Kaelei Wilford is an eighteen-year-old senior. This is her fourth and final year with the company. She was first introduced to dance after it became a requirement for competitive gymnastics to take ballet and jazz at the kids' club. Shortly after starting dance, she joined a hip-hop class, and she found she had a greater passion for dancing & decided with her hip-hop teacher, Andre Baker, to pursue dance.
She began training at Dance Fusion NW at the age of nine with the direction of Carla Kendall-Bray, starting with hip-hop, jazz, ballet and tap. Throughout her years of dancing with Dance Fusion, she also trained in theater, jazz, contemporary, and modern, the studio's performance company, and the competitive team.
Along with competing, she attended many dance conventions that pushed her and improved her in ways that will forever impact how she’s been shaped as a dancer. Kaelei hopes to pursue her dance career by becoming a majorette at an HBCU, & is still exploring her possible options for college paths.
Kaelei would like to thank her family & Carla Kendall-Bray for the amazing support and opportunities they gave her. She’d also like to thank a few of her dance teachers, Steve Gonzales, Randy Davis, Darvejon Jones, and Megananna Griffin, for helping her grow tremendously as a dancer. Kaelei has really enjoyed her years as a Jefferson Dancer so far and is looking forward to growing as a dancer with her team!
Akayla Cole is a seventeen-year-old dancer in her second year with the company. She started her dance journey with her school belly dancing group and continued with multiple dance groups, such as learning Stomp and Shake cheer and the art of majorette dance with a well-known company. She then went on to do numerous performances and parades with said company, where her love for dance grew.
After high school, Akayla wishes to continue her dance career at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Becoming a Jefferson Dancer and being a JD II a year prior have been amazing opportunities for which she is very grateful.
She would like to give a huge shout-out to the friends and family who support her at every performance and push her to be the best she can be. Akayla also would love to thank the directors and teachers who helped her achieve this goal, like Sylvia, her god mom, Bunky Williams, her JD II director, and Steve Gonzales for awarding her this amazing opportunity!
Nya Inez Brown is an eighteen-year-old Senior member of the Jefferson Dancers. Nya had loved the arts ever since she was a little girl when she used to perform in plays in her Portland Community by Shalanda Adams. She started dancing in the 6th grade at Ockley Green Middle School, learning from Mr.Damon. His love of dance sparks inspiration for many kids to become Jefferson Dancers. From 6th- 8th grade, Nya learned hip-hop.
When she came to Jefferson High School, Nya met Bunky Williams, who showed her many dance genres. He also introduced her to one of her strongest styles, African. Nya loved African dancing so much that she started dancing with Sebi Kan taught by Sekou. She learned so much from him as well. In her sophomore year of high school, Nya met Cynthia Tosh, who taught her ballet. Ballet has become one of Nya’s loves. She enjoys the different yet difficult textures of ballet with the grace of it all while having the strength it takes. She enjoys it very much! Last year was Nya’s first year in the company, where she met Steve Gonzales. Steve has given Nya endless opportunities for dance; she can’t thank him enough. He pushed her and motivated her to become the dancer she is now!
Nya has also Danced with Open Space, a company from Portland, Oregon, doing their summer dance intensive, where she met Franco Nieto, Maeve Dougal, Annie Borden, Elise Gonsalves, Tony Carnell, Jordan Lambardi, Elijah Labay, and Audrey Wells. She is very thankful she got to learn from everyone who is a part of that program. Nya says that they opened up a different level of inspiration and technique from them. Open Space is where anyone is welcomed, and Nya loves their love for their community as they always give back.
Nya wants to thank her lovely Family as they support her in everything she does. She does it all for them! She would also love to thank Steve Gonzales, Bunky Williams, and Cynthia Tosh for allowing her to dance and learn from each of them. She wouldn’t be the dancer she is truly without them. She hopes to attend college in California, pursuing dance and business/finance. Nya thanks her community for their support and love and hopes to make them proud every day, from school to dance and being a good person.
Addyson Razo is a seventeen-year-old Senior in her second year in this dance company. Her love for dance started in third grade when her school went to see the Jefferson Dancers perform at the Newmark Theatre. She quickly began dancing in the SUN Community School, an after-school program that supports academic success and enrichment. She started dancing through SUN in third grade at Beach Elementary and continued through middle school while taking dance classes at Ockley Green. SUN allowed her to find her passion for the art of dance.
