Southern Miss students gathered in Bennett Auditorium on Oct. 9 to witness USM Has Talent. Put on by the Southern Miss Activities Council, the talent show was a part of Southern Miss’ annual homecoming festivities.
Nine solo contestants and two groups performed to an auditorium full of cheering students. Contestants passionately read their poetry, played music, sang and danced. Despite the range in interests, what united all the performers was a love for their performance.
“The talent show was a great opportunity to cheer on our fellow students as they performed acts they were passionate about. It definitely helped all teams come together as a family and root for everyone,” sophomore elementary education major Rebecca Sheffield said.
Amid poetry readings, musical acts and plenty of school spirit, senior performance and choreography major Delarence Collins took first place with his lively dance number.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 7,” Collins said. “I started within my church home, which lead me to want to pursue it in a wide range.”
Collins’ passion for dance has followed him for most of his life. Originally from Chicago, Collins first moved to Mississippi in 2013 to be with his grandmother. He attended Mississippi School of the Arts before returning to Chicago, where he continued his dance training. In 2015, he returned to Mississippi and graduated from Jubilee Performing Arts Conservatory in McComb.
At USM Has Talent, Collins performed a high-energy dance number complete with plenty of spunk, a costume change and a death drop that drove the audience wild. His long history as a dancer and his love for the art shone through in his performance.
“With that piece, I wanted to show a variety of styles,” Collins said. “It started with contemporary, then hip hop, bounce line dance, jazz and vogue.”
After watching Collins’ performance, Sheffield praised the act.
“Delarence was incredible, and his performance showed so much range in his dancing,” Sheffield said.
Junior communications major Mar’Quan Lewis has performed comedy skits every year in the talent show. This was his first year watching the talent show as a member of SMAC, though he did serve as special entertainment with his crowd-pleasing song “I’m in Love with the Chicken.”
Lewis said that Delarence’s performance was everything SMAC needed this year when it comes to passionate participants.
“It was just him and that stage, and he drew the audience in with him,” Lewis said. “Having stage experience, I can say he is the epitome of stage presence and performance skills. It’s always a good time when he graces the stage.”
Though dance is so prominent in Collins’ life, it has not always come easily to him. Like everyone, he had to work hard to get to where he is now, but the challenges have made his success so much more rewarding.
“I took my first ballet class at Mississippi School of the Arts—it was horrible,” Collins said. “I felt horrible, I looked horrible, yet I loved every minute of it. It became my greatest love. Who knew something that challenges you and kind of embarrasses you would change your life?”
Collins said that this experience is when he knew that majoring in dance in a collegiate level was the perfect choice. However, he said that dance is much more than his major; it’s his life.
He currently works as a faculty member at Jubilee Performing Arts Center teaching dance to students K-12. He also dances professionally at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi as a member of the ILove305 Club.
Collins sees dance as his primary way of communicating with others. With professional training in ballet, modern jazz, jazz and liturgical, Collins has plenty of tools for communicating with his audiences.
“I think choreography gives dance artists the opportunity to educate, teach and heal audiences around the world. It can be about social just, abstract work or personal stories,” Collins said.
Collins hopes to continue dancing for a long time. After graduation, he plans to join a dance company that will allow him to travel the world doing what he loves most.
“I feel that dance for me isn’t just a hobby. It’s my life,” Collins said. “I can be my fullest, unapologetic self and live my fantasies. When I dance, I fly.”