THE ARCHIVES:

EDGEWORKS DANCE THEATER

EDGEWORKS Dance Theater, an all-male company of predominantly African American men, was founded and directed by Helanius J. Wilkins for 13 years (2001 – 2014).  The first of its kind in Washington DC, EDGEWORKS aimed to break down stereotypes through dance utilizing a spectrum of performance, choreographic and teaching styles, reflecting the diversity of experiences and perspectives of both its members, which included a deaf dancer, and guest artists. Through its mission and work, EDGEWORKS provided a variety of arts education services and programming that challenge perceptions of men, shatter stereotypes as a means to build community, and create projects that blur the lines between art and social justice. EDGEWORKS performed throughout the United States including venues in Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, Washington DC, and in Massachusetts at Jacobs’ Pillow Dance Festival as part of the Inside/Out series; and internationally in Lithuania, Scotland, Switzerland, and South Africa. Encompassing physical extremes, The Company’s body of performance work was both dynamic and diverse. While pushing boundaries, it simultaneously challenges and affirms societal perceptions of male identity, revealing strength and vulnerability. EDGEWORKS Dance Theater audiences experienced works that allowed them to think, feel, reflect, and question, as they were entertained. This page is designed to be an archival resource that sheds light on this dynamic chapter of Wilkins’s journey.

TIMELINE

JUNE 23, 2001 - Debut Performance

Dance Place, Washington, D.C.

JULY 26, 2005 - Debut in Lithuania with site-specific project, “Open Spaces, Sometimes Places”

Europos Parkas Open Air Museum of the Center of Europe, Vilnius, Lithuania

OCTOBER 5-9, 2006 - Return to Lithuania to perform at the 16th International Festival of Modern Dance

Kaunas & Vilnius, Lithuania

2008 - Wilkins awarded Top Honor, 2008 Pola Nirenska Award for Contemporary Achievement in Dance

This is one of the highest honors given to dance artists in Washington, D.C. by the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS)

AUGUST 4-6, 2007 - Debut in Scotland with “Melting the Edges” as part of The 37th International Choreographer’s Showcase

61st Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland

APRIL 22, 2009 - Wilkins featured on the cover of Metro Weekly and in article titled “Body Language.”

SEPTEMBER 10-11 2013 - Debut in South Africa with “/CLOSE/R” as part of 2013 Dance Umbrella Johannesburg

The Dance Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa

JUNE 3, 2013 - Final Performance

The Millennium Stage at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.

2014 - EDGEWORKS disbanded

FOUNDING COMPANY MEMBERS

James Anthony Frazier

Reggie Glass

Boris Willis

Helanius J. Wilkins, Artistic Director

Reginald (Reggie) Cole

COMPANY MEMBERS

Jamal Ari Black
Tym Byerz
Hunter Carter
Anthony (Tony) Elder
Joshua Keith Gaddy    
Vernon Gooden
Torens L. Johnson
Lovar (L.D.) Kidd
Glen Meynardie
Nkosinathi (Natty) Mncube    
Mervin Primeaux-Obryant
Larry Robertson
Anthony Rollins-Mullens
Alexander M. Schwartz
Matthew Steffens
Vincent E. Thomas,
Guest Artist
Anthony (Tony) Thomas Jr.
Michael Tindal
Leonardo Giron Torres
Theo Turner Jr.
Trent D. Williams Jr.
Datjwan Woodland

CORE ARTISTIC COLLABORATORS

Sven Abow, Composer/Musician
MonstaH Black, Singer/Performance Artist/Guest Artist
Tony Kochis (A. J. Kochis Co. LLC), Set Design & Construction
Kevin Lambert, Composer/Musician
Ben Levine, Technical Director/Lighting Designer
John Murillo, Afro-Chicano poet and playwright 
Cheles Rhynes, Technical Director/Lighting Designer
Roxann Morgan Rowley, Costume Designer
Michelle Rudolph, Costume Designer
Andrew Scharwath, Lighting Designer
Thom Stromer, Video Content Design/Video Editing
Joyce Ellen Weinstein, Visual Arts Director/Set Designer

