KARA JENELLE "KJ" is a dance performer, choreographer and teaching artist based in Los Angeles, California. Being an East coast native, raised in North Carolina and bred by Washington, DC; she has always had a connection to her Southern roots and family heritage. Working primarily in dance genres connected to the African diaspora such as: West African, Dunham, Step, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Dancehall, Afrobeats and Afro-Caribbean techniques, KJ has curated her movement aesthetic with black dance at its core. Beginning her formal training at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, KJ acquired her BA in Dance and a Minor in African American Studies in 2010.
Over the past decade she has worked primarily as an educator for studios, non-profits, institutions and residency programs across the nation. From Dance Place, CityDance, PS Arts, multiple universities, Washington Performing Arts, Ladies of Hip Hop Festival, Movement Lifestyle and more, KJ has influenced thousands of dance students through her workshops. Her affectious teaching style has also landed her as a guest artist in countries such as Taiwan, France, Spain, Portugal, Nigeria, Canada, Netherlands, and more! Along with her tenure as a teacher, she has also gained much success in the commercial industry as a full out performer and choreographer. Gracing stages and video sets alongside Janet Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé, Jidenna, Will Smith and more, KJ has used her success in the entertainment sector to highlight aspects of the diaspora on mainstream platforms. From ‘Black Girls Rock’ to ‘Black Is King’ & 'Coming 2 America', she is fully invested in working with the promotion of black artists in every capacity from praise, to personal and even political.
As a current Graduate Fellow and MFA candidate at The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), KJ is currently cultivating her new chapter in the contemporary dance world. As she excavates her new language and focuses more on choreography, she is looking forward to the new journey ahead and creating work of substance and value through the concert lens.
Performer & Soloist
Ashley Blanchard is a Los Angeles native and professional dancer here in the city as well as internationally. Receiving her early dance training with Debbie Allen Dance Academy and Onstage Dance Center, she has continued her dance education through Cal State, East Bay as well as commercial dance programs through the International Dance Academy/Hollywood. In 2015 Ashley broadened her dance interests to include the dances of the African Diaspora, studying various West African styles, and Afro-Brazilian dance. She is now working and performing locally around Los Angeles as well as internationally as a principal dancer with Dance Migration based in Toronto Canada, Extra Ancestral based in Los Angeles, and drumming with Bloco Obini all Queens drum ensemble. In addition to dance, Ashley has recently expanded her artistry and creative vision to include Creative Direction and Editing. She has used her skill and inspiration specifically during this past year, in order to highlight the social injustices against black lives here in America and to also continue celebrating African American culture.
Nirine S. Brown
NIRINE S. BROWN is a native New Yorker born and raised in Queens, New York. She first explored the world of dance at the age of 5 under the direction of Bernice Johnson at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center. Nirine continued to train at local dance studios & joined companies such as KECEDE Company, Devore Dance Studio, The Alvin Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico School, Balance Dance Company, and Broadway Theater Project in which she received full scholarships. Nirine attended the Performing Arts Talent Unlimited High School as a Dance/ Musical Theater Major. She began her first professional dance career with The Radio City Christmas Spectacular as a Rockette upon graduating High School. In order to take part of the opportunity she deferred her full dance scholarship offered by SUNY Purchase Conservatory College to spring semester. Her dancing talents allowed her to go on tour and/or perform notable Artists such as Beyonce, Janelle Monae, Lauryn Hill, Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Jidenna, and Black Eye Pea. Nirine’s training maturity in Musical Theater was honed through the program Broadway Theater Project in Tampa, FL where she received a full Scholarship. Some of her credits exist in performing with the First National tour of Wicked the Musical, Fringe NYC Festival musical production of "Scandalous People" at the Minetta Lane Theater, "Dinner at Grandma’s" at The Black Spectrum Theatre, and the production of "Hattie… What I Need You to Know" playing as the young Hattie McDaniel staring actress Vickilyn Reynolds at The National Black Theatre located in Harlem, NY. Vocal Training: LaVoix Studio Nirine has vigorously pursued an acting career as well. Her most recent television appearance is with Tyler Perry new hit Drama series RUTHLESS for her role as Lynn Rollins (Series Regular). She has also appeared in media ranging from commercial, print work, special events to independent films. As Nirine continues to pursue her career & dreams in the Arts she will continue to be humble & generous to her family, friends & community.
Tulani Simone Weeks
Tulani Simone began formal dance training at the age of 12 at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in Oakland, CA. There, she studied West African, Congolese, ballet, jazz, contemporary, Haitian and Dunham techniques. After moving to Los Angeles, Tulani received her Bachelor of Arts in dance at Loyola Marymount University before earning her Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in Critical Race Studies. As a writer, choreographer, and storyteller, Tulani creates at the intersection of race, culture, class, and identity—often inspired by the political and social commentary of our time. She has performed both nationally and internationally as a principal dancer with Dimensions Dance Theater, El Wah Movement, Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, and Les Amazones of Guinea, West Africa. Currently in her capacity as a dance educator and certified yoga instructor, Tulani aims to inspire in her students joy, curiosity, authenticity of expression, and a desire to know themselves more deeply.