African American Studies


Michelle fleet is a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company who grew up in the Jackson Houses in the Bronx. She was born on September 24, 1977.

Growing up, Fleet remembers the vast array of empty buildings. Her mother would warn her to be in by a certain time because of how dangerous the area was. Fleet says that hearing gunshots was not an uncommon phenomenon.

Fleet cites her father as her musical influence. He would often play while in the house and invite his band mates over for jam sessions. Her father played funk alternative style of music and received a certain degree of success as they played over seas in Europe. Fleets mother was an unprofessional dancer and enrolled her in dance classes when she was rather young. Fleet attended some classes at Five Points Cultural Arts Center in the Bronx; however, she never thought about becoming a professional dancer until it came time to apply to schools and go through the auditioning process.

Fleet recalls the rise of hip-hop and the block parties during the summertime. While she remembers the beauty of living in the Bronx, she also remembers the ugly. Gangs were present in the neighborhood and some of their members attended high school with her. She vividly remembers the evidence of the crack epidemic, seeing empty canisters and obvious users throughout the neighborhood. However, despite the ugly, Fleet maintains that it was her strong family values that allowed her to remain focused.

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