CORE ADVISORY & REHEARSAL SUPPORT

Susannah Newman, Company Artistic Advisor
Marcia Freeman, Sign Language Interpreter

GUEST CHOREOGRAPHERS

James Anthony Frazier
Robert Moses
Fredrick Earl Mosley
Troy Powell
Kevin Wynn

SELECTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Recognized in the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington 2007-08 as “one of the best small charities in the Washington DC region,” EDT became one of DC's fastest growing and much sought after companies. With tours throughout the United States as well as an international debut within its first three years of existence, EDT was often recognized for its award-winning choreography. EDT also received critical acclaim from The Washington Post, Dance View Times, and Ballet Magazine-U.K and others. Some accomplishments that propelled them forward included:


Winner of Five Metro DC Dance Awards: Excellence in Stage Design/Multimedia (2006); Excellence in Sound Design/Original Composition (2006); Excellence in Lighting Design (2007); Outstanding Group Performance (2007); and Outstanding New Work (2007).


ColorLines Magazine Feature Article:

A feature article on the company appeared in Color Lines magazine, a national newsmagazine on race and politics, March 2007 issue.

 

Critically-Acclaimed Edinburgh, U.K. Tour:
A critically-acclaimed tour to Edinburgh, U.K. to perform at the 61st Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2007 that was made possible in part by a 2007 Round One USArtist International grant.


Access to Artistic Excellence Grant Recipient:

A 2007 recipient of an Access to Artistic Excellence grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Negro Dance Theatre Project.

Multi-year Recipient of NEFA National Dance Project Grant:

A 2007 – 2008 recipient of a NEFA (New England Foundation for the Arts) National Dance Project grant. One of the most prestigious grants for the field of dance, EDGEWORKS was one of sixteen artists/companies funded; and was recognized alongside world class artists and companies.

SELECTED CHOREOGRAPHIC WORKS BY HELANIUS J. WILKINS

2001 - RISK (5 dancers) / Premiere: June 23, 2001, Dance Place, Washington D.C.

2001 - Deep (2 dancers) / Premiere: January 10, 2001, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington D.C.
2002 - Disaster (5 dancers) / Premiere: April 13, 2003, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2002 - Fearless* (4 dancers) / Premiere: September 13, 2003, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington D.C. 
2004 - skin (2 dancers) / Premiere: January 9, 2004, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Millennium Stage, Washington D.C.
2004 - Disaster (6 dancers), Revised 2004 / Premiere: March 5, 2004, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2004 - thoughts unraveling (1 dancer) / Premiere: March 5, 2004, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2004 - Snow (1 dancer) / Premiere: March 5, 2004, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2005 - Melting the Edges (3 dancers) / Premiere: April 13, 2005, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington D.C.

2006 - A Love Crisis (3 dancers) / Premiere: March 17, 2006, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2006 - Cold Case* (6 dancers, extended cast 13) / Premiere: September 21, 2006, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington D.C.
2008 - Flight (3 dancers) / Premiere: October 18, 2008, Atlas Center for the Performing Arts, Washington D.C.
2008 - Gotham Suite** (7 dancers) / Premiere: November 9, 2008, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2008 - the determining factor (5 performers) / Premiere: September 5, 2008, Virginia Commonwealth University Grace Street Theater, Richmond VA
2011 - Trigger* (7 performers) / Premiere: Saturday, February 19, 2011, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2012 - /CLOSE/R (1 dancer) / Premiere: Saturday, September 15, 2012, Dance Place, Washington D.C.
2013 - DLB (2 dancers) / Premiere: Monday, June 3, 2013, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington, D.C.


