At Employment and Business Services-Brooklyn’s Day Hab Without Walls program, it’s easy to associate all dance-related things to Ervine Haskins,” says Pilar Jones, Program Director. “From my initial time working here to now, I’ve seen countless videos and pictures of Ervine dancing and helping others to dance. He loves music. You can see that he lights up when he dances and even more so when he can get others to dance with him. When there’s a party, expect to see Ervine in the middle of the dance floor, giving all his best moves and cheering on his friends.

A Paid Position

Ervine Haskins

Ervine Haskins

In late fall 2019, Ervine channeled his talent and passion for dance into a paid teaching position through Stefanie Nelson Dancegroup via a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Stefanie is also AHRC New York City’s Volunteer Mentor Coordinator.

After teaching Ervine and watching him in other AHRC NYC sponsored dance workshops, I thought he would be a fantastic teacher, so I discussed it with other staff members and they all agreed to give it a try,” Stefanie said. “Ervine was very nervous during his first session as an instructor, but with a little coaching he soon felt comfortable creating dance moves for the group and giving the dancers encouragement as they learned the choreography over four sessions of the workshop series.

Ervine taught workshops through March 2020, until lockdowns forced by the COVID-19 pandemic put an indefinite halt to in-person gatherings. Pilar said that being stuck at home could be very difficult for people like Ervine who thrive on routine and close interaction with trusted staff.

Ervine uses dance as a creative outlet to release energy and channel his emotions and we encouraged him to practice every day,” Pilar said. “Remote Day Hab services have been a great challenge to create fun and exciting activities. Because Ervine’s class was previously a success, we wanted to help Ervine get back to teaching.

Channeling His Mom’s Spirit

Music and dance have long been keys to Ervine’s emotional health. Staff members have encouraged Ervine to use his talents as an outlet for redirecting anger and stress into positive feelings. This is now truer than ever as tragedy struck Ervine’s home in the spring when his mother, Shirley, passed away from long-term illnesses.

Ervine Haskins dancing in the community

Ervine Haskins dancing in the community

One thing that has been able to help Ervine cope with loss and life during COVID is dance,” Pilar said. “When he found out that he would again have this opportunity [to teach], he was excited and pushed himself to channel his energy into planning and teaching a new routine. When he and I spoke right before classes started, he told me ‘I’m sad. But this is what my mom would want me to do, to keep going.’

One of Ervine’s supporters raved about his instruction. “He’s definitely one of the best dance teachers I’ve ever met or seen in my life,Kenneth Dale, Direct Support Professional, said. “He’s a true talent and he loves to share it with everybody.

I feel good when I’m teaching a class,” Ervine said, admitting he still gets nervous sometimes. “When I dance I feel happy and excited. Dancing is fun. Anytime I mess up I just keep going. I light up when I dance.