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CSUEB student trains at renowned dance festival


Senior Charles Williams earned a full scholarship to the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

  • July 19, 2013

Cal State East Bay senior Charles Williams remembers dancing as soon as he could walk. His dance skills, honed through years of experience, have earned him a full scholarship to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts this summer. Thousands applied, but Williams was one of only 25 dancers selected for the Movin’ Commercial Dance program.

“When I saw Michael Jackson’s music video, ‘Thriller,’ I knew I really wanted to dance,” Williams said.

Taking Jackson as his inspiration, Williams strives to perform with similar tenacity and attitude. Hip-hop is his preferred dance genre.

“Hip-hop brings out so much style,” Williams said. “You can put your own twist and personality into hip-hop dancing, and I love it.”

He looks forward to showing off his personal style at the festival this summer, he added.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, or “The Pillow,” is a National Historic Landmark, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and home to America’s longest running international dance festival. The Pillow includes more than 50 dance companies and 200 free performances and events. Training is provided by faculty that educate people of all ages about the art of dance through community programs.

The Movin’ Commercial Dance program trains dancers in ballet, jazz, African, modern and hip-hop to meet the demands of the commercial audition circuit. Choreographers create original numbers that the dancers perform for the public in late June and early July. Williams said he was surprised and happy to have earned the scholarship opportunity.

“I thought, ‘I’ll just send in my application and figure out money later,’” Williams said. “They wanted me to attend so much that they offered me a scholarship before I had even applied for one.”

Pursuing his interest in dance, however, has not always been easy for Williams.

“I was bullied in high school, so I didn’t dance around anyone,” Williams said. “I would only dance by myself until my sophomore year when I started playing sports. I became more comfortable at school and did my first performance at the talent show.”

Williams began training at the age of 17 in Milpitas High School’s intermediate dance class and at Jensen’s School for the Performing Arts. He received basic training in ballet, tap, modern, jazz and choreography.

In fall quarter 2012, Williams transferred to Cal State East Bay as an art major and began working with assistant professors Eric Kupers and Nina Haft to build his repertoire. A member of the CSUEB Dance Touring Company, Williams said the university was the right choice for him.

“(Cal State East Bay) is a great campus,” Williams said. “I’ve created bonds with all my … professors in such a short time. Overall, this school is just well rounded.”

Williams has ambitious plans for putting to use the knowledge he's gained at Cal State East Bay. His career aspirations include one or more of the following: teaching dance around the globe, choreographing for a prestigious dance company, dancing for one his favorite artists or interning for a special effects company.

Williams lives by a few wise words he once heard.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” Williams said. “If you open your mouth and ask for help, you’re going to get what you want.”

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