The Dance Department’s New Groove: Introducing Mr. Jelani Jones


Maddox Wade

A Bright Light in Teaching: New dance teacher Jelani Kones brings love and excitement to the Dubs’ dance program.

From the first floor to the eleventh, the hallways of North Atlanta are painted from floor to ceiling with talent. When it comes to the arts, Dubs have lots to offer, but what makes a difference is the mentors they meet along the way. First-year dance teacher Jelani Jones is a perfect example of how North Atlanta Faculty works to support students through purposeful skill development.

An Atlanta native, Jones grew up in the Atlanta Public School (APS) school district. He graduated from the Tri-Cities School of Visual and Performing Arts before studying theater and dance at the University of Cincinnati. After honing his craft, he spent time at the Ailey School Theatre, performed with the Cincinnati Ballet, and danced with the Ballethnic Dance Company – to name a few. Through his education and years of experience, Jones became a professional performing artist, a title that includes mastery in dancing, acting, directing, singing, and choreography. “Mr. Jones’ skill sets carry over to the classroom. It’s inspiring to learn from someone with a true passion for their art,” said junior Zoey Marrero.

Before arriving at 4111, Jones spent ten years as a dance teacher and Intro to Dance director at his alma mater, Tri-Cities high school. Luckily, the switch to North felt natural as it holds unique connections to Jones. His mentor and ‘artistic mother,’ graduated from Northside High – which would later become our beloved North Atlanta – and the three previous dance teachers are his close personal friends. These familiarities allowed him to be incorporated with ease into the Dub community. “Mr. Jones encourages us to dance with passion through free movement,” said sophomore Genesis Strother. “I am grateful to have another dance teacher at North Atlanta who prides himself on excellence and expression.”

During his tenure at North, Jones’ main goal is to continue pushing the dance program in the direction that former instructor Tamara Irving set in motion. He hails this program as one of excellence and determination, and Jones understands the importance of empowering students to overcome odds better than anyone. Born with a clubfoot, he had to undergo corrective surgery at a young age. “Years later, my doctor told me that it is a miracle I can dance,” said Jones. “I am grateful for overcoming expectations, and I hope to help my students do the same.”

Outside the dance classroom, Jones can be found across the stages and screens of America. He is still an active performer, whether on the theatre stages of Atlanta or in choreography Masterclasses across the nation. For him, teaching is a way to give back while still pursuing his dreams. He says that every artist has a point at which they are drawn to give back the things they’ve learned. “It would be selfish to hold onto all that I’ve learned,” said Jones, “I’ve had so many amazing people pour into me that I live for the moments where one can tell they’re making a difference in a student’s life.”