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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Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"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.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.