Shock and grief as beloved dancer shot dead while behind the wheel

The murder victim worked with Monica and En Vogue

A respected dancer, choreographer and teacher was murdered in Dallas early Sunday morning, leaving police and loved ones looking for answers.

Darrell Cleveland, 45, died after being shot and crashing his car in downtown Dallas at approximately 2:40 a.m. Sunday. As reported by ABC News, Cleveland lost control of his car before it collided with a fence and parking meter near the intersection of South Ervay and Cadiz Streets, near City Hall. A homeless man who witnessed the accident flagged down police, who then discovered that Cleveland had been shot in the hip.

Cleveland was transported to a local hospital where he died.

Authorities have not disclosed whether they believe shooting was targeted or random, and no arrests have been made at this time.

Local CBS affiliate CBSDFW reported that the Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the cause of death was a gunshot wound, and that Cleveland was found in an area where homeless people congregate.

The North Texas dance community is mourning the loss of Cleveland, who had been a member of the Dallas Black Dance Theater for many years. Founder Ann Williams told ABC News that Cleveland, originally from Jacksonville, Florida, traveled throughout the world while performing with the dance company.

Williams called her former protégé and friend a “perfect gentleman”, who “grew up with good guidance from his mom … loved his mom dearly and came out of a family out of Florida, a southern family that was very caring.”

The slain dancer performed in commercials and music videos, working with recording artists such as Monica and En Vogue, according to News 4 Jacksonsville.

Cleveland later became a sought-after choreographer and teacher who shared his talent and love of dance with the younger generation.

Lisa Slagle, director of the Ballet Academy of Texas, told ABC News that Cleveland’s “positive, infectious energy” helped guide his 15 years at the academy as a modern dance and jazz teacher who was always “inspiring the dancers and pushing them to do more and do better.”

“He had charisma, and you don’t teach that,” said Slagle. “You either got it, or you don’t.”

Cleveland, who had recently completed his master’s degree, was planning on returning to teach at the Ballet Academy. Slagle told ABC News that she received his signed contract in the mail this week, after his death.

Anyone with information about the murder is asked to contact Dallas Police at 214-671-0524.


Feature photo: Facebook/Heritage School of Classical Ballet