How Art is Born
Episode 8


Choreographer/Performance Artist Helanius J. Wilkins was wired to be a maker. Born and raised in Louisiana, Helanius watched a PBS Special on Black American choreographer Alvin Ailey and knew he found his calling. Today, he is an Associate Chair and Professor of Dance at the University of Colorado at Boulder and ran his own all-male, primarily-Black dance company, EDGEWORKS, in Washington, DC.

For this episode, How Art is Born host Alan sits down with him on the precipice of Helanius’s multi-year, multimedia, transcontinental project, The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-body Belonging. Together, they discuss Helanius’s efforts to build community and lift up marginalized voices in his work, never apologizing for your art (even when a project feels like a failure), their respective experiences as Black men in a predominantly white community, selfcare for the end purpose of larger change, and more.

Links mentioned in this episode:
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Watch excerpts from Helanius's 2018 project, A Bon Coeur: Pages From A Journal
How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It!)
Helanius’s current project, The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-body Belonging
Helanius’s website
Follow Helanius on Instagram
Follow Helanius on Twitter


[Image description: Photo of Helanius J. Wilkins. His arms are in a "Thinker" pose and he makes direct eye contact with the camera. He wears a white, button down, collared shirt and a black polyester jacket.]


Lafayette, Louisiana native and Boulder, Colorado transplant, Helanius J. Wilkins is a choreographer, performance artist, educator, and innovator. Wilkins's creative research and projects are rooted in the interconnections of American contemporary performance, cultural history, and identities of Black men. His projects examine the raced dancing body and ways ritual can access knowledge. He uses remembering to piece together and liberate Black identity through performance. Having choreographed 60+ works, honors include Pola Nirenska Award for Contemporary Achievement in Dance (DC’s highest honor, given by the Washington Performing Arts Society, 2008); Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project (2002 & 2006). Foundations/organizations including NEA, NEFA National Dance Project, National Performance Network (NPN), DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Boulder Office of Arts & Culture Public Arts Program have supported his work. He founded and artistically directed D.C.-based EDGEWORKS Dance Theater, an all-male dance company predominantly of African American men that toured nationally and internationally (2001 - 2014). He is Associate Chair and a Professor of Dance at CU Boulder. He is a member of the National Board of Directors of the American College Dance Association (ACDA) for the Northwest region and was appointed in 2018 by Governor Jared Polis to the Colorado Council on Creative Industries.