*Untitled Trilogy (2001 – 2011) is a multi-year creative research process and project that unfolds as a trilogy that examined and explored issues such as race, sexuality, spirituality, and class from the perspectives of African American men. The evening-length multimedia works that compose this trilogy are Fearless (2002), Cold Case (2006), and Trigger (2011). For Untitled Trilogy, Wilkins employed Choreographic Landscapes, a dance-making methodology he developed, that creates safe spaces to share various viewpoints on difficult issues. Central to the development of each installment was a community dialogue process that required working with homeless men, young men in gangs, and individuals with HIV/AIDS, to elicit a diversity of experiences and perspectives. A partnership with Washington, D.C.’s Miriam’s Kitchen—a feeding and social service nonprofit for homeless individuals—allowed often scorned people to share their stories and experiences in a safe environment with the broader community. The performance projects integrated sound bites of collected stories into the original soundscape for the works and, in some cases, incorporated community members into the performance (for example, the Dance Place Youth Steppers, were performers in Cold Case).

**Gotham Suite (2008) is the outcome of a legacy project designed to bring attention to The Negro Dance Theatre (NDT) - the first all-male dance company of African American men. NDT was a repertory company of fifteen African American men dancing in the mid to late 1950s, and was presented by Ted Shawn at Jacob's Pillow for two separate engagements. A dream project for  Helanius J. Wilkins, his research at Jacob’s Pillow Archives led him to Los Angeles-based choreographer Tony Charmoli who created Gotham Suite on NDT. Wilkins traveled to Los Angeles in 2008 to meet with Charmoli to discuss the work as there are no known video recordings of it. Wilkins’s Gotham Suite is a reconstruction of Charmoli’s work based on notes taken during their meeting. The greater vision for the legacy project was to include a one-hour documentary (shot on digital video) and a multimedia exhibition of archival photographs, printed media, and film footage of The Negro Dance Theatre. EDGEWORKS Dance Theater unfortunately was not able to generate the funding support necessary to materialize these additional components. 

 

The names of the artists who performed with The Negro Dance Theatre either in 1954 or 1955: Normon DeJoie, Frank Glass, Nat Horne/Home, Bernard Johnson, Charles Martin, Jimmy McMillan, Charles Moore, Carson Moore, Charles Qweenan /Queenan, Albert Rivera, James A. Smith, Ed Walrond

SELECTED CHOREOGRAPHIC WORKS BY GUEST ARTISTS

2001 - Shattered Colors (4 dancers) / Kevin Wynn, Choreographer / Premiere: January 10, 2001, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Millennium Stage, Washington D.C.

2001 - Like Butterflies (5 dancers) / James Anthony Frazier, Choreographer / Premiere: January 10, 2001, John F. Kennedy Center for the Kennedy Center, Millennium Stage, Washington D.C.

2002 - Never Say Goodbye (1 dancer) / Troy Powell, Choreographer / Premiere: April 13, 2002, Dance Place, Washington D.C.

2004 - Excerpts of a Loving Heart (3 dancers) / Fredrick Earl Mosley, Choreographer / Premiere: March 6, 2004, Dance Place, Washington D.C.

2004 - Lone Figure (1 dancer) / Robert Moses, Choreographer / Premiere: March 6, 2004, Dance Place, Washington D.C.

PRESS QUOTES

"In Helanius J. Wilkins’s tight, muscular duet called 'Yes', two men catch, lift and bounce off each other with improbable grace. One minute one man is the climbing apparatus; the next moment it’s the other’s turn. But the acrobatics—the pounces caught in midair, the over-the-shoulder flips—are performed without effort; the movements spin out in one long, smooth phrase after the other, as untroubled and rhythmic as deep breathing... His choreography emphasizes strength and control, executed coolly, unhurriedly, rather than with flash." 

(The Washington Post) 2001


"It was a mesmerizing experience to witness Reginald Cole, James A. Frazier, Reggie Glass, Boris Willis and Wilkins go through their paces as they danced the premiere performance of ‘Risk’...The narration and dance depicted the life of the African-American male in the United States...The evening was an emotional and moving experience."

