The Jefferson Dancers are the elite dancers of the nationally known dance department at Jefferson High School. For 37 years the company has comprised the school's most advanced dance students who come to Jefferson High School for dance training. It is a multi-ethnic company of dancers, ages 14-18.
The program is dedicated to educating and preparing students for the depth of commitment it takes to physically and mentally prepare themselves for a performing arts career. In this professional dance company environment students begin to understand the responsibility required of them and the rewards of contributing to a product of exceptional quality.
Unlike most dance companies, The Jefferson Dancers are trained and perform works in all dance styles. The company's diverse repertoire includes over 200 works of Modern, Tap, Ballet, Jazz, African, Ethnic, and Musical Theatre, choreographed by nationally recognized choreographers including Lowell Smith, Donald McKayle, Moses Pendleton, Josie Moseley, Steve Zee, Joseph Webb, Raymond Sawyer, Josh Hilberman, Royston Maldoom, Sarah Slipper, Brian Sanders, Linda Sohl-Donnell, and Brenda Bufalino. Guest artists such as Broadway star Honi Coles, The Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alwin Nikolais have given workshops, and have conducted full-length residencies.
Dancers for the company are auditioned in the spring and those selected make a commitment to perform with the group for one school year. They are expected to attend at least 1-1/2 hours of technique class and 2-1/2 hours of rehearsal five days a week. In order to develop their technical skills to performance level, numerous lecture-demonstrations, community performances, and concerts throughout the Northwest are booked. The company has performed internationally in Russia, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. Providing students with diverse performing experiences serves to prepare them for the professional world of dance. The skills of the dancers are reviewed after each performance. Students are given constructive feedback, and are evaluated on how well they apply the feedback, their performance quality, musicality, and technical application.
The Jefferson Dance Program started in 1974 and has trained many young aspiring dancers who have gone on to further their training in some of the leading performing arts colleges in the country including New York University—Tisch School of the Arts, North Carolina School of the Arts, SUNY Purchase, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Bennington College, University of Utah, Juilliard, CAL Institute of The Arts, and Cornish Institute of The Arts. Former Jefferson Dancers are performing all over the world, with professional dance companies including MOMIX Dance Theatre, Ballet West, Donald Byrd–Spectrum, Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, and in Broadway productions including Movin' Out, Guys and Dolls, and Chicago.
Inspiration to Regional Audiences
The Jefferson Dancers perform for schools and organizations throughout the state. Performances reach multi-cultural audiences of all ages far and wide. We recently performed for the Peacemakers Conference, which reaches middle school children from Astoria, Tillamook, Seaside, Forest Grove, and the Portland Metropolitan area. We also take our performances to schools throughout the Northwest. We were featured at the Lifeskills Celebration at Sabin Elementary and perform at many multi-cultural events in the northwest, especially during Black History Month and for Martin Luther King events, i.e., at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, at the University of Portland, in Astoria, Newport, Eugene, Corvallis, Pendleton, Walla Walla, Longview, Seattle. The company has also toured internationally in Russia, Canada, England and throughout France for the past six years.
As the longest running dance company in Portland, dubbed “the best local dance company” in 2003 by Willamette Week, we have been a consistent source of civic pride for the Jefferson High School community as well as the city of Portland. Each year we are invited to perform at business and civic events that show off the best of Portland. Performances educate the students, community, and the public about the values of striving for excellence in a given field and demonstrate the dancers hard work, discipline, perseverance and artistry.
Steve Gonzales - Artistic Director/Dance Chair; Kristi Bacon - Ballet; Derrell Walker - African; Melissa St. Clair, - Modern; Durante Lambert - Hip Hop/African; Earlene Munnerlyn - Costuming; John Lansing - Audio technician.