Davian “DJ” Robinson lost his sight as a child, but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dream to be a dancer. His movement mentor and professor at UNC-Charlotte share how Davian is breaking barriers of dance and creating new opportunities for inclusivity.

This is for me to break that barrier, to bring inclusivess into a space they have not seen before. {{Davian Robinson, dancer}}

A dance program that’s ground-breaking in inclusivity

As far as the UNC-Charlotte’s department of dance knows, Robinson’s dance mentorship program is one of the first of its kind.

“I don’t think there’s any other situation where someone who has his level of vision is incorporated into a mainstream Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts dance department,” says Ann Dils, professor and chair of the department of dance at UNC-Charlotte.

The department and Robinson are breaking a barrier in dance by engaging a more accessible dance environment. At the core of the program’s unique construct is Robinson’s “movement mentor,” a new concept to the University and possibly to the dance discipline itself.

What is a ‘movement mentor?’

“[The mentorship] started with someone giving him extra feedback, extra coaching,” says Dils, “but it’s turned into this whole hands-on negotiation of two bodies in space. It’s quite beautiful to watch.”

The movement mentorship is new to his mentor, Lillian Willis, as well.

“The first week I was his mentor, it was just this completely new thing, I think for both of us,” says Willis. “…It’s this new thing that we were kind of creating and testing and figuring out how to do as we go.”

Willis has seen firsthand the potential for impact in the dance practice.

Rediscovering the world of dance

“Something that I noticed as I began working with DJ is how visual dance is,” she says. “In terms of accessibility, the everyday dancer who’s coming to class and doesn’t have a visual impairment, and is just taking class, those are the people dance has been made around and kind of made for.”

Making a difference in bringing inclusivity to dance is important to Robinson.

“This is for me to break that barrier, to bring inclusivess into a space they have not seen before. Then I’m hoping to allow other professionals, staff, teachers and educators to put that forth in their own practices,” he says.

What success is to Robinson

When he gets on stage, manifesting all of his practice, he hopes to leave a lasting impression on the audience.

“My success is when I get on the stage—what in that moment can I impart on those I meet. What kind of wisdom, what am I giving away that I’m not going to ask for it back,” Robinson says. “I’m just going to give it to you and hope that it sticks with you internally in your heart.”


Want more homegrown stories and My Home, NC news delivered to your inbox?
Sign Up for the My Home, NC Email Newsletter! »