May Artist of the Month - Erica Wilson-Perkins
Erica Wilson-Perkins, teacher, choreographer, director, producer, originally from Colorado Springs, Co, was introduced to serious dance by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble in Denver, Colorado. Erica would go on to earn her BFA in Dance from Columbia College, Columbia, SC and then a MFA in Dance from Florida State University. After graduate school, Erica accepted a full-time faculty position at the University of Illinois (U of I), Urbana, IL where she developed ready, set, DANCE!, a touring dance company dedicated to dance education. She also implemented both the Pilates body conditioning and jazz technique program into the BFA/MFA curriculum. During this time her production experience expanded with the creation of the What Da Funk Dance Company, a jazz dance collective, Champaign, IL. Erica went on to become Wayne State University’s (WSU) King-Chavez-Parks Artist-in-Residence. It was here she created and directed what became known as ‘Detroit’s dance machine’ CounterGroove Dance Company (CDC). Through her company, Erica was able to developed Detroit’s first professional summer dance intensive. The intensive offered diverse classes and performance to students all over the Midwest region. CDC produced some of today’s hottest dancers and choreographers, including William McClellan (Dayton Contemporary Dance Co) and Sonya Teyah (So You Think You Can Dance). Erica gained academic recognition with the creation of Sand People of The. Set on the WSU dance students, the piece was selected to represent the Midwest region at the American College Dance Festival National Conference (ACDFA). Erica later accepted a faculty position at the Dance Center, Columbia College-Chicago. She found interest in other artistic disciplines and formed her innovative performance collective, the FightWaterPros (FWPros). FWPros continues to collaborate on unique state-to-state projects. Erica has been awarded multiple awards and grants, including the prestigious Chicago DanceMakers' Forum Award for the creation of FightWater: Past/Future-Never Present (A Dancumentary), a documentary and performance presented by the Dance Center Presenter’s Series. In 2006, Erica relocated to San Antonio. She accepted a position with Parks and Recreation where she served as company director of Alamotion. Other San Antonio creative endeavors have included dancing with Spareworks.dance, ModaColab Dancers as well as presenting work at Luminaria, Studio 106, and WIP Crème. Passionate about dance Erica took on several posts with the San Antonio Dance Umbrella (SADU) including co-coordinating WIP (Works-In-Progress) dance performance series. Presently, Erica is the head of the dance program at Palo Alto College and directs the dance company, PACDance Performance Group.
Erica is excited to introduce the newly formed Erison Dancers, San Antonio’s modern dance company. NALAC commissioned Erison Dancers to create a dance work in celebration of the Bicentennial of the Mexican Revolution entitled, Revolucion into the Third Century, which premiered October 2010 to rave reviews. Erica remains on the cutting edge of performance and creative work and continues to by presenting new dances, teach and give master workshops both locally and throughout the nation.
How did you get your start in dance? (What inspired you?)
I started as a gymnast, training with husband and wife coaching teams, Tom and Lori Forster and Bela and Mari Karolyi. Both set of coaches were head of US Olympic teams so my training was very intense. While training in Houston with Karolyi, dance class was required every day. I loved it. Once I return to Colorado Springs, I enrolled in dance at the Dance Center to “improve my floor routine” but found my passion-dance. God set me on my life path! That’s how the formal classes started. Truly, the greatest influence came from my mother. She would sit for countless hours, watching me do improvisational dance and then would offer her critic. All inhibition was cast off and my ability to create movement and express it was born. Oh how the tables turn. Now, I sit and do the same with my son, who is a wonderful mover (dancer).
You’ve had experience dancing in Denver, Chicago and now San Antonio. How has your experience here differed from the others?
In Denver, I had the opportunity to work with some of the most influential names in dance. Cleo Parker Robinson, the late Daryl Sneed, Marta Kirn, Polly Motley, Karen Steele, and Stacy Spencer all played a major role in my early years. It was a time of great inspiration and exposure to different approaches to dance techniques. This was a time of rigorous technical training for me as well as intense intellectual challenge.
Chicago is wonderful city for making work; being an independent artist in this city can be complex however rewarding at the same time. Of course it’s competitive, but that’s to be expected and the cost of making work can make things very difficult as well. Chicago’s diversity makes art interesting with allowance for very inventive art, dance, and music. Chicago presents world class dance companies yet be has the ability to be open (and at times) supportive to experimental underground styles and forms.
I soon began to look spiritually inward which lead me to San Antonio. Initially, I wanted to be closer to my family who settled here a year prior to my coming. I was excited to seek out the possibilities of such a multi cultural town and I discovered the fertility of San Antonio, in terms of the arts. The fresh approach very inspiring to me, I sense thirst, a need for becoming leader in all art forms. Although the acceptance of modern dance might be relatively new, I see the growth through the development of dance programs in the Alamo Colleges, other dance organizations and more support through grants. I am able to fulfill so many areas here in SA by working in the community, creative collaborating while continuing to work nationally is very exciting. When asked once if I thought there was (modern) dance here in San Antonio. I responded; “Yes, dance is here in SA. It is growing and I’m happy to be a part of its development.”
Can you tell us a little about the newly formed Erison Dancers? How did that originate?
Erison Dancers started last summer when I was commissioned by OCA and NALAC to create a modern dance to celebrate or rather, to reflect on the Bicentennial of the Mexican Revolution. So, I brought together some of SA’s finest teachers, performers and independent artists specifically for the creation of Revolucion into the Third Century, which premiered October 2010. The outcome was extremely satisfying, both performance and process. It was midway through this project I realized the need for Erison Dancers, a place for dances to continue rigorous training and professional performance. As a choreographer, I’m thrilled to have the fine dance instruments that are tuned into my approach to movement and concepts. However, Erison Dancers are able to contribute creatively, maintaining their own personality in the work. I’m very excited about the future of Erison Dancers. It’s time for SA modern dance to be represented throughout the state and nation and I hope Erison can be a part.
Are there any special events or projects you are looking forward to in the near future?
May 27 the Erison Dancers will premiere my latest work, Prototype. Through an eclectic range of movement, sound, and prose the piece explores the mechanical business of being human while searching out the issues of the revealed heart. The premiere will take place during the Lupe’s Arts Blend series at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
(For more information on Lupe’s Arts Blend May 27 click here)
Photo credit: Charles Arbogast, AP