By Adolphus Ames –
ESO Arts Center is launching a new program called Limitless: An HBCU Dance Experience. The program is a two-day workshop focusing on jazz, hip-hop, and dance styles often associated with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
It will take place July 8 to 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m and is open to students in grades 6 to 12. Niya Wilkins, who currently teaches jazz dance classes on Thursdays at ESO Arts Center, will instruct the workshop.
Wilkins, a Portsmouth native, started dancing at age five. “I started dancing for the Gail Harts Performing Arts Group,” she said. “I learned all different kinds of styles, including ballet, jazz, tap, and hip-hop. After graduating high school, I attended Hampton University and became captain of the Ebony Fire dance team under the Hampton University Marching Band.”
Wilkins moved to the Eastern Shore in October 2019 and within a year she began brainstorming about ways to bring dance to the Shore. Limitless was established to push forth diversity and inclusion within ESO.
“Ballet is the ESO’s largest dance program,” Wilkins said. “Minority groups might be intimidated to join because of the social stigmas associated with the techniques and lack of minority representation within those classes. I think my class could help develop minority students’ interest in dance.”
Limitless also strives to promote awareness for HBCUs. “I also wanted to provide the kids with an opportunity to see what it would be like to attend an HBCU,” Wilkins said. “The workshop will include a college information session and a special performance by Hampton’s Ebony and Fire team.”
Wilkins hopes Limitless will inspire young minority teens to get out of their comfort zones, pursue dance at the collegiate level, and attend HBCUs. For more information visit www.esoartscenter.org