(The Washington Afro-American) 2001

"…'Yes,' concentrated on more static, sheer muscular lifts that took their cue from traditional male roles, but tempering the straight-forward nature of the piece with comforting catches."

(Slippery Rock Post-Gazette) 2001


"Emotional and moving experience."

(The Washington Afro-American) 2001


"... stirring ... performing with strength and fluidity... Their sheer physicality was riveting as tender lifts gave way to athletic turns and tumbles to the floor."
(The Washington Post) 2001


"The dancemaker (Wilkins) favors lyrically athletic runs, full-bodied lifts and dives, and effortless springs from the floor. Sometimes fraught with tension, the men in pairs or trios spar, their arms slashing, fists clenched; one man grabs another's shoulders, the threat of confrontation close at hand. Then the full quartet encircles the space, their bodies swaying side to side."

(The Washington Post) 2002

"Wilkins set the stage attractively for his new work with ladders that disappeared into the fly, an excellent live jazz group directed by and performing original music of Sven Abow, and a terrific poet (John Murillo) who delivered his own work, titled 'Shackles' with lilt and punch. Wilkins's choreography made much of men 'supporting' each other with lifts, which is effective for realizing, in movement, the commitment these men have to one another." 

(The Washington Post) 2002


"On Sunday at Dance Place, the [members of Edgeworks Dance Theater] energized one another in two standout works, the opening ensemble piece 'Disaster' and the duet 'Deep' both choreographed by Edgeworks's artistic
director, Helanius J. Wilkins. The dancers used their bulk, muscularity, height and length of limb to best effect, leaping, sauntering, swinging one another around and hurling themselves into one another's arms."

(The Washington Post) 2002


"Strength boasts its own uninhibited beauty. Unadorned and uncluttered, the power of men, embracing, charging, bounding and springing, can captivate, even intoxicate, the eye. Saturday evening at Dance Place, Edgeworks Dance Theater displayed strength of body and spirit in 'Fearless' an evening-length meditation on unshackling bonds— physical, societal and emotional."

(The Washington Post) 2002


'Snow' Sparkles For Edgeworks At Dance Place..."'Snow', a fleeting solo by dancer-choreographer Helanius J.Wilkins, fluttered and gently wafted across the dim stage, like the nearly imperceptible flakes falling against the back wall of Dance Place. The effort behind this haiku of a work Saturday night was masked in the gentle but concentrated attention Wilkins paid to details: the tilt of his head, the quiver of his fingers, the skimming of his feet."

(The Washington Post) 2004


Melting the Edges was "…expertly performed.****" 

(Ballet Magazine-U.K.) 2005


"The artists gave an expression-full performance."
(“Lietuvos rytas” [Lithuanian Morning]) 2005


"…Wilkins solos were soulful…"
(Dance View Times) 2005


Melting the Edges is "…the piece that took the greatest gamble, and won…lush yet easygoing."
(The Washington Post) 2005

“hard-hitting…Dance that communicates what even the most heartfelt words cannot.”

(The Washington Post) 2006


In In Progress: Traveling, Wilkins choreography “…fuses liquidity and grace with a masculine strength that is truly unique in modern dance.”
(Heather Desaulniers, Freelance Dance Critic) 2009

FUNDERS AND SUPPORTERS

The mission and projects of EDGEWORKS Dance Theater were supported by the collaborative work of individuals who served as Advisory Council members, Board of Directors, administrative staff, and volunteers. EDT's funding support reflected contributions from individual and corporate donors as well as grants from federal and state agencies and foundations.

Supported by: Fiscal Sponsorship for Helanius J. Wilkins is made possible by the Boulder County Arts Alliance (BCAA)

 

Photography (unless otherwise specified) by Christopher Michael Carruth. Copyright 2019.

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EDGEWORKS FLYER

2001