUSE Ashley Stitt, a native of Beekmantown, has spent the last eight months combining her two life passions God and ballet. Stitt is currently a trainee with The Light of the World Ballet Company in Syracuse where she is using her ballet to shine the Light of Jesus Christ through dance, testimony, and service. Stitt began taking ballet lessons at Guibords Dance School in Plattsburgh at the age of 3. She fell in love with the athletic art form under the instruction of Kathy Koester, who now owns and operates The Adirondack Dance Company. Stitt has danced in ballets every year, with the exception of her senior year of high school, which she took off. When I took that year off from dancing, I came to appreciate how important ballet really was to me, she said. As a student at Clinton Community College, she resumed her ballet dancing under Koesters direction. Last summer, shortly after graduating from CCC, she attended a two-week Ballet Magnificat Christian Ballet Camp in Jackson, Miss. During the last few days of camp, Ashley Rollinson, director of The Light of The World Ballet, held auditions for her trainee program which offers continued training for committed Christians who are already technically advanced dancers and provides them with opportunities to dance professionally and minister nationally and internationally. Stitt decided to take part in the auditions. A short time later, she was contacted by Rollinson and asked to join the company. I did it just for fun, she said. I had no intention of joining even if I was selected. I had already made plans to return to college and work on my bachelors degree, but God had other plans for me. Stitt spends a major portion of each day of the week, except Tuesday, with the other six trainees. They practice about 20 hours a week, and each session begins with prayer and a devotion. The trainees take turns leading the devotional time. We are all so close because we have our dancing and our faith in common, she said. They have a full schedule of performances, often performing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They dance to classical, traditional and contemporary Christian pieces, and sharing the gospel message is part of the program whenever it is allowed. The group recently spent 15 days in India where the beautiful children captured their hearts. The 1st week was spent on the Bay of Bengal, in the city of Chennai, where they performed for over 8,000 students. They also performed and ministered at churches and hospitals. Next, they traveled to Kerala, on the west coast, where they performed and ministered in churches, schools, and an orphanage. A crowd of more than 3,000 came to their open community performance and outreach. The beautiful children of India captured our hearts, Stitt said. They were the highlight of the trip. This summer, Stitt will have another opportunity to perform and minister internationally. She and her teammates will be reaching out in Kazakhstan from July 30 to Aug. 11. Stitt does not know how long she will remain with The Light of the World Dance Company, but for now, she is enjoying the opportunity to use dance to tell about Jesus, and the close friendships and unity she shares with the other trainees.