founder and artistic director




In September 2008, Jelon Vieira was awarded one of 11 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 30 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 in Brazil. 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 since 1982. He has also taught at many other universities and colleges including Oberlin College, Columbia University, Stanford University, Duke University, and the University of Nebraska. 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. In 1993, 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 activity. 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.





BÚZIOS (2014)

"Búzios" explores the role that the jogo de búzios, or cowrie shells, an enigmatic and mystical game of divination, plays in everyday life today in Brazi.


GUETO (2014)

"Gueto" is Vieira's testimony to the abiding vitality and humanity that sustain the people living in the many marginalized, disenfranchised communities in Brazil and around the world.


MALUNGOS (Joyce Premier 2015)

Almost five million Africans were enslaved in Brazil, all of whom were part of the Atlantic Slave Trade. These individuals who were imprisoned in the galleys of the slave ships developed strong bonds on their long and arduous journey. On the ships, fellow prisoners referred to each other as "meu (my) malungo" which connoted being a companion in the same condition, that is of being enslaved. The Malungos often formed small groups and with communal strength would go to great lengths to protect each other and even die for each other. Although after abolition, the term disappeared from use, in this piece, Vieira illustrates the strength through unity and friendship that exists within Capoeira communities today and the undeniable influence the enslaved Africans had on Brazilian culture.


DanceBrazil is a program of the Capoeira Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and all donations are tax deductible. Thank you again for your support!