UNCSA names Endalyn Taylor dean of the School of Dance

UNCSA has named dancer, choreographer, and educator Endalyn Taylor as the new dean of the School of Dance effective August 1. She will lead the conservatory’s dance program, which develops technically sound and stylistically versatile professional dancers through training in both classical and contemporary dance.

“Endalyn Taylor brings an incredible combination of professional experience and educational leadership to our esteemed School of Dance at UNCSA,” said Chancellor Brian Cole. “She is the right person to take the school forward with a collaborative spirit to shape and mentor the next generation of dancers, and in turn influence the industry for the better. I look forward to having her voice as part of our excellent team of artistic leaders at UNCSA.”

Endalyn Taylor will be the new dean of the School of Dance

Endalyn Taylor / Photo: Elliot Reza

Taylor said the school’s commitment to the conservatory model of dance education paired with its dual focus on classical ballet and contemporary dance disciplines drew her to the role, as did an organizational vision that prioritizes innovation, inclusion, diversity, collaboration and unity.

“Coming from a conservatory dance background, my appreciation of the art of classical ballet is rooted in respect for the rigor, integrity, and logic of its codified structure  ̶  a structure that led me to a long and illustrious career,” she said. “However, I find it necessary to acknowledge the importance of making room for contemporary art forms while synergizing and concretizing foundations of excellence in both disciplines. As an advocate of both their roles in the dancing body, I have equal respect for traditional and innovative methods of teaching and making. Similarly, my creative work is a direct outgrowth of my identity and activism. I consider my body an archive of a huge range of professional experiences, high achievement in ballet and in musical theatre among them.”

Taylor has held the positions of director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) School in New York — a company she joined in 1984, becoming a principal dancer in 1993 — and director of the Cambridge Summer Art Institute in Massachusetts. Her extensive administrative, artistic, and academic career is steeped in ballet pedagogy and she has created an eclectic body of choreographic works. She excels at restaging ballets, having performed many of the classics and having worked with luminaries in the field including DTH founder Arthur Mitchell, British-American ballet dancer and choreographer Frederick Franklin, director and choreographer of LINES Ballet Alonzo King, American dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille, and director and choreographer of Garth Fagan Dance and “The Lion King,” Garth Fagan.

Taylor has performed on Broadway and stages all over the world, including as an original cast member of Tony Award-winning Broadway productions of “The Lion King,” “Aida,” and “Carousel.” She comes to UNCSA after six years at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she teaches ballet and musical theater as an associate professor of Dance. In 2020 she was appointed the Dean’s Fellow for Black Arts Research. Taylor, who grew up on the southside of Chicago, the youngest of four children (her name “Endalyn” is a reference to her being “the end of the line”), said she knows firsthand the impact arts can have on the trajectory of one’s life, and is committed to promoting access and opportunity to diverse populations, both within the student body and the in community at large.

“I was fortunate to have trained with facilitators who, like me, work to dispel the myth of elitism and welcome disparate voices into the ballet canon,” she said. “With more than 25 years of teaching experience, I have built an arsenal of pedagogic tools and core values that cultivate artistry, mentoring, and versatility, and celebrate inclusionary ideals, policies, and systems.”

Taylor is one of three new deans to be appointed at UNCSA this year. In May the university announced independent filmmaker and educator Deborah LaVine as the new dean of the School of Filmmaking, and a new dean of the School of Music will be announced later this month. All will be charged with finding ways to expand the School of the Arts’ curriculum across the five conservatories and to develop and implement campus-wide equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (EDIB) initiatives.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Patrick J. Sims said, “Endalyn Taylor is a collaborator to her core. Her background and professional experience represent the perfect blend of our institution’s greatest strengths as a powerhouse for training future leaders in the world of ballet and contemporary dance. I have no doubt that she will challenge and encourage us to become critical thinkers who can use the medium of movement and physical language to embody our collective commitment to justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging."

Taylor will be the fifth dean of the School of Dance, succeeding Susan Jaffe who was dean from 2012-2020 and is currently artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Jared Redick has served as interim dean from June 2020 following seven years in the position of assistant dean.

About the School of Dance

The School of Dance employs a unique conservatory approach to teaching and training that develops technically sound, artistically sensitive, and stylistically versatile dancer-artists through hands-on training from world-class faculty artists. This approach is taught at the high school and undergraduate levels, with an affiliate Preparatory Dance program in ballet for rising third through ninth graders. The School of Dance enrolls 118 high school students, 126 undergraduate (B.F.A.) students, and 77 preparatory students who study classical ballet and contemporary dance. The school also offers summer dance intensives and dance festivals for children and adults. The school is the exclusive educational affiliate school of the American Ballet Theatre.

Classical ballet graduates have enjoyed successful careers in dance, including becoming soloists, principal dancers, choreographers and artistic directors with the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet, among many others. Graduates of the contemporary dance program enjoy careers as dancers and choreographers for companies such as the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Martha Graham Ensemble, along with their own companies. Some graduates have started careers as commercial dance performers for the likes of Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, and Beyoncé. Alumni include Camille A. Brown, founder of Camille A. Brown & Dancers; Kyle Davis, principal with Pacific Northwest Ballet; Kevin Lee-Y Green, founder of Techmoja Dance and Theater Company; Blaine Hoven, soloist with American Ballet Theatre; Juel D. Lane, choreographer and dancer with Camille A Brown & Dancers; Trey McIntyre, founder of Trey McIntyre Projects; Gillian Murphy, principal with American Ballet Theatre; Anthony Santos, Dance Theatre of Harlem; Helen Simoneau, choreographer and recipient of 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship; and Dwana Smallwood, former principal with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and founder of a nonprofit performing arts center in Brooklyn.

About Endalyn Taylor

Endalyn Taylor received her earliest dance training at the Mayfair Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. In 1984, she joined Dance Theatre of Harlem’s company and became a principal in 1993. She performed leading roles for such dignitaries as Coretta Scott King, Colin Powell, President Bill Clinton, the late Princess Diana, the late Nelson Mandela, and many others.

In 1992, she made her Broadway debut in the revival of “Carousel “and went on to perform in Broadway’s “The Lion King (1997) and “Aida (1999.) Taylor performed for the Tony Awards in 1993 and 1997.

She has taught master classes throughout the United States and abroad and ran a performing arts institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1995. She was the Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and taught, choreographed, and staged works with students in the professional training program. In 2010 she was invited to bring 10 of her students to the White House to participate in a new arts initiative of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2013, her young students performed for the First Lady and the spouses of heads of states at a luncheon hosted at the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Taylor has choreographed several works including as co-choreographer for the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City. Most recently, she choreographed works for Collage Dance Collective and American Dance Festival. Her interdisciplinary work “The Counterpoint Project” premiered at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City in 2018. Taylor was among a group of six seasoned female artists who performed in an evening-length work entitled “The World As We Know It” and received rave reviews for her performance of the solo “Is All.”

Taylor has presented lectures at Coventry University in England, University of California, Irvine, and has participated on panels at the Collegium for African Diasporic Dance and the National Association of Schools of Dance.

Taylor is the recipient of numerous awards including Outstanding Achievement in Media and the Arts Award from the Institute Against Domestic Violence in the African American Community, Minneapolis, Minnesota; an Initiative for Multi-Racial Democracy Award and an Excellence in Teaching Award, both  from the University of Illinois. She was profiled in the Big Ten Network’s documentary short “Illinois Artist – Endalyn Taylor,” which received a Mid-America Emmy for Best Program Feature Segment, Arts/Entertainment in 2019.

Taylor received her M.F.A. in dance from Hollins University in 2012.

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June 01, 2021