Monday, June 10, 2019

Deeply Rooted Welcomes Guest Choreographer Jamal White

Jamal White
(Tatiana Wills)

Jamal White
(Tatiana Wills)

Jamal White
(Tatiana Wills)

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Summer Guest Artists: Jamal White

As part of its Summer Dance Intensive, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater presents its Emerging Choreographers Showcase, which provides an environment for emerging choreographers and dancers to cultivate creativity, deepen technical skill and gain performance experience. Also serving as a platform for established choreographers, ECS facilitates further exploration of choreographic approach.
Jamal White, one of two artists setting choreography for this summer’s Showcase, was raised in Atlanta, Georgia and began his training at Dance Makers of Atlanta under the direction of Denise and Lynise Heard. He studied as a scholarship student at Virginia School of the Arts and trained in intensive programs at Kirov Academy of Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Dance Theatre of Harlem and London Contemporary Dance School. In 2011, he received a B.F.A. in dance performance from Southern Methodist University, and he has performed works by Nicolo Fonte, George Balanchine, Dwight Rhoden, Alvin Ailey, Stijn Celis, Richard Siegal and Hofesh Shechter. He has also performed in Rasta Thomas’ Rock the Ballet, Missouri Ballet Theater, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Alvin Ailey II and BODYTRAFFIC. He has made creations at Southern Methodist University, Dean College, London Contemporary Dance School, Kent State University, BODYTRAFFIC, Los Angeles Jewish Symphony and The Ailey School. He has taught and created for many arts exchange and outreach programs in the U.S. and abroad. He created a work for Company D, a Memphis-based contemporary dance company for adults with Down syndrome. In 2018 he created his first dance film, Black Ass.
When and how did you first discover dance and decide it would be your life’s work? 
When I was younger, I was always interested in performing for others. I would create small shows and maybe scenes for a musical that I would imagine. I was obsessed with music! Around 13 I was watching a television show that had tap in it and thought, “OK, this is something I would like to try.” A girl at my school took tap classes, so I tagged along with her one evening to a dance class. My sister was a dancer at this time, and she noticed I was very committed to my tap classes. She helped me get a scholarship at a ballet school in our community and I was hooked after that! I fell more in love with dance when I began to create dances for my friends in high school. I enjoyed imagining movement, sharing it with my peers and finally watching them bring it to life! I truly felt like my relationship with dance was destined; I never considered, from the day I began learning dance, that it wouldn’t be a part of my life forever. 

What have been some highlights of your dance career? 
Recently I traveled to Algeria to work with dancers from the Algerian National Ballet. The most interesting part of this experience was that the company consisted of about 30 B-boys and B-girls! These dancers had no training in western dance style, i.e., ballet, modern, contemporary, and we were tasked with teaching them daily dance classes and creating a group contemporary piece. It was so amazing to work with dancers that were so skilled in one way, yet so compelled to learn from us! They love dance so much! It was so inspiring as an educator and choreographer to work with artists who were so gracious; they never wanted to stop learning. They were also giving; they would share these amazing B- boy moves that we in turn added to the contemporary work. It was the most beautiful experience of growth, art and community—art diplomacy at its best!

I also had the opportunity to create an original piece for a dance company in Memphis called Company D. Company D’s dancers are all adults with Down syndrome. Creating this work was special to me because it challenged my creativity in a big way. The dancers’ mental limitations affected their physical range; this gave me a smaller movement vocabulary to create with. I entered into this project wanting to create a work with the same integrity and intention that I would with the fullest-able dancers in a world-class dance company. I would tell myself “Jamal, if you are a talented choreographer, you won’t be intimidated by your obstacles. Be creative!” I wouldn’t allow myself to settle and I wouldn’t allow the dancers to settle. We all pushed ourselves past what we thought was possible! It became a beautiful piece that we all were very proud of. 

What made you decide to become an instructor? What particular satisfaction do you derive from that? 
I think me instructing started from me creating. Finding the skills to translate movement and intentions behind any movement came from setting those small pieces on my friends in high school, little ones new to dance and professional dancers. I never considered myself a master teacher, yet I’ve found an understanding of the information required to best communicate the works one faces as a professional dancer. When I teach younger dancers, I find myself delivering information to them as if they were working dancers about to go onstage to dance a master work! I want my students to be invested in what they’d want the audience to experience and the integrity of the work. I teach technique as the means to exhibit clarity when communicating with an audience. 

What inspires you as a choreographer? 
Music! Music is what inspires me most to create! I also love telling stories. I will hear a piece of music and then I will create a story in my mind; I then begin to investigate how to tell this story through movement. 

What are you looking forward to when you come to work with Deeply Rooted in Chicago this summer? 
I am incredibly interested in taking a work that I’ve created in the past and having it reimagined on a new group. I would love to discover how the story has changed considering the space, the artists and the time it’s restaged. I am growing as a choreographer, and I would love to challenge myself by applying information from a more experienced version of myself to a dance that exists. I want to share information that I’ve gathered as a performer in hopes that my experience will assist the artist in their performance careers. I hope the work that I create will challenge the dancers in a way they may have never experienced or like to continue to explore. 

Don't miss Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's Summer Dance Intensive
and Emerging Choreographers Showcase performances

Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20 at 7 p.m. at
the Reva and David Logan Center for the Performing Arts,
915 E. 60th Street, Chicago. 

A reception follows the July 20 performance.
Tickets are $25; a VIP ticket of $150
provides additional support for these programs.

Tickets are available at

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