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CSUEB dance student overcomes bullying; earns coveted spot at dance festival

Image of dancer Charles Williams stretching before a performance.

CSUEB dance major Charles Williams earned a full ride to train at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. (Photo: Charles Williams)

  • July 15, 2013 5:00am

Thousands applied, but Cal State East Bay senior Charles Williams was one of only 25 dancers selected for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts this summer and offered a full scholarship to cover expenses.

“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.”

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.

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.”

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