Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 – 10:19 PM
Jacob Jonas is seeing his dance company, still in its infancy, garner attention, acclaim and on Wednesday, a show at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass. Jacob Jonas The Company (jacobjonas.com) has been invited to perform excerpts from its In a Room on Broad St. as part of the festival’s Inside/Out Performances on Wednesday, July 22.
Jonas started his journey to company founder as a street performer. At 13, splitting his time between his parents’ homes in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, he skated to Venice Beach and was inspired by the acrobats and breakdancers that made up the Calypso Tumblers. “It was more of an escape,” says Jonas, raised as an athlete, “and less about the physicality. It was about the energy the group had together.”
So he started going down more and more frequently. Mentored by the group’s leader for four years, he learned street dancing and acrobatics and self-educated himself in breakdancing. “As a street performer and dancer, I was always looking for a way to be the best,” says Jonas. “I like to put myself in situations where I’m the worst at something and then try to become the best at it. So I always have something to work toward and get better at.”
He was soon a troupe member, adding flips and handstands to his repertoire. After touring with the Calypso Tumbler for almost five years, “I wanted to study other forms of dance, and that led me to choreography,” he says. He accepted a scholarship to train at a dance studio in Brentwood, learning ballet, jazz and contemporary dance—he was 16.
From El Rodeo, he joined the BHHS Dance Company as a freshman and was a member his entire high-school career. “Coming from a street-dance background, I was exposed to a company environment and a new way to approach dance,” says Jonas. “A it was a great community to be part of. Looking back now, it was a great introduction to what I’m currently doing.”
Jonas graduated in 2010; and having been mentored by choreographer Donald Byrd, he realized he’d developed a strong community of fellow dancers, friends and supporters.
Not satisfied with or fulfilled with the parts he was auditioning for, Jonas started creating and videotaping pieces to build a portfolio and submissions for competitions and festivals. And he started getting recognition for his work.
“This was the beginning of my discovering what my voice was and still is—a combination of contemporary ballet, breakdance, popping, hip hop and weight sharing,” Jonas said.
Those elements were evident in In a Room on Broad St., which placed at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards in 2013. That second place win gave him the opportunity to to present a full-length version of the show—at L.A.‘s Highways Performance Space and New York City at the Ailey Citigroup Theater—the following year. The show was enthusiastically reviewed by The New York Times and listed as a “best in dance in 2014” by The Los Angeles Times.
The August to August time frame gave Jonas time to focusing on the challenges of forming a company. “I didn’t think I’d have a company this early,” admits Jonas. “But the opportunity presented itself.” With an core group of eight members and administration of four, The Company rehearses at L.A. Ballet with the goal of creating “emotionally charged” works that appeal to a “new-to-dance,” younger and diverse audience.
He’s working with cosmologist David Tyler for a program named Spaced; and in the “Concert and Commercial” series he will work with a concert and commercial choreographer—Byrd and Tony Testa respectively for the first installment— and split one bill. The #CamerasandDancers uses Instragram as a platform to expose people to dance through a collaboration with photographers to create content. “Oxytosin ” is a monthly event open to public where dancers and non-dancer come and improvise in “a non-judgemental space.” —Steve Simmons