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Author: Becca Vaclavik

Combining community, culture and human connection through dance

“Vulnerability—I have an interesting relationship with that word … It almost feels like a gift in some way.” Helanius J. Wilkins

To do something wholeheartedly. That’s the meaning of the Cajun French phrase “A Bon Coeur,” as well as the title of a dance performance coming to Boulder this weekend as part of the larger event “[UN] W.R.A.P Traversing Memory.” Not intended to tell a story per se, Assistant Professor of Dance Helanius J. Wilkins—choreographer and performer of the piece—drew inspiration from his Creole cultural ties and his childhood in Lafayette, Louisiana, to create a work that resembles a journal capturing moments in time.

“I think the notion of memory emerges in various ways… I am actually reliving, if you will, some of my experiences from growing up … There might be moments where I’m in a sugar cane field or other moments where I’m trying to make my way through a hurricane … It allows me to reconnect to times and experiences.”

If performing a dance that shares private memories and experiences from your childhood seems like an act of striking vulnerability, it’s because it is. But Wilkins hopes his own vulnerability will open the door to more honest and unguarded dialogues about our own relationships to the world around us.

“I’m really interested in inviting you into my world—and into my cultural background and experience—as a means to hopefully unlock your thoughts about your connections to your communities.”

But the experience and conversation don’t begin and end in the theatre, of course.

Part two, “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is the culminating event of “Traversing Memory.” Taking place on Sunday, Sept. 23 after the performance, “Laissez les bon temps rouler” will begin with a parade traveling from CU Boulder’s Charlotte York Irey Theatre to the Koenig Alumni Center. Immediately following the parade, public music and culinary activities will be available at the Boulder Downtown Civic Park Area and Central Park.

In the spirit of a Mardi Gras parade and New Orleans’ Second Line, this event will create a visible human bridge linking together members of the CU Boulder campus community and citizens of all ages from the Boulder area with local and national artists.

Both parts of Wilkins’ “Traversing Memory” aim to use dances and social gatherings as a way to explore connection—and reconnection—to others who are different from ourselves. Wilkins says he was inspired by the idea of exploring bloodlines and legacies, as well as what it means to the continuation of something larger than ourselves.

“I feel a lot of what’s happening in our world today and our greater society has to do with people not really being able to hear each other or take the time to listen … It’s about the disconnect of people. Finding a way to bring back the sense of community and the power that can come from connection—and how we can then collectively arrive at a place of being able to experience hope and empathy and compassion.

We’re not alone in the world. We’re really part of a whole.”