Dancing to a dream

Local News

A Davenport teen is motivating kids and others her age to pursue what they love.

Recent high school graduate Essence Wilmington has been dancing for nearly a decade and that past five years, she’s also been teaching hip-hop dance, starting out in her parents’ basement and now in the Roosevelt Community Center.

Essence Wilmington asking her dancers getting ahead of performing, “You guys ready?”

The dancers responding, “Yeah.”

On a backyard basketball court, they file into a single row before the music cues them to begin.

Essence W. Dance founder and teacher Essence Wilmington said, “It really allows me to be myself and who I want to be.”

Or a stage before an adoring crowd, this is the language Essence W. Dance members know best.

Essence W. Dance team member Dinesty Anderson said, “Feel better with myself and I just felt very free with my life.”

It’s the mission for the founder and teacher of this hip-hop dance group, 17-year-old Essence Wilmington.

Essence said, “When I started to teach, I was 12-years-old and I just wanted to do it for fun and I realized people really want a 12-year-old or a teenager now to teach their children.”

Now with about 30 students in total, ages four to 17, she’s finding herself as a positive role model.

Dinesty said, “I love her so much. She’s a very good inspiration. I would call her like my big sister.”

Part of her routine is about providing a positive way for expression.

Essence said, “I want to be just like that person or not the other people who’re doing bad.”

That passion Essence instills in her students has gained her admiration by some at the pinnacle of the world’s dancing industry.

Essence said, “Will Adams, also known as WilldeBeast, which is one of the major choreographers in the dance industry right now and he asked me and my dancers to perform at his LA convention.”

That trip earlier in August.

Essence mother Ebonie Wilmington said, “These kids danced sun up to sun down in LA.”

It gave them a chance to not just grow in their performance but see what they can aspire toward.
It featured some of the renowned choreographers in the business.

Essence W. Dance team member Meia Carr said, “It can be their confidence or the way that they dance. It just helped me dance.”

The Essence met Will Adams in Chicago when Essence and her dancers attended a convention.

“Will Adams, he actually offered to be a mentor to Essence and he’d seen that she brought her dance team to Chicago and she kind of told him about herself and what she does and some of the goals she has in life and he just said I want to help you fulfill those,” said Ebonie.

A way for Essence to inspire and see her students flourish.

“It’s a feeling that’s kind of unexplainable because I come from a small town and it’s like me doing this not just for myself but for my team too, it’s so amazing for us to see how things can change, how your life can change that quick and impact you can leave on somebody, whether they’re big or little,” said Essence.

It’s also her way to give back.

Essence said, “Provide the community will all positive vibes.”

Essence and about a dozen of her students attended the convention.

Some of the Essence W. Dance students tell Local 4 News they also had a chance to audition for WilldaBeast’s dance company and scholarship.

“I see this experience just helping them build connections and relationships with people. They’re on the floor and they’re dancing with the top dancers in the industry. They’re dancing with the people that are on the World of Dances and So You Think You Can Dance. They’ve built friendships and they talk back and forth with these people,” said Ebonie.

Essence credits her success to the support of her parents.

The teen’s hope is to open her own full-fledged dance studio and explore opportunities in the entertainment industry.

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