Jakob Karr is Bad to the Bone
When Jakob Karr stepped on the stage in New Orleans to audition for “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 6, audiences got their first glimpse of his exceptional talent: lofty leaps, flawless technique, a quiet confidence and flexibility that puts Gumby to shame. Jakob, who started dancing at the age of 12 at Shooting Stars School of Performing Arts in Clermont, FL, was an audience favorite throughout the season and nearly nabbed the title of America’s Favorite Dancer, finishing as first runner-up. But “SYTYCD” was just the beginning of his professional career. A few weeks before his 20th birthday, Jakob joined the Bad Boys of Dance, a company founded by Rasta Thomas that performs technique-based choreography to chart-topping rock and contemporary music. This summer, the Bad Boys set out on a six-month international tour, which started out in Australia. Jakob kept a diary of the first leg of the journey for DS. —Katie Rolnick
Sunday, May 2
I just arrived in Maryland to begin rehearsals for the Bad Boys of Dance tour and we got started the second I walked into the studio. Robbie Nicholson, our talented dance captain, is leading rehearsals. Today I was turning and jumping all over the place with the other new boys: Franco Nieto, Brandt Martinez, James Boyd and Chase Madigan. I’m nervous about being one of the youngest members of the company, but day one was pretty incredible.
Tuesday, May 11
I quickly learned that age is only a number and we’re all here to put on a show together. Being around experienced performers has made me work harder and pay more attention to my body and how it moves.
We’re doing ROCK the Ballet, which is in its second season—and this show is hard. The choreography requires a lot of technique and stamina. Fortunately, I built up my endurance on “SYTYCD.”
As of today we have officially learned all of the show’s group choreography; all we have left to learn are some short duos and trios. Most of the movement is very sharp and compact, which is different from what I’ve been doing recently. I’m used to dancing contemporary and lyrical, styles that are more elongated and fluid. But change is always good—that’s how we grow.
I’m having a blast hanging out with the other new guys and the Bad Boys veterans (including Kameron Bink from “SYTYCD” Season 3). The vets already know the choreography and just recently joined us, so now the entire 17-member cast is present for final touch-ups before we blast off for Australia. I’m very excited because I’ve never been out of the country before.
Friday, May 28
Touch down! After three full days of traveling, we’ve finally landed in Melbourne. We have a few days to adjust to the 14-hour time difference and I plan on being a fantastic tourist. First stop: the Melbourne Aquarium!
Tuesday, June 1
Tonight was opening night. We performed at The Arts Centre, which has more than 2,000 seats (and our week-long run is already almost sold out!). The audience was amazing. I have such a wonderful feeling inside during this show because it’s so positive and uplifting. There isn’t a dull moment. My favorite number is a duet that I dance with Chase Madigan called “Let’s Go Crazy” (to the Prince song). It’s like a quick cardio workout with nonstop flips, jumps and turns—and it’s so much fun!
Thursday, June 10
A few days ago we landed in Gold Coast, our second stop in Australia. It’s gorgeous: giant palm trees, white sand beaches and buildings that seem to touch the sky.
Tonight’s show was great! I feel like we’re all starting to blend into a company now. And as the choreography becomes more familiar, I’m finding that I’m more relaxed when I perform.
Monday, June 14
Getting to travel internationally and go sightseeing makes the Bad Boys tour even more fulfilling. Today we’re in Sydney and a group of us just went to the Taronga Zoo. There was a section dedicated to native Australian animals and we got to walk through an interactive kangaroo exhibit. Aside from the amazing animals, the zoo has a beautiful view of Sydney Harbor. You can see the stunning Opera House in all its glory.
Monday, June 21
Today is my 20th birthday! We’ve arrived in Brisbane (our fifth stop) and have the night off, so the whole company is going out with me to celebrate.
The venue here is beautiful. We’ll be dancing at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre Concert Hall. The ceilings are so high I can’t even see them and the audience seating area is massive. It’s a little intimidating, but the theater’s grandeur adds excitement to our performances.
Sunday, June 27
We arrived in Darwin a couple days ago. From here, we’ll head to Perth, our last stop in Australia. Then we fly to Europe, where we’ll travel through Germany and make stops in Madrid and Paris. The tour will continue until the end of December. We’ll take a break for the holidays and regroup after New Year’s for more performances throughout Europe.
This has already become the best experience of my life and I can only imagine it will get better as the tour progresses. The Bad Boys show is a message to the world that dance doesn’t always have to be serious or intimidating. It shows that dance can simply be fun!
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.