Nijawwon Matthews is a native of Auburn, New York, studied under the tutelage of Sean McLeod, founder of the New York Institute of Dance & Education, who spotted him among gymnasts at his local recreation center. Matthews follows McLeod as the second African American in dance from Auburn to garner work as a performer, teacher, and choreographer. He trained throughout Central New York and at the age of 16, under the direction of Yvonne Villano-Hassett, became a principal dancer and soloist with the Absolute Dance Company. Matthews’ studies include the dance styles of ballet (Balanchine, Cecchetti, Vaganova), modern (Horton, Graham), jazz, and hip-hop.
Inspired by solid training and early achievements, Nijawwon was motivated to pursue his interest in dance further. He landed opportunities with several companies including the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Philadanco, and the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company. While in residency at Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance, the artistic director Mary Pat Henry exclaimed, “Nijawwon is simply powerful!” in response to his solo in More Than You Know choreographed by Ingrid Hadley. Other notable choreographers for whom Matthews has performed their works include Donald McKayle, Kevin Iega Jeff, Gary Abbott, Milton Myers, Cecilia Marta, Jennifer Muller, Christopher Huggins, and Chester Whitmore.
As a dance educator and choreographer, Mr. Matthews has travelled nationally to instruct master classes for a host of academic schools, dance studios, and professional companies. He has taught internationally at institutions in the British Virgin Islands, Germany, and Taiwan.
To his credit, Nijawwon orchestrated theatrical performances for Partnership For Results, a community-wide after-school youth program under the direction of Susan Muldoon. With Michael Henty, the founder of Champions For Life Sports Center, he created dances expressly developed for children with autism. Nijawwon also taught hip-hop and jazz at the Cayuga Home for Children, a community support services provider, where as a guest speaker he inspired at-risk teens with his own story of overcoming life’s challenges.
Recently, he assisted and was a guest artist for the artistic director/choreographer Cecilia Marta, which led to his joining the Cecilia Marta Dance Company. Nijawwon also assisted choreographer Christopher Huggins with the restaging of Rendezvous, which was set on students enrolled in the Alvin Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program.
Nijawwon simply enjoys connecting with colleagues and audience members alike. He looks forward to collaborating with artists, and to creating opportunities where dancers may work in a professional environment.