Addy would like to thank all the teachers who supported her through the years, including Damon Keller, Bunky Williams, Joyce Olivo, Cinda Jackson, Cynthia Tosh, and Steve Gonzales. She is very excited to work with everybody another year, even though she still has so much more to learn.
Finn Chisholm is a seventeen-year-old senior and this is his second year with the company. His love for dance started in second grade when Damon Keller began teaching hip-hop at Chief Joseph Elementary School. He kept dancing exclusively during school hours up until his sophomore year at Jefferson. He took a single, week-long dance intensive at Polaris Dance during the pandemic, then kicked off his sophomore year joining Jefferson Dancers II. Finn gained early admittance to Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas after the 2023 National High School Dance Festival. Yet, still has yet to decide his career path after high school. He would love to thank his dance teachers, Damon Keller, Bunky Williams, Cynthia Tosh, and Steve Gonzales, not to mention all the people who have supported him through his tough years in dance. He still has much to learn as well, but could not be anymore excited to see what comes next in his life; he hopes to have all those same people by his side as he ventures through dance and his coming career.
Conlan Savalli-Smith is a sixteen-year-old Junior and a member of the Jefferson Dance Company. This is his second year with the company. At nine, he started ballet and acro/contemporary at Evo Gymnastics in Florida for a year. He took ballroom classes for two and a half years at Dynasty Dance Studio and then started taking ballet, jazz, and contemporary classes at a different dance studio at age 11. At age 12, he left Florida and moved to Oregon. Since then, he has taken classes in Afro-Caribbean, Ballet, Modern, and West African at Jefferson High School. After high school, Conlan plans to get his associate's at Portland Community College before transferring to the University of Oregon to earn a bachelor's in Bioscience while taking a pre-med course. From there, he plans to attend medical school at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, to become a Plastic Surgeon. He would like to thank his Mom, Dad, and Stepdad for encouraging and helping him in his dance career and his grandparents, aunt, and uncle for supporting him and giving excellent advice in every aspect of his career.
Henry Roth is a sixteen-year-old sophomore, and this is his second year with the company. He starred in ballet at the age of six with Katarina Svetlova. Then Henry attended Oregon Ballet Theater and danced there for about five years. After his time at OBT, he joined Steps PDX, taking classes in ballet, contemporary, tap, and many other styles with Kathryn Harden, Olivia Orneas, Adrianna Audoma, and Lauren Smith. Henry has attended several dance summer intensives, including Open Space, Steps PDX, Idyllwild, and Oregon Ballet Theater.
Payton Nabors-Hilburn is a fifteen-year-old sophomore in their second year with the company. Since they learned to walk, Payton has been dancing with their mom and grandma, who both trained at Jefferson Middle College. They started cheer at Central Catholic and danced at Beaumont at age two and continued in school dance lessons through middle school. They performed in musicals with Portland Drama Club, starring as Nala in The Lion King Jr. and Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz Jr. Payton also trained at YMA with Sara Martins and Sakou Soumah, in modern, tap, and West African dance. Payton would like to thank their baby cousins ReRe and Leah for inspiring them to keep dancing, even when they felt like they couldn't, and for allowing them to share their love for dance and teaching with them. They would also like to thank their mom for going out of their way to expose them to new dance opportunities. They are so grateful for everyone who has helped them grow as a dancer. And they're very excited to share more of their art in the future!
Piper Bott is a fifteen-year-old freshman in her second year with the company. She started performing at eight, learning to twirl baton under the instruction of Shannon Barker of Stites Performing Arts Center. By age ten, she was learning tap at Portland Metro Arts. There, her love of dance grew, and she decided to take ballet and jazz classes at Stites, studying under Amy Bonaduce Gardner. Simultaneously, she studied aerial arts at Echo Theater with various instructors. She was accepted into the Youth Performance Ensemble, the Tick Tocks, where she was a member for two years before focusing more exclusively on dance. After several years of online and in-person jazz and ballet, she added contemporary, hip-hop, and gymnastics to her schedule. She has performed at various venues across Portland, including the Festival of the Trees, the Junior Rose Parade, the Echo Theater Company, and the University of Portland. Dance is a very important part of Piper’s life, and becoming a Jefferson Dancer is a dream come true! She would like to thank her amazing support system at home and her teachers who consistently encouraged and pushed her to grow and improve.