RITUAL GUMBO: A PASSAGE
2012 - PRESENT
AVAILABLE FOR TOURING
Ritual Gumbo: A Passage is an embodied act of revisionism that unfolds as an inter- and multidisciplinary project that disrupts the practice of erasing the past. It is a project that shines a light on representation through re-bodying our silenced stories, people, and places. Ritual Gumbo: A Passage is a genealogical dive and archaeological dig that will result in multiple media outcomes. Through Ritual Gumbo, Wilkins exposes a tarnished and turbulent American history to resuscitate the people who survived the slave trade, floods, and lost rituals. Their perseverance and resilience offer hope for a different future. Ritual Gumbo becomes a vehicle for remembering that our “American” identity is one that is shaped by hybridity, resilience, and co-existence. This project reflects how complex we are, and how home is where our path begins for a less blemished future.
The choreographic trilogy, resulting from a multi-year creative research process, is a project that explore how embodied practices can interrogate issues of race, culture, and inclusivity. Wilkins created two evening-length intermedia solo projects: "/CLOSE/R" (fall 2012 premiere) and "A Bon Coeur: Pages From A Journal" (fall 2018 premiere), works that move from the self to environments that influence cultural identity. In the making of "Kanaval" (2022 anticipated premiere), the culmination of this trilogy, Wilkins draws connections between his upbringing in Lafayette, Louisiana and Haitian Creole heritage in order to diminish barriers between cultures, and to expand possibilities for Black men in America. Through this work he shows how embodied narratives can bring us closer together by allowing his bodily actions, blood memories, and Creole heritage to guide the process as well as the performances. Given the current divisiveness in our political and social spheres, this project offers hope and respite. By allowing for self-reflection and vulnerability, this trilogy of works opens a place where audience members and performers together imagine a sense of belonging in time, space, and place. In its entirety, the trilogy invites us to reconnect to the importance of embracing, honoring, and celebrating difference.
This work emerges from a place of fear and flight. In this evening-length solo project Wilkins exposes his naked truth through a process of shedding. /CLOSE/R marks a departure from his past works for his all-male EDGEWORKS Dance Theater by returning to the solo form. Inspired in part by notions of what is uncomfortable, he navigates his way from questions to statements while exploring newfound personal realizations of dance. This piece fuses lighting design, video technology, movement, and text through the subtle intimacy of humor. This project was made possible in part by the D C Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
This work is without intermission.
“This is exhilarating conceptual work.” (Wallace Chappell, The Gazette/Hoopla)
The development of this project was made possible in part through an Artistic Assistance Project Development grant from Alternate ROOTS. Grant was made possible by funds from The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellow Foundation.
The development of this project was made possible through a Graduate Committee on the Arts & Humanities (GCAH) Research/Creative Work Grant from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Additional support was made possible through residencies at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, PA and Dance Exchange in Takoma Park, MD as part of their Local Artist Residency Program.
Funding for World Premiere performances was made possible in part through a Graduate Committee on the Arts & Humanities (GCAH) Research/Creative Work Grant and an Arts & Sciences Fund for Excellence award from the University of Colorado Boulder.
A BON COEUR:
PAGES FROM A JOURNAL
Heritage, heart, and soul are the main ingredients for “A Bon Coeur,” a evening-length, mixed media solo project. For "A Bon Coeur," a Cajun French term meaning “to do wholeheartedly, or good heart”, Wilkins draws inspiration from his Creole cultural ties and aspects of growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana. The work is sparked by notions of bloodlines, memory, continuance, and legacy. Driven by a sense of self-discovery, stories untold, and public landscapes of protests, human diversity, and celebration, this work moves in and out of abstract spaces, distinct gestures, and rigorous movement vocabularies that unearths personal experiences, familial stories, and cultural celebration such as Mardi Gras. Not intended to tell a story, “A Bon Coeur” resembles a journal capturing moments in time. Richly textured and interwoven, the work features original text, a sound score combining new and recorded music that embraces the sounds of contemporary, jazz, and zydeco, video technology, colorful costuming, and lighting design.
This work is without intermission.
“A Bon Coeur is his paean to a city that has faced adversity but moves forward, a vibrant artistic and cultural gumbo. Interestingly, this latest work, is a fitting addition to Wilkins body of work. He spent two decades wrestling with identity, public and private, of black men. Now in A Bon Coeur he digs deep into his roots.”(Lisa Traiger, D.C. DanceWatcher, Washington, DC)
Kanaval is the Haitian Creole name for the celebration leading up to Mardi Gras. In this new project, choreographer Helanius J. Wilkins reflects on the spiritual, sensorial, and embodied experience of Kanaval to create a dance work, called Kanaval, that is collaborative, immersive, and illuminating. In the making of this project, Wilkins draws connections between his upbringing in Lafayette, Louisiana and his Haitian Creole heritage in order to diminish barriers between cultures, and to expand possibilities for Black men in America. This new project is anticipated to run 50 minutes without intermission.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the premiere of Kanaval is postponed and anticipated to now take place in 2022. (More details to come soon!) Unlike the previous two installments, this project will be an ensemble work featuring six professional dancers.
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Photography by Mark Hoelscher and Ian McMorran. (copyright 2018)