Jessica found her passion at a very young age and began pursuing said passion from the age of 5. Attending a stage school Jessica learnt the skills that has landed her some high profile choreography jobs, working with some major artists. Here I catch up with her to learn more about her career and her thoughts on the creative arts.
What’s your story, how did you start dancing?
When I was five I went to a dance school called Barbara Speake Stage School in East Acton. And there I learnt Tap, Ballet, Jazz, Singing and Acting. We did dance exams, and got to join agencies and audition for adverts and films and whatever else you got put into. So that kind of paved the way to learn how the industry is, it taught me how the industry was.
You dance for Jackson Live in Concert: how is that going and how did you get that gig?
It’s going really really well. I started doing it three years ago and been the show’s choreographer for two years now. I saw it on Facebook, a page called the Hustle; they have photographers on there, blogs and auditions for dancers, that sort of thing. I saw it on there and sent off my CV. I’m not going to lie on the morning of the audition I wasn’t going to go, it was a Sunday and I was thinking this is long and I didn’t know where I was going. I’m the type of person if I don’t know where I’m going I tend to talk myself out of it. But I decided to go to the audition. At the audition, I had to freestyle twice, one to a song of my choice and the other was to a Michael Jackson song, you know the song, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. Then we had a group audition, learned a routine and then an interview. I got the phone call three days later and got told I got it.
You mentioned you are a choreographer?
It happened while I was on the show, I was there about ten months; there was another girl teaching at the time. I said to her I’ve made up this for this bit; I ended up changing a little bit and my manager saw that and he was like we will try you at being a choreographer, he was a bit skeptical, so I said fine. He saw what I was doing and liked it, then made me the official choreographer for the show.
And how is that going?
It’s going really well. Now I don’t have to ask, I can be like right, were changing this bit. And I like that. I like being creative and he allows me to be creative.
You travel with Jackson Live in Concert, what countries have you been to?
Last year we went to India, the year before we went to Hong Kong and throughout the year we tend to go to Holland a lot, we’re at their festivals a lot too. We are going to Belgium in the next few months and then back to Holland again this year as well.
Do you have a best performance (show)?
Holland. The opening night was amazing; the stage was amazing. It wasn’t a small theatre, it had three levels and I got to do what I wanted, like put a dancer up there and one down here, it was amazing.
Do you create the sets as well?
No. In Holland we could have anything we wanted because they were paying for it. So when they asked my manager what he wanted and we told him, they sent my manager and I the stage design, so in rehearsals over here I knew what I could do.
Do you pick the dancers?
And do you have a team of dancers that follow you everywhere?
It’s usually a girl called Hannah and I, so we’re the officially dancers. We’re on the posters and advertising material that goes around. But usually it’s just the two of us. At the moment we just auditioned; there will be four of us in most shows as sometimes contractors ask for four dancers, some ask for two, some ask for none, some ask for no band. It’s what they want and what their budget is, really.
Have you done anything else outside of Jackson Live in Concert?
Yeah, I choreographed MIA’s music video for ‘Bad Girls’ and I think it got 6 VMA nominations. I also choreographed the set for Jay-Z at Hackney Weekender. I’ve done The Voice as well; done a commercial for Diesel. I was in a girl group, signed to Warner Bros for half a million, we were together for about 3 years but we were really young so it broke up. (Mind block) but she’s done loads of other stuff.
And who would you love to dance for next?
Bruno Mars (laughs). His vibe is something else. I’ve always liked him but this album has made me like a die-hard fan. He is doing everything I would do if I were an artist, if you know what I mean. Also, Missy Elliott, Chris Brown and Janet, if she was still going, I’m saying people who are big because I believe anything is possible. Obviously if Michael was still alive he would have been first, that’s why I feel blessed to do this show even though it’s not the real Michael Jackson but I can still incorporate him into the show.
Have you come up against any obstacles so far in your career?
Loads. (Laughs) Being five foot and a size 4/6 with a size two foot, you don’t get as much work. Generally when they do an audition they want all the girls to be one height which is usually minimum 5’6, if you’re lucky, dress size 8/10, feet size usually 5/6 because they want all the dancers to be the same. Because visually it may not look right if you have a tall dancer then a small dancer on the same set, which I get. I feel like small dancers don’t really pursue it because they feel there is too much against them.
So I feel my height is the main thing that’s stopped me from getting a lot of stuff. And my smallness has stopped me from getting jobs.
Do you feel the industry is changing in terms of the quality of dancing?
Definitely. People aren’t creative anymore, because as cute as these dance challenges are, the NaeNae, Hit The Quan and all this stuff, people are forgetting how to dance. You go to a club and everyone is Dabbing because that’s all everyone knows how to do. You put on a song and no one does two-step, no one knows how to dance to Reggae, no one knows how to dance anymore. Even little kids believe they are dancers but there is no foundation. The creativity isn’t there at all.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given so far?
What are you going to do, sit there and cry or go for it? Be the best version you can be, from a Michael Jackson interview.
What’s your biggest fear?
Breaking my ankles, having an injury I cannot recover from or looking old out of nowhere (laughs).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
34! Oh my god. Being a dancing mummy and married as I’m currently engaged (laughs). I’d love to have a dance school where students learn everything, bring it right back to the foundation of dance.
What advice would you give to fellow aspiring dancers?
As a dancer have a look but be different, if you got braids then rock them braids and make them your signature. Obviously, you can change yourself up, like I do sometimes; I wear a wig. Like my signature thing is my short hair. If you have cheekbones make sure your make up artist is making them standout, whatever you have work with it. If you have nice legs make sure in pictures they are out, do whatever you need to do to get noticed but have your self-respect as well. Don’t settle, and don’t dance for free either. People have budgets and money, they will tell you they don’t, but don’t do free work. And do not do anything you feel uncomfortable with, if an artist wants you all over him and you don’t want to then speak up, if they send you home then so be it. They will respect you for it. I’ve had to do it plenty of times and they may never book me again but that’s fine. You are your brand, so everything you do you’re branded, what you put on social media is adding to your brand. And people are watching everyday. If you want to be an all-round dancer then learn everything and have a good idol to look up to.
What’s the last thing you bought?
A cup of hot chocolate from Costa.
And where can we find you?
I want to start a YouTube channel so that should be up and running soon.
www.jacksonliveinconcert.co.uk for show dates.
And lastly, if you could send out a message to women, what would it be?
Just do it. Whatever you want to do, just do it. Believe in yourself.
Thank you Jessica!
All photography by Neomi Fearless