DeShon Niajhi Rollins is from Southampton County Virginia and is an alumnus of The Virginia State University. He decided very early that he wanted to be a star . He started dancing , twirling baton, playing trumpet, and singing all at a very young age. DeShon Rollins has made a big impact in the cities of Southampton County , Petersburg , Richmond Va , and at his alma mater Virginia State University. After graduating high school , Rollins was considering studies in political science with a view of becoming a lawyer after graduation.
That didn't happen.
He quickly realized that path was not for him at Virginia State University in Petersburg.
Instead, Rollins focused on earning a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education with a concentration in dance , which is his real passion. Knowing how the body moves and operates, he said, has helped him both in performing and teaching. In addition to his enthusiastic acrobatics as a cheerleader, he jumped, dodged and ran about on the high school tennis courts.
“I found that one sport,” said Rollins, who was tennis team captain. “That was a great experience.”
He also acknowledged that personal success came through the teaching and support of his tennis coach Larry Rose and band director Stafford Claude .
Graduating cum laude from VSU, he went on to become more involved with the Commonwealth Dance Arts Academy in Petersburg and Richmond. Annie Harris, the CWDAA director, said she was introduced to him through Benita Brown, who directs the dance program at the university.
“I feel he's a very technical and skilled dancer as far as training,” said Harris. “He's come a long way for someone who didn't have a previous foundation. That started at VSU. I must say it feels wonderful now that he's blossomed … he danced at my father's funeral.”
“I really thank VSU for giving me the experience. I did learn a lot from Virginia State. — ballet terminology, history, foundation …,” said Rollins, furthermore giving God credit. “I used what He gave me, and molded me into the dancer I am now.”
At the academy he was the company rehearsal director and taught acrobatics, jazz, contemporary , baton and majorette dancing . Harris went to say that he's “amazing” with a baton.
In addition to working at CWDAA, he currently teaches acrobatics, jazz, lyrical ,ballet at the Deborah School of Dance in Dinwiddie since fall 2016.
“He's just awesome. A fabulous teacher,” said owner and director Deborah Ryan. “He's good all around.”
Two years ago, an opportunity to study with the famed Joffrey Ballet School presented itself, and Rollins family and friends encouraged him to audition. “He was very successful and left me for awhile,” stated Harris .
Thinking first he was just auditioning for the summer intensive course, Rollins soon found out it was actually was the trainee program , in which he felt very proud of himself .
“I got a full experience of what it takes to be a real dancer,” he recalled. “It was very tough. Very resourceful. Very intense training, but at the end of the day they [the faculty]show they care. It was just amazing.”
He also got to study under Mary Barnett at a Philadanco Dance Intensive, but after having been robbed at gunpoint in Philadelphia, he came home.
Stated previously , Rollins did not go to VSU with a trained background. Where then did the desire — the need — to dance begin?
“Dancing in church, he said. “I did spiritual mime and praise dancing, which is where I really started to dance.”
The son of William Chambliss and Phyllis and Olin Rollins, and brother of Termaine Rollins and Latasha Rollins-Boone, he's the only one in the family who dances for a living.
While growing up in Newsoms he learned about music in middle school, getting “a sense of dancing” and thinking “I want to do that.”
As a youth, Rollins also learned tumbling at the Triple T Sports Center in Suffolk, which gave him a background for his later cheerleading abilities such as twirling a baton, even one that's on fire.
“It started with a stick. I taught myself,” he said.
All that's gotten him the opportunity to perform at an Atlanta Falcons game as well as his picture in The Washington Post about VSU's “Trojan Explosion.”
Renowned dancers and choreographers such as Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell have been people who have really inspired him. Rollins recalls seeing a televised performance of Ailey's “Sinner Man.”
“Very powerful,” he recalled thinking. “Wow! These guys are amazing!”
Earlier this past spring, Rollins joined Latin Ballet in Richmond.
After seeing an ad for auditions, he sent a resume and video, and then got tickets to see what the company does in performance.
“Latin Ballet lets you be your own artist,” he said, describing it as a contemporary company that includes Flamenco, salsa and Cuban styles in its performances.
Invited to rehearsal, he auditioned in front of company.
“The atmosphere was very relaxed,” Rollins said. “The next thing I know, I was part of the company.”
Ana Ines King, artistic director and founder of the Latin Ballet of Virginia, had this to say about her newest member:
"He applied for a position that was open with Latin Ballet ... his background and body type matched exactly with what we were looking for. DeShon has a lot of potential. He is very theatrical, a quick learner and hungry to learn a variety of other styles of dance, which makes him an attractive dancer for what the Latin Ballet does related to our mission and vision."
Rollins said he's been in four shows so far, including a solo.
All that accounts for just about every waking hour and then some in his life.
“My schedule and intensity have made me value dance that much more. It's hard, but worth having,” he said. “I'm very blessed to be teaching. I'm able to make a life of dance and teach. I hope to be able to go on to be world-phenomenal performer/ teacher and share my talents worldwide and keep the culture alive.”
To which he included inspiring and mentoring young dancers. Rollins wants them to be trained correctly and know their options in how to succeed in dance.
“We have technique for a reason,” he said. “To show the correct way of doing things, to prevent injuries as well as pushing the aesthetic.”
No matter how well trained, though, a dancer can still get ailments and injuries. Rollins said he's developed bone spurs in his feet, sprained a toe and torn hamstrings. He also admits even he could use some more training .
In dance, you're “always growing and always learning … living in a realm of constant evolution,” he said.
Part of what's driven Rollins has been all those people who doubted him all these years and said, “We never thought you'd be this dancer.”
He also referred to a scene in the movie “Pursuit of Happyness,” in which the father tells his son that if he's got a dream, he shouldn't let people tell him he can't achieve it.
“That was a very inspiring quote to myself,” said Rollins.
“I wake up every morning thinking 'I'm going to work pretty damn hard.'”
As of Aug. 31, Rollins announced that he has opened his own studio, “Artistry in Motion Performing Arts Center,” at 12137 S. Chalkley Road, Chester, where he is now Artistic Director
You can also Rollins dancing and cheering in several videos posted at www.youtube.com as well as visiting his Instagram account @Niajhi_dance.
Written by: STEPHEN H. COWLES/STAFF WRITER | The Tidewater News firstname.lastname@example.org