A normal day for me starts at about 7:00 a.m. I roll out of bed, sit up and stare at the wall for about 10 minutes while I contemplate life. I wonder why I feel so tired despite getting to bed early the night before. Once I’m up and ready for the day, I down a protein shake and try to catch the train before 8:05 a.m., (which doesn’t always happen) in order to make my 9 a.m. ballet class. While walking to class, I mentally prepare myself for the intense week ahead.
Awesome, crazy, exciting, intense, rewarding are just a few words that describe my experience as a Jazz and Contemporary Trainee at the Joffrey Ballet School. You are immediately thrown into a variety of classes, including hip-hop, Horton technique, Latin jazz, musical theater, street jazz, and many, many more. This variety is what originally brought me to the Jazz and Contemporary Program. It drew me in because you get versatile training directly from successful, working artists in the industry.
We have these classes every day, but, with show week being right around the corner, half of my day is spent in rehearsals for the show. And on top of that, this semester I have been working on my own piece of choreography, Closer! Getting to create and work with such amazing dancers was a true learning experience.
When I first started creating Closer, it was originally just for the Joffrey Student Choreography Showcase. With a cast of over 20 dancers, it was a lot of hard work preparing for the show, but it definitely ended up paying off more than I had ever expected! Michael Blake, our program’s Artistic Director, and Lena Lauer, the program coordinator, were invited by Spotlight Productions to produce a piece for their show, Dancing in the Spotlight that was to be held at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater. Instead of creating an entire new number, my directors approached me with the opportunity to represent the school by showing Closer! Needless to say, I was more than honored. I prepared my dancers for a larger stage and a larger audience with long, intense rehearsals.
Dancing in the Spotlight was on February 1st. As I was sitting in the audience watching my vision come to life on stage, tears started to come to my eyes! Never in a million years did I ever think I would be presenting my own work in New York City at Ailey…and so early on in my career! I will forever be grateful to my directors for presenting me with that opportunity and I want to give a special thanks to my dancers for all their hard work and dedication.
Now that Closer has come to a close (hahah) it’s time to get focused on the J&C’s upcoming show Imperium. For me, that means extra days at the gym to make sure that my body is intact and my stamina is up to par for such a demanding show. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the gym. I love it because it can be a good stress reliever, but I hate it sometimes because after a long day of dance, the last thing I want to do is go workout more. But I know that if I want to be at my best for the show, those extra workout days are necessary for me. Especially because the rehearsal schedule for the show can get really crazy!
When working with such big names in the industry like Matthew Powell, Ryan Daniel Beck, and Michael Susten just to name a few, you have to base rehearsals around their schedules. You’re constantly running around New York from studio to studio to make it to your rehearsals. At times it can get extremely tiring, and all you want to do is fall asleep in the middle of Broadway. Sometimes, I think I’m the only one that’s so worn out, but then I realize that everyone here in this amazing program (and probably the industry as a whole) is in the same boat. We’re all determined to push through it all. We have each other’s back, and running around New York all day is kind of cool when you think about it. You’re getting to learn from all these amazing people, getting to do their cutting-edge choreography, and basically live the life of a professional dancer. Dancing in New York is a dream that many people have but not everyone gets to do. I try to remind myself of that everyday.
Life is crazy for me at the moment, preparing for our program’s upcoming show on February 15th, in addition to the various other projects I’m working on. Although it can become challenging trying to balance a job and school while being a training away from home, it is more than possible. I have to say that the Joffrey Ballet School Trainee programs are not for everyone, it is for the dancer that wants an extreme challenge and to work to their maximum potential every single day. It is nearly impossible to leave the school without learning anything. I feel that since I have been in the program, not only have I become a more versatile dancer, but I have also gained confidence in my skill set which is something that I did not posses before attending the school. If you want to be a dancer, you have to do everything in your power get there. And if this southern boy from Atlanta, Georgia can live his dream by constantly working as hard as I can,, then so can anyone else.Imani Williams — Jazz & Contemporary Trainee Co-authored by Alexandra Kanpp