Faculty Feature: Modern with Helanius Wilkins

Helanius J. Wilkins, a native of Lafayette, LA, is an award-winning choreographer, performance artist, and instructor based in Washington, DC. In 2008 he was awarded with the Pola Nirenska Award for Contemporary Achievement in Dance, DC’s highest honor given by the Washington Performing Arts Society, and was a three-time finalist for the DC Mayor’s Arts Awards. A graduate of SUNY Brockport, Wilkins returned to the university setting in summer 2011 to pursue graduate studies at George Washington University, as an extension of his artistic journey. His first ever evening-length solo project, /CLOSE/R, marked the culmination of his performance work for his MFA program of study. Prior to the founding of EDGEWORKS Dance Theater in 2001, Wilkins founded Dimensions Dance Company, a Washington DC–based modern dance project he maintained from 1995 to 2000.

Helanius Wilkins teaches an intermediate/advanced modern class for adults Wednesdays 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. at Joy of Motion Dance Center Bethesda (7315 Wisconsin Avenue). Click here to sign up and to view our full schedule of adult modern classes.

What is your teaching philosophy and/or teaching style?

I teach to inspire, to connect, to communicate, to share my knowledge, and to express my love and joy of dancing. I have more than 17 years of experience – and success – working with varied populations and skill levels. I teach to engage people in a process of transformation. I view our physical languages as paths that lead us not only to understanding aspects of our human experience, but also to making sense of the world around us. As an educator, I encourage students to awaken their curiosity, to experiment, question, feel, think, reflect, and communicate their experiences with honesty, compassion, fluidity, and strength.

My movement is informed by the joy of “daring dance.” My dance vocabulary fuses velocity, weight, and gymnastic principles with anatomical approaches to motion. My technique classes incorporate conditioning work for strength, mental training for clarity and articulation, and strong performance skills that emphasize intent and outcome. My work is inspired by, but not limited to, studies in Limon, Cunningham, Hawkins, Horton, release forms, ballet, martial arts, and improvisation. It is also inspired by my experiences as an athlete.

What is your favorite part about teaching class?

At its core, teaching class provides a vehicle for building community, bridging gaps, and developing dynamic communication through movement, in my case specifically through contemporary dance. This, for me, represents the favorite part. Teaching class is about creating a fully organic and complete experience. I love sensing – both hearing and seeing – that students engage in the experience from beginning to end with an open, committed mind, and walk away at the end of class feeling satisfied, inspired, and excited.

What do you hope your students will take away from your class?

I hope that my students will walk away from my class with a sense of growth, accomplishment, and fulfillment. I hope that they will be excited about continuing to grow, achieve, learn, and find joy in daring dance.