Hayiya Dance Theatre celebrates 16 years

Confections! concert features jazz, hip-hop, West African influences

Hayiya Dance Theatre, Inc. celebrated its 16th anniversary with ‘Confections!’ on Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Douglass Theatre.
The show featured contemporary and jazz performances, hip-hop collaborations and concluded with a spirited West African piece – the style of dance the company is best known for.
Sweet-flavored routines launched the show, followed by excerpts from Hayiya, Inc.’s upcoming fall concert ‘Off the Wall.’ The show finished with a reunion act, which included former members from the original dance group.
Djembe, conga and dundun drums reverberated from the inside of the theatre throughout the reunion finale, played live by local community volunteers. These drums are traditional to West African culture.
Current members of the company learn how to play percussion instruments in addition to dance lessons.
Pilar Wilder founded Hayiya, Inc. (pronounced ha-ye-yah) in 1997 on the campus of Wesleyan College, but the group was called Harambee African Tribal Sounds Unlimited back then.
Today, Wilder works as the Artistic Director for Hayiya, Inc., the oldest West African dance ensemble in Macon.
With three studio locations and 11 performances just last week, the ensemble stays busy, especially during Black History Month when the group performed over 25 times.
Wilder said the group receives so many opportunities to dance before others because of their reputation and high energy.
Recently, Hayiya, Inc. performed alongside Ugandan Thunder, a children’s choir, to help raise money for Pennies for Posho, a non-profit organization dedicated to feeding children in Africa.
“It feels like the community is saying thank you back to us,” Wilder said, in response to the unending support through donations and volunteers.
Wilder feels people in the community take note of her aim to positively challenge her students, to “give them something beyond what they thought they could do.” She wants students to be proud of their accomplishments.
At one time, Wilder funded all of Hayiya, Inc.’s vast productions. However, now the non-profit organization engages itself in the community with initiatives, such as their scholarship fund and Arts in Education.
Stained Glass, the annual fundraiser concert, helps raise scholarship money for dancers who wish to pursue their dreams of higher education, while also serving as a missionary outlet for the dance company. Wilder believes community engagement and the ministry of God go hand in hand.
Coming to the Grand Opera House on March 24, the recital interweaves James Weldon Johnson’s seven sermonic poems entitled God’s Trombones with dance and music. The collection of poems tells the story of man’s existence from beginning to end.
Wilder created the name for the performance, Stained Glass, by referring to human beings as “stained sinners because of our imperfections, but [like glass] we are also reflections of God’s image.”
The Arts in Education program supports the integration of dance and music into school curriculum to promote creativity and success.
In the fall Hayiya Dance Theater, Inc. will perform ‘Off the Wall,’ a concept of bringing paintings alive through dance. Wilder borrowed the concept from Jonathan Green, an artist in Charleston, N.C.
Wilder hopes to highlight local painters, potters and photographers to further involve the community in her efforts to tell the stories of particular pieces of art with dance.