From the young age of three, Taiya Cleveland was a dancer. One day when her mother saw her in the kitchen dancing and tapping her feet, she knew her daughter liked to dance, and enrolled her in classes. “From there, that was my way to express myself,” Taiya said. “When I can’t really express myself to my parents like I want to, I use my dance to express myself or I write poetry.” Dancing became Taiya’s stress relief and passion. Her enthusiasm for dancing inspired her to further her education, and one day open her own dance studio.
Just like dancing was a safe haven for her, Taiya believes she can create a place for other dancers. “Everyone should have a place to go where they can say what they feel without being judged or ridiculed,” Taiya stated in an essay. She wants her studio to be a mentoring program and a place where her students can vent to her. In order to prepare for owning a studio, Taiya plans to major in management and minor in dance at Virginia State University. Not only did VSU offer her a full ride, but she liked how close it was to home.
Although she will wait to open her own studio for after college, Taiya is already active in the local dance community. She started the dance club at her high school, is in the City Dance Troupe of Richmond, danced for the Thomas Jefferson High School Dance Team, danced at Virginia Union University, coaches a majorette team and also coached at a band camp. Her favorite dance styles are Hip Hop and Jazz. She also volunteers with other organizations. For example, she often volunteers with her church, she volunteered at an elementary school, and also at a local SPCA. “One thing I learned from giving back to the community is that it’s really appreciated, and it makes you feel good as well,” Taiya said. The different volunteer experiences taught her just how much she enjoyed helping others and making them smile. Not only did she dance and volunteer outside of school, but she also was a member of multiple clubs such as Sisters with an Intuition, the Environmental Club and the Key Club.
Two dancers at one of her dance organizations inspire Taiya because they always push and motivate her. Other inspirations are her little sisters. Though they aren’t her biological sisters, Taiya said that without them, she wouldn’t be pushing so hard to do better. She wants to be a positive example for them so they can follow her footsteps and be better as well.
With so many inspirations, Taiya hopes to one day inspire her own students at her dance studio. “My students will be the children that wake up in the morning ecstatic to go to school because they know that afterwards they will be going to dance practice,” Taiya stated. “They will know that they are in a place where they can freely express themselves and gain confidence.”