From hip hop dancer to contemporary ballet artist and working professional dancer: it sounds like a transformation straight out of the movies, right? But it’s not – or at least, not yet. It’s the true life story of former Joffrey Ballet School student, Harold Trent Butler.
“The very first time I ever touched a ballet barre was at my audition for the Joffrey Ballet School,” Harold told us. “Thankfully, the school’s director, Era Jouravlev, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime!
By the time I left the school a few years later, I was already signed to one of New York CIty’s top agencies, MSA (McDonald/Selznick Associates). I was also featured in music videos with artists like SZA, appeared in several different television series and was selected to join the second company of the Martha Graham Dance Company,” said Harold.
While at Martha Graham 2, Harold has performed in some of Graham’s most revered works, including Embattled Garden, Secular Games and Appalachian Spring. He’s also made appearances as a dancer in the Moncler show in New York Fashion Week, a David Bowie tribute show at the Brooklyn Museum, a recent GAP commercial – and so much more.
Want to learn more about how Harold made the leap from hip hop to contemporary ballet and professional dance? Check out our interview with him.
A Life Changing Experience
What was your experience with the Joffrey – what sessions / intensives or courses did you attend and for how long?
I was a full-time student in the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary Trainee (J&C) program. I joined the program in its 2nd year and it was an incredible ride. I stayed at the Joffrey Ballet School for three years before leaving to join the second company of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
I also attended Joffrey’s summer dance intensives every year while i was a student because it was very important for me to stay competitive year round.
What was your dance experience before attending one of Joffrey Ballet School’s programs or intensives?
Before attending the Joffrey Ballet School I was predominantly a hip hop dancer. My goals were to get signed with an agent and work as a commercial performer, which I was able to achieve very quickly after I began training at the Joffrey Ballet School.
On the other hand, what I did not expect was to become the dancer I am today. Not only am I well versed in many different styles and approaches to dance, I was able to achieve dreams I couldn’t have imagined. Working and touring in a professional level dance company was a life changing experience.
What specific experiences at the Joffrey Ballet School stand out to you?
The experience that stood out to me the most was the networking and all of the different artists that helped to mold me. Joffrey introduced me to so many teachers/directors/choreographers that I would later end up working with and for! The dance industry can be all about who you know and it definitely helped that all of my teachers were front runners in the industry.
Joffrey Teachers Were My Village
What were your favorite classes or instructors and why?
My favorite class was always Ballet. It was the most difficult for me with my background – but I watched myself literally transform each and every day while in class. I remember being so excited about the artist I was becoming at Joffrey.
My favorite teachers while at Joffrey were Breton Tyner-Bryan, Michael Blake, Angelica Stiskin, Max Baud, Nijawwon Matthews, Maleek Washington, Bradley Shelver, and Colleen Barnes.
They say “It takes a village to raise a child”; the amount of effort, attention, energy, and love i received from these teachers is incomparable. They were my village and I am incredibly thankful for each and every one of them and attribute my success in NYC to them.
Describe your experience at the Joffrey Ballet School overall – dorm life, after hours activities, sightseeing, etc.? favorite memories? Friendships or relationships developed?
I lived in the Grove Street dorms, which was a dream come true: living and dancing in the center of New York City’s West Village. I made lifelong friends and mentors who have become more like family! We support each other’s projects – and continue to inspire each other as a collective near and far!
What advice would you give to a young dancer considering a dance intensive?
Simple. I would urge them to “be the dancer that has it all”: That’s our motto at Joffrey and that’s how we study. We train to stand out. If you want that job, or that agent, or to dance in that company – you have to learn from the people who’ve already done it! I found those people at Joffrey.
What’s happening currently in your life? Are you currently involved in any productions or how are you using your Joffrey training?
After recently finishing my contract with Graham 2, I just began my 3rd year as a commercial artist with MSA agency. I was recently featured in a GAP commercial and will be featured in a new Netflix series to be released this spring!
Are You Ready to Be the Next Dancer That “Has It All?”
“I could not have done it without my mentors from the Joffrey Ballet School,” said Harold. “Joffrey taught me to be more than just a dancer. I was taught to be an artist.”
Stories like Harold’s show that there’s not just one path to becoming an artist and professional dancer, but dancers who succeed have a few things in common. One is a great attitude: a willingness to work hard and try new things, like learning to love ballet when your background is in hip hop. Another key to success? A team of mentors in your corner and the right training to bring the versatility that today’s dance companies and agencies are seeking.
The attitude and desire come from you, but Joffrey can deliver the rest of what you need to become the next dancer who “has it all.”
Register with us today to audition for a spot in one of our 2020 summer dance intensives. And keep up with Harold’s continuing story by following him on Instagram: @swanksbutler