The path to dance success isn’t always a straight line. We asked three pros to reflect on their careers—including the disappointments, unexpected opportunities and inspiring moments of perseverance.
Daniel “Cloud” Campos
Currently a commercial performer, choreographer and director
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
Performing at Universal Studios Florida
Campos began breaking at a very young age, but he didn’t join a crew until he moved to Tampa, FL, at age 12. “I went to a roller rink, and there they were—the Skill Methodz! I was so impressed,” he says. “We started going to competitions and traveling around the world, making a name for ourselves.” Eventually the Skill Methodz landed
a job at Universal Studios Florida in a show called Street Breaks.
Touring with Madonna
On a visit to NYC, Campos heard about a Madonna tour audition. “I didn’t have an agent, but I crashed the audition anyway,” he says. He pushed through the choreography portion—an experience he’d never had—to get to the freestyle section of the audition. “I knew if they could see my breaking, I’d have a good chance of making it.” He did make it, and ended up working on two of Madonna’s tours.
The Commercial Life
After his Madonna audition, Campos got an agent in L.A. and started building his resumé. He landed gigs with a variety of directors and performers, including Jon M. Chu, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Campos quickly discovered just how intense the commercial dance world could be. “The audition process is intimidating when people have expectations of you,” he says.
Discovering His Passion for Directing
While dancing in music videos and films, Campos realized he had his own ideas about how to capture movement on camera. He shot his first short dance film, The Paperboy, while
he was working at Universal Studios, and posted it on YouTube. “It ended up getting a lot of attention,” he says. “I know I can’t dance forever, and I realized this was another creative path to take.”
Campos’ newest dance short, Today’s the Day, is about facing your fears and walking into the unknown. “I enjoy telling stories with my body,” he says. “I want to bring back the golden days of dance films.” He’s looking forward to more dance-inspired directing projects.
Currently a member of Nederlands Dans Theater (and a new mom!)
(Photo by Marty Sohl)
Dancing with LINES Ballet
After graduating from the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Jacoby immediately accepted a job with the contemporary company Alonzo King LINES Ballet, in San Francisco. “I had hoped to join PNB, but they didn’t want to take the risk of hiring me because I was so tall,” says the 5' 11" dancer. “LINES was a different path than I had imagined.”
Though she enjoyed working with LINES, Jacoby still dreamed of a super-classical ballet job. She continued to attend auditions while working with the company. “I met so many people through auditions,” Jacoby says. “In the end, the conventional ballet path didn’t work out for me. But those endless auditions were very enriching. I figured out there’s more than one way to make it in the ballet world.”
Freelancing in NYC
After a few years with LINES, Jacoby decided to strike out on her own in NYC. “I created a DVD and website, got a commercial agent, started auditioning for movies and Broadway shows and took classes at Steps on Broadway every day,” she says. “I landed a gig with choreographer Lar Lubovitch, and from there, it just snowballed.”
Jacoby & Pronk
One of Jacoby’s freelance jobs was touring with Complexions Contemporary Ballet as a guest artist, and that’s where she met dancer Rubinald Pronk. They began to perform together as Jacoby & Pronk, building a name for themselves by collaborating with choreographers such as Christopher Wheeldon and performing at festivals like Jacob’s Pillow.
Joining Nederlands Dans Theater
While Jacoby was collaborating with Pronk, Paul Lightfoot and Sol Léon, then resident choreographers with Nederlands Dance Theater, brought up the idea of Jacoby joining NDT. But at that point, “I was still excited by making my own path,” Jacoby says. Two years later, after Lightfoot was made artistic director of NDT, he offered Jacoby a contract—and she was ready to accept it. “One of the reasons I stopped freelancing was fatigue,” Jacoby explains. “We were performing four pieces a night, I was doing all of the administrative work and we were traveling nine months of the year. I was trying to get funding, which was way over my head. So I was ready for company life again.”
Jacoby has now danced with NDT for three seasons. She’s able to maintain her professional connections by teaching, producing galas and performing at festivals. These days, she’s enjoying spending time with her new baby.
Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie
Currently a teacher at Broadway Dance Center and founder of Ephrat Asherie Dance
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Discovering Her Passion
Asherie began studying ballet at age 10 and Graham-based modern dance at 14. She loved hip-hop music, but “it was the ’90s, so hip-hop classes weren’t available at most dance studios,” she says. She went on to study at Barnard College, majoring in Italian. Halfway through her degree, she saw Rennie Harris’ groundbreaking hip-hop work, Rome and Jewels, which gave her a new perspective on dance. “It completely blew me away,” she says.
Adventures in Italy
Asherie was studying abroad in Italy when opportunity struck. “I was looking for an apartment, and I accidentally walked into a b-boy gym,” she says. “It just fell into my lap!” She started breaking, and found that it gave her the voice she’d been looking for. “I didn’t have to look in the mirror at my body—it was freeing to just be connected to the music and the movement.”
Back in NYC, Asherie discovered the city’s underground breaking scene. “You had to
prove yourself there,” she says. “The guys always thought I was someone’s girlfriend or a groupie.” One dancer in particular, Richard Santiago (aka Break Easy), took her under his wing. “He would teach me mini classes, spin records, show old breaking footage and share newspaper clippings,” Asherie says. “It was such a nurturing approach to my education.”
Committing to Dance
Life after college was challenging. Asherie waited tables, worked as an Italian tutor, wrote grants and danced at night. “I landed a breaking gig, and called in to work well in advance to get someone to cover my waitressing shift,” she remembers. “But my boss ignored the request, and I was fired.” It was a crucial moment: Asherie had also just landed her first jobs teaching dance, at Peridance Capezio Center and Broadway Dance Center. “I decided it was time to commit myself entirely to my practice, and I got an agent.”
Forming Her Own Company
Asherie began to develop as a choreographer as well as a dancer, and eventually founded Ephrat Asherie Dance. The group earned residencies at New York Live Arts and Jacob’s Pillow, which allowed Asherie to further explore her creative voice. She also kept up a busy teaching schedule. “When I’m fulfilled in my choreography, that makes me a better teacher,” she says.
After Asherie curated a show at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side of NYC, she was commissioned to do a full-evening work for the venue. The result, A Single Ride, was nominated for two Bessie awards—one of NYC’s highest dance honors.
Asherie recently finished a residency on Governors Island through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She’s also an MFA candidate at the University of Wisconsin—a low-residency program that allows her to continue making work in NYC. This spring, she’ll be touring with Get on the Good Foot, a dance tribute to James Brown.
Jacoby in Lightfoot León’s Softly As I Leave You (Bill Cooper)
Powerhouse contemporary ballerina Drew Jacoby’s sinewy strength and magnetic stage presence have made her an audience favorite all over the world. After studying at the School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Jacoby joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet at age 17. In 2005, she won a Princess Grace Award and was invited to dance with ballet superstar Sylvie Guillem. Two years later, Jacoby decided to become a freelance dancer, and formed the partnership Jacoby & Pronk with dancer Rubinald Pronk. An innovator in more ways than one, Jacoby also founded the website DancePulp.com in 2010, which features video interviews with dance stars. She began the next chapter of her dance career in August as a member of Nederlands Dans Theater.
Dear Young Drew,
You may think you are wise beyond your years, but you have a lot to learn. Stay humble. Your drive and ambition will get you far, but don’t let impatience spoil the journey. Try to enjoy each moment and not look too far ahead. This will be a constant struggle for you.
Jacoby at age 10
Remember that success is about more than just raw talent. You’re blessed to have a supportive family and teachers who encourage and push you. That support network will help you through challenging times when things don’t seem to be going your way. And your way is not always the right way. When a door doesn’t seem to be opening for you, it’s probably for the best—there’s a better door right around the corner.
Don’t try to fit any mold. You’ll be grateful for being different one day. You’re going to experience more than you can imagine; store it all up in your heart, and be ready to share it when the time comes.
You’ll have to work harder than most, but artistic satisfaction is worth the effort. Be generous and gracious in your life, as you’ve been given a great one.
NDT photographed by Rahi Rezvani
There are two types of people in the dance world: Those who are obsessed with Nederlands Dans Theater, and those who haven't seen the troupe perform yet.
