JMS and Dance graduate Selena Watkins returns to campus as an adjunct dance professor at The Mason Gross School of the Arts.
By: Alanna Doherty
Photo taken by Louis Harned.
In a Brooklyn dance studio, Selena Watkins travels across the room to Caribbean music, with a bandana in one hand and sweat glistening from her body. In her class, Socanomics, 25 students are behind her, meticulously watching her every move. She is no doubt the leader of the class, as she wears palm tree print on her pants and holds a stage presence that commands attention.
She begins by leading a group of women in a warmup that consists of isolations and stretching. She then accelerates into more dynamic movement, with body rolls, hip movements, plyometrics and dance choreography.
Inspired by her dance major and her parents’ Antiguan roots, Watkins created her own genre of high intensity dance workouts, called Socanomics. The workout focuses on strengthening and toning the entire body while having a blast. “I created Socanomics organically, from being so exposed to my Caribbean culture that celebrates dance and music and freedom of expression,” Watkins said.
As an entrepreneur, Watkins uses the writing, public relations and communication skills she learned at Rutgers to effectively market her brand on digital platforms. On Instagram alone, Watkins’ network stands at over 12,000 followers and counting.
Her first few jobs, after graduating from Rutgers in 2010, reflected a more traditional route for JMS students. She interned at New York’s Hot 97, where she worked as a producer and blogger for several on-air personalities. She attributed her success to the spark and direction provided to her by JMS.
At the same time, Watkins was increasingly intrigued by a career in dance and fitness. After earning her personal trainer certification from the Athletics and Fitness Association of America, she worked at gyms in the New York area, teaching kickboxing, sculpting, body-toning, water aerobics, Les Mills Pump and cardio dance.
This foundation allowed Watkins to create the ideal environment in her Socanomics class, where women with various cultural backgrounds and body types could come together and express themselves. Watkins explained, “I fused my skills and education in dance and in fitness to create a space for women of all shapes, sizes and cultures to get fit in a way that they will enjoy.”
Watkins further proved her versatility by choreographing and dancing for the NBA Brooklyn Nets Dance Team. She has also danced with numerous celebrities, including Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Janelle Monae. In 2012, Watkins was crowned Miss Black USA. In 2016, she reached a new level of celebrity when she won the title of Women’s Health 2016 Next Fitness Star for Women’s Health magazine, appearing on the cover and in a full spread about her fitness regimens.
This accomplishment propelled her success and awarded her with the opportunity to create dance-inspired workout videos with Women’s Health. The exposure also boosted her social media presence. Her social media accounts include hundreds of short workout tutorials, images and her own motivational quotes.
The opportunity to teach an Urban Fusion class at the Mason Gross School of the Arts presented itself in the spring of 2017. To educate her students on the foundations of urban music and dance, Watkins decided to combine aspects of her Socanomics class with the existing class curriculum.
Watkins hopes to further expand her network and make Socanomics a global brand. Recently, she started her own company, Body by Watkins, in which she produces handmade, African-inspired waist beads. Her mission for this company is an extension of what she preaches daily, which is to inspire all women to embrace their femininity, explore self-love and exhibit true confidence.