Donnell Oakley is an independent choreographer, performer and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. A North Carolina native, she trained at Arts Together in Raleigh under Lemma and Glenda Mackie among other incredible teachers from a very young age through high school. Donnell studied modern technique, ballet, composition, improvisation and performance, among other movement classes. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography in 2001 and attended the American Dance Festival in the summers of 1999 and 2001 and has been dancing professionally in New York ever since. Donnell co-founded everything smaller in 2002, a Brooklyn-based dance company driven by collaboration. She spent 6 extraordinary years making dances with the inimitable Jessica Jolly and David Schmidt. everything smaller performed in venues and events such as the Studio 42’s Starving Artist Ball, Movement Research’s Improvisation is Hard, The Flea Theater’s Dance Conversations, Dance Now, the Bodyblend series at Dixon Place, the Solar Powered Arts Festival, Dancespace Center’s Wave of Humanity and their Elizabeth Pape Memorial Concert for which everything smaller received the Elizabeth Pape Scholarship in 2005, the Williamsburg Free Festival, the International D.U.M.B.O Dance Festival, WAX Works, Triskelion Arts Benefit Concerts, New Jersey’s S.W.E.A.T., Teresa Wimmer’s Twilight Project, the Brooklyn Dance Sampler, Middlebury College, University of Michigan, Swarthmore University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
In 2008, Donnell finished 6 extraordinary years with everything smaller. She has continued making dances and has had her work produced through Movement Research, the 92nd Street Y, the West End Theatre, Triskelion Arts, the Joyce SoHo, Dance Now NYC and Boston, Dance New Amsterdam, Gibney Dance Center, Dixon Place, The Yard, Gowanus Art + Production, Jacob’s Pillow, the American Dance Festival, the Ringling International Arts Festival and was the recipient of the Bessie Schönberg Choreographic Mentorship Residency at The Yard in 2013. Donnell has received additional artistic support through residencies at the Silo The Lumberyard and SUNY Brockport. She has been fortunate enough to work and collaborate with the extraordinary likes of Xan Burley, Courtney Drasner, Josh Palmer, Jordan Risdon, Alex Springer, Deborah Lohse and Cori Marquis. Donnell has also had the pleasure of working with designers and composers such as Paul Moffit, Scott Nelson, Mandy Ringger, Randi Rivera, Oana Botez, Justin Levine and Matt Stine.
In addition to her own work, Donnell currently loves collaborating and dancing with Steeledance, Chavasse Dance & Performance, Liz Staruch, Fritha Pengelly in Pengelly Projects, Cori Marquis and The Nines [IX], her collective LMnO3: Deborah Lohse, Cori Marquis, Donnell Oakley, and Doug Elkins Choreography Etc.
She has been invited to teach and/or set work at West Chester University, the University of Michigan, Middlebury University, Arizona State University, Prescott College, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, DeSales University, Muhlenberg College, SUNY Brockport, Enloe High School and Arts Together in NC, The Yard, The Beijing Dance Festival, and as a continuing part of Gibney Dance Center, teaching a contemporary technique class every Wednesday and Friday at noon.
Donnell feels a strong connection to her roots and believes deeply in Arts Together’s philosophy: “We believe that students who develop personal artistic vision as well as technique become creators rather than imitators.”
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