NDT is a dancer's company, and I mean that in two senses. First, its repertoire is chock-full of rich, calligraphic pieces that dancers just love to perform. Second, the company dancers themselves are gorgeous. They're rare beasts, those NDT-ers: They manage to be emotionally raw and technically polished at the same time. (Right now, by the way, their ranks include one of our all-time favorites, Drew Jacoby.)
This week, the Joyce Theater Foundation is bringing NDT to Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. It's the company's first NYC visit in eight long years, which means a lot of Big Apple dance nerds are getting very excited right about now. While NDT is best-known for its Jiří Kylián repertoire—Kylián was its artistic director from 1975-2004—the New York program will give us a look at two works by dynamic duo Paul Lightfoot (the current artistic director) and Sol León.
Click here to find out more about the program, and get a sneak peek at the dancing below.
(A heads-up: The program does contain some nudity, though this video clip doesn't.)
Have you ever wondered how contemporary ballet queen Drew Jacoby got her lithe legs or commercial diva Comfort Fedoke chiseled her arms? DS asked a few pros with particularly toned physiques for their fitness secrets and go-to moves. Read on—and then get moving!
Dancer: Comfort Fedoke
Where You’ve Seen Her: Comfort was a finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 4 and an All-Star on Season 7. She also has featured roles in the upcoming films Footloose and Honey 2.
Secret to Her Success: “I go to the gym almost every morning and I focus on my arms,” Comfort says. “I do arm curls with free weights and I spend lots of time practicing my popping and locking because it forces me to flex and release my muscles. I also do 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups every night.”
Go-To Move: “The Fresno, a popping move, tones my entire arm at once,” she says. “Extend your arms to the front or the sides, flex all your muscles at the same time and then release them at the same time. It should feel like it does when you ball your fist up and release it.”
Dancer: Rachele Brooke Smith
Where You’ve Seen Her: Rachele played the lead role in Center Stage: Turn It Up and she will star in the upcoming film The Beach Bar. She recently danced in Burlesque and on “Glee,” and she’s a guest teacher with L.A. DanceMagic.
Secrets to Her Success: “I love Cardio Barre, hot yoga, riding my bike and walking,” Rachele says. “I only spend 10 minutes a day doing ab-specific moves. But I focus on keeping my abs contracted during every type of workout, even when I’m dancing or walking around. Exhale each time you contract your stomach muscles and hold ab moves longer than you normally would.”
Go-To Moves: “Hold a plank position for at least 30 seconds and then do five push-ups. Then, flip onto your back and lift your upper body and legs into a V-sit-up position and hold that for at least 30 seconds. Then do a few crunches before you roll over and start again.”
Supple and Strong Legs
Dancer: Drew Jacoby
Where You’ve Seen Her: Drew is one half of Jacoby & Pronk. She has also performed with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and more. This spring, she’ll perform at Youth America Grand Prix galas in several cities.
Secret to her success: “It’s important to exercise the weak areas of your body so you don’t overuse the strong areas,” Drew says. “I run, swim, bike and do Pilates so I can work on the areas that don’t get as much attention when I’m dancing.”
Go-To Move: Drew has naturally muscular outer thighs, so she uses bridges to strengthen the rest of her thighs. To try a bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms by your sides, palms down. Push your hips toward the ceiling, leaving your arms, feet and shoulders on the floor. Hold that pose for one breath, then lower your hips to the floor.
Dancer: Erica Jimbo
Where You’ve Seen Her: dancing with Pilobolus since 2009
Secrets to Her Success: “I do Wushu—a type of kung fu—at least three times a week. It helps me strengthen all over. I also do yoga, Pilates, and various core and back workouts.”
Go-To Move: One of Erica’s favorite exercises simultaneously tones her arms, shoulders, abs, back and more. To try it, place your hands on the sides of an exercise ball and extend your legs so you’re in a push-up position. Make sure your shoulders are over your hands, your legs are straight and your feet are together. Inhale, bracing your abs and back. As you exhale, slowly extend your arms and push the ball forward as far as you can while maintaining your form. Hold for one breath. Inhale and slowly roll the ball back to the starting position. Keep your shoulders in place throughout the movment. Work up to 8 to 10 reps.