Jacob Jonas is Tired of Dancers Being Judged By Their Paychecks
When we named Jacob Jonas one of our "25 to Watch" two years ago, he was turning heads with his innovative #CamerasandDancers Instameet series and the high-profile collaborations it earned him. #CamerasandDancers is still going strong—in fact a few months back Jonas celebrated his 50th meet—as is Jonas' savvy social media presence. But let us not forget that Jonas also has a sleek L.A.-based contemporary dance company which has also made exciting leaps in the past few years, performing in increasingly impressive venues—including Beverly Hills' Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, where they are currently the company-in-residence—as Jonas continues to refine his dynamic choreography.
We caught up with Jonas for our "Spotlight" series:
What is the most common misconception about dancers?
How their economic worth determines their value. The people I know that enter this medium do it to grow, inspire, connect and share. Not for a paycheck.
What other career would you like to try?
I would be interested in architecture. I enjoy looking at architecture and thinking about physical spaces. How people and nature coexist with these spaces and how to manipulate light and scale. I think this would be the closest thing to choreography but using materials instead of bodies.
What was the last dance performance you saw?
Merce Cunningham's Night of 100 Solos at CAP UCLA. Was very inspired.
What's the most-played song on your phone?
I most often throw on a playlist. Rarely listen to the same songs repeatedly unless I am in a process.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
My company is very family-oriented. We warm up as a group and before the show like to huddle up and share any messages of motivation.
What's your favorite book?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
Hopefully in a jacuzzi.
Where did you last vacation?
We recently toured Hawaii and I stayed a few extra days exploring the island.
What app do you spend the most time on?
Instagram. I enjoy seeing the unique perspectives of the world from all my friends. I mainly follow photographers and culture outlets so it is a great form of inspiration. I also enjoy sharing my photos and receiving support and feedback.
Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?
Lloyd Newson or Jim Carrey.
What's the first item on your bucket list?
Spend time in Ireland. I watched a film called Ondine that featured the south of the country and I would love to spend a month or two there.
What's your go-to crosstraining routine?
In the summers, I swim a mile in the ocean every Saturday morning. During the rest of the year, I enjoy going to the gym, weight training and playing basketball. Basketball is especially fun for me as it has the same physical demand as dance without the creative expectations.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
I had a teacher who told me to stick to street dance when choreographing as that was how I started dancing. The teacher had his MFA, and assumed his degree meant his experience was greater than mine. I held on to this advice for a few years until I met my mentor Donald Byrd who helped introduce other vocabularies into my work. Oftentimes, people who you think are teaching you can be hurting you.
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
Performing on the Venice Beach Boardwalk where I first started as a street performer.
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We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."
Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.