Jelani Taylor is a dancer and choreographer from Virginia Beach, Virginia. He began his dance training at Old Donation School’s Gifted Dance Education Program under the direction of Valerie Winbourne. Jelani would continue to work with Mrs. Winbourne as a performer with her V2W Experience! Dance Theater Company. He graduated from the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Salem High School and from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with a B.F.A in Dance and Choreography. While at VCU Jelani has had the opportunity to perform in works by Melanie Richards, Martha Curtis, Helen Simoneau (Guest Artist), Ching-I Chang Bigelow (Guest Artist), Jenna Riegel (Guest Artist) Scott Putman, and Dr. E. Gaynell Sherrod. He also has had the pleasure to perform outside of VCU in work by Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Rady Nget, and Sinclair Emoghene. He is the recipient of a departmental special recognition award, outstanding student research award, three outstanding service awards, two VCU arts undergraduate research grants, and VCU's African American Studies Department "Black History in the Making" Award. Jelani’s choreography has been showcased at Inside/Out at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference (IABD), American College Dance Association's (ACDA) National College Dance Festival, National Dance Society Conference (NDS), Sans Limite Dance Festival, Small Plates Choreography Festival, Dogtown Dance Theater, Grace Street Theater, ODU University Theater, Specialty Center for the Arts at Thomas Dale High School, and Edward E. Brickell Academy for Advanced Academics and Arts.
Artist Statement
My work aims to reflect universal life experiences by investigating the physicalization of cultural realities such as poverty, wealth, racism, sexism, marriage, etc. I am interested in discovering how our individual cultural realities are foundationally threaded through our communities as well as reflected out into our larger society. Through this process, I wish for my work to create an empathetic bond with the viewer. As they see their cultural reality reflected from another’s body, embedded within an abstract kinetic framework, a visceral experience manifests and the work becomes an ephemeral phenomenon of movement thus mirroring the viewer’s lived experience.
VCU Department of African American Studies  · Black History In the Making    Feb. 2018
VCUArts Department of Dance + Choreography  · Special Recognition    May 2017
VCUArts Department of Dance + Choreography  · Outstanding Service    May 2016
VCUArts Department of Dance + Choreography  · Outstanding Service    May 2018
VCUArts Department of Dance + Choreography  · Outstanding Student Research    May 2018
VCU School of the Arts  · Undergraduate Research Grant    Jan. 2017
VCU School of the Arts  · Undergraduate Research Grant    Jan. 2018


Journeys: an Interdisciplinary Dance Project 
Premiere  June 2017 @ Dogtown Dance Theater
"Journeys: an Interdisciplinary Dance Project" showcased several artistic voices responding to post-adolescent struggles such as grief & loss, ugliness in manufacturing external beauty, contending with one’s racial identity, and understanding the line between sexuality and sensuality.  "Journeys" engaged its audience with kinetic storytelling  to deepen the investigations self,  systems, societal norms, life choices, and personal truths that continue shape our reality through dance.
This project was collaboratively produced by Jelani Taylor & Christine Wyatt and graciously funded in part by VCUArts.

Homecoming: an Interdisciplinary Dance Project
Premiere - August 2018 @ Grace Street Theater

"Homecoming: an Interdisciplinary Dance Project" showcased work responding to experiences of leaving and returning home, returning to self: contending with one’s identity and voice in the face of oppression, and the understanding of motherhood through storytelling and movement abstraction. We seek to share a kinetic and visceral experience with the audience while deepening our inquiry into the aesthetics of our lived experience.
This project was collaboratively produced by Jelani Taylor & Christine Wyatt and is graciously funded in part by VCUArts

Rendezvous: A Meeting of Three Choreographers
Premiere - September 2019 @ Grace Street Theater

"Rendezvous: A Meeting of Three Choreographers" was a gathering of three young artists each sharing unique kinetic stories with their respective communities. Featuring work by Callie Moore with Snap Soup Dance, Robert Rubama with Terre Dance Collective, and Jelani Taylor with Era Dance Company.

This project was produced and curated by Jelani Taylor with his company Era Arts & Media.

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