Jalen Jones, a sophomore dance major at SMU, is already dancing in professional musicals and doesn’t plan to stop there. The New Orleans native left his home after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and found his passion for dance at a performing arts high school in Georgia. I got the chance to sit down with him and talk about his passion.
When did you start dancing?
Sophomore year of high school.
What inspired you to do so?
I went to a performing arts high school and was set on becoming an actor. In the first year, I realized that acting wasn’t for me. My school performed America from West Side Story and the dancing in the piece really intrigued me. Sophomore year I signed up for a dance class and the rest is history.
What are some challenges of being a student dancer?
Time management is hard. We usually don’t have enough time to complete homework and have a social life. Most days I have class from 9:30 to 5 and rehearsal from 5:30 to 11.
How do you balance school and dance?
I honestly don’t know how I get everything done. I try to knock homework out during breaks in my day. Also, I need my sleep, I can’t pull all-nighters like a lot of students do.
What’s the most rewarding part of dancing for you?
The end product of a dance. We practice the same thing every single day. But it’s all about the technique behind the movement. The end product of my technique is most rewarding because I know I’m going to walk out a different dancer than the first day I stepped into SMU.
Why did you choose SMU?
I chose SMU because the dance program offers jazz, modern and ballet, and they want their dancers to be diverse. Very few have all three concentrations. Most other people make their dancers choose but not here. They want us to be well-rounded.
Tell me about your professional musical experience?
I’ve done summer stock shows which are basically Off-Broadway paid musicals over the summer. I did Oliver and Tarzan both in Georgia. It was kind of luck that got me in the cast of these shows. One of my dance teachers told me about the audition and had me meet the director of the theater, and they cast me!
Favorite show you’ve been a part of?
The Shoeless Joe number from Damn Yankees. There is so much character in the show and the dancing is phenomenal. The jazz technique you have to have is amazing to me. And you can easily find yourself in your character.
Favorite costume you’ve ever worn?
It was a number choreographed by Dwight Rhoden. We performed Stellar Matter at the Winspear Opera. It was a black mesh top with galaxy pants.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I don’t think I’ve reached my greatest achievement yet.
What is your most treasured possession?
I have a necklace on my bed at home, my good luck charm. I bought it in the French quarters back home in New Orleans.
Which living person do you most admire?
My mom. She’s so loving and caring and I enjoy spending time. We are always laughing and talking and having a conversation. We are alike in a lot of ways.
What’s your theme song?
Violent Crimes by Kanye West
If you won the lottery, how would you spend it?
I know I would give money back to my parents because of everything they’ve done for me. I would travel somewhere out of the country and bring my whole family.
Describe your personal style.
I wear a lot of athletic clothes like Outdoor Voices and Nike. But when I’m dressing up I like to be trendy.
What is your motto?
Every day is a new day.
Catch Jalen in the Fall Dance Concert, November 12-17 at Bob Hope Theatre!