Endalyn Taylor, born to Baptists ministers James and Lillie Taylor, grew up on the South Side of Chicago and began dancing when she was seven years old at the Mayfair Academy of Fine Arts and later the Ruth Page School of Dance. At the latter, Larry Long mentored Taylor. Additionally, Taylor was awarded scholarships to attend the Joffrey Ballet School and Pennsylvania Ballet.
She attended a summer intensive at Dance Theatre of Harlem when she was 16 and became a company apprentice soon after, in 1982. During this time, she completed her high school education at the Professional Children’s School, having to “do [her] schoolwork weeks in advance to get it in on time, sometimes from Europe or other locations.”
In 1989, Taylor appeared in DTH’s filmed production of Fall River Legend. She was featured in the DTH premieres of August Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano (1990), Alvin Ailey’s The River (1993), Alonzo King’s Ground (1996), Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe’s Sasanka (1997), and John Alleyne’s Adrian (Angel on Earth) (1997). Her other repertory included roles in Giselle; George Balanchine’s Serenade, The Four Temperaments, Agon, Concerto Barocco, and Stars and Stripes; Billy Wilson’s Concerto in F and Mirage; Le Corsaire; Alonzo King’s Signs and Wonders; Arthur Mitchell’s Holberg Suite and Fête Noire; Glen Tetley’s Dialogues; Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Biches; Ron Cunningham’s Etosha; and Michael Smuin’s Songs of Mahler and Medea.
Taylor rose to the rank of principal dancer by 1993. With the company she performed for notable figures like Princess Diana, Coretta Scott King, Colin Powell, President Clinton, and Nelson Mandela.
Taylor has also had a successful Broadway career, performing in Carousel as Liza Sinclair (1994), as an original ensemble dancer in The Lion King (1997), and as a “swing” and Nehebka’s understudy in Aida (2000).
With The Lion King, Taylor performed at the Tony Awards, on The Tonight Show with David Letterman, and The Rosie O’Donnell Show.
Her other film and television credits include Center Stage (2000) and an American Express commercial.
Taylor has taught at Shellman Dance Academy in New Jersey, The Ailey School, NYU, and the High School of the Performing Arts. She was DTH’s Education and Outreach Program’s assistant director and the co-director for the Cambridge Performing Arts Institute. From 2005-2013, Taylor served as a teacher and the director of DTH’s school.
After leaving this role and receiving her MFA from Hollins University, Taylor became an assistant professor of dance at the University of Illinois, where she was also named the Dean’s Fellow for Black Arts Research.
Taylor’s research examines “the careers of dancers of color—past, present, and future—tell their stories, and through performance, interviews, and documentation celebrate their strength, beauty, and perseverance in the midst of an aesthetic and ethnic bias that persists even as we move toward a brighter, more colorful future,” and hopes her research can “[look] at social issues such as domestic violence through an artistic lens and [explore] the role of the black ballerina in the world of dance and its history.” More on Taylor’s academic work can be read here.
In addition to research and teaching at UI, Taylor has taught dance to performers at the Lyric Theatre @ Illinois and choreographed for the theater’s production of Kiss Me Kate. Other choreography credits include pieces for the Works and Process at the Guggenheim series, the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community, the High School of Performing Arts, and a collaboration between DTH and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Eddie Shellman is Taylor’s ex-husband. Together they had Eddie Shellman III, who is also a professional dancer, and Eivory James Shellman.
The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community awarded Taylor the Outstanding Achievement in anti-violence advocacy through the Arts and Media.