In September 2008, Jelon Vieira was awarded one of eleven National
Heritage Fellowships, the country’s highest honor in the folk and
traditional arts. As founder and artistic director of The Capoeira
Foundation and DanceBrazil,
he and the late Loremil Machado were the first artists to bring
traditional Afro-Brazilian dance and Capoeira to the United States over
thirty years ago.
He has devoted his life to sharing Afro-Brazilian
culture with American audiences since 1977 when, together with Machado,
he formed The Capoeiras of Bahia.
That same year the late Alvin Ailey
suggested he change the name of the company to DanceBrazil. It now makes
over thirty years that Vieira has guided the company through
breathtaking performances of Capoeira and Afro-Brazilian dance before
audiences in Europe, Asia, and Brazil, as well as the United States.
Mr. Vieira teaches capoeira to people of all ages and from all walks
of life in both Brazil and the United States.
He has taught the soccer
great Pele and American movie stars Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy.
Although he resides in New York, Mr. Vieira spends several months a year
One of his long term goals is to open a center for
underprivileged children, using capoeira to build self esteem and
self-discipline and to begin moving these children off the streets and
into the educational system and mainstream society.
In the United States, Mr. Vieira has taught in many residency
workshops and has been a guest instructor at Yale University’s African-
American Studies Department and has also taught at many other
universities and colleges including Oberlin College, Columbia
University, Stanford University and Duke University.
He has worked with
several American dance companies including Dance Theater of Harlem and
Alvin Ailey. He has also worked closely with other cultural institutes
in the United States such as the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York
and the Carver Community Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas.
after a decade of collaboration between DanceBrazil and the Carver
Cultural Community Center, Mr. Vieira and Carver Center Director Jo Long
decided to create Ilê Bahia de San Antonio, the House of
African-Brazilian Arts. The organization was incorporated in 1993 to
establish a professional level instruction and training center in the
African- Brazilian performing arts. Special emphasis is placed on
training at-risk, minority youth in a positive and culturally affirming
When at home in Brazil, he teaches children and young adults in his
home community of Boca do Rio, using Capoeira to build self-esteem,
instill self-discipline and to raise social consciousness while helping
his students become a vital part of their own community.