Ever since High Strung: Free Dance—the sequel to the original, fabulously dancy movie—was announced last summer, we've been eager for peeks at the behind-the-scenes action. And yesterday, the High Strung team dropped the juiciest preview footage since our own Facebook Live events on set.
What happens when legend Brian Friedman teaches at WilldaBeast and Janelle Ginestra's fabulous IMMA SPACE? A merging of the B Free and ImmaBEAST tribes that includes a mind-boggling number of A-list Hollywood dancers. Ryan Parma was there to capture the whole thing on film, and the result is basically the class video to end all class videos.
We’re thrilled for our Cover Model Search winner Briar Nolet—but we also love our two runners-up, Kerrynton Jones and Tatiana Melendez. Dance Spirit editor Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone caught up with Kerrynton and talked about her summer and the CMS experience.
(Photo by Erin Baiano)
NLG: How was your summer?
KJ: My summer was full of nonstop dancing! I kicked it off in June by attending Artist Simply Human (ASH) Nationals in Florida, which was fun and exhausting. From there, I went to California where I booked a job as a dancer in a Sia music video featuring Maddie Ziegler. I also booked a promotional video for CLI Studios with Teddy Forrance. I attended the Buildabeast Experience 2016 in Pomona, CA, but had to slip out for one day to go shoot with Teddy. Three hours after Buildabeast ended, I went directly into rehearsal with Suga N' Spice to prepare for our video "Basement Party." Two days after Buildabeast, I took a plane to San Francisco for the Joffrey Ballet School summer intensive with Josie Walsh. That about sums it up!
NLG: How did you campaign during the CMS voting process? Did you have any special strategies?
KJ: During the CMS voting process, I used my Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter accounts as well as the accounts of my mom, friends and family to get the word out. I sent emails and text messages to all the contacts in my phone and my mom’s phone. My mom’s job sent out an email to all the employees. When I attended ASH I asked any and everyone that I encountered to vote for me. I reached out to the choreographers that know and love me, asking them to support me, and they did by posting to their social media accounts. I campaigned for votes at my doctor and dental offices, from my classmates at Joffrey and my neighbors. I reached out to the convention owners in which I served as an assistant, both past and present, for support and they all posted my picture and the link to vote on their convention page. I belong to several dance crews and I solicited votes from all my team member and each director posted to the crew’s social media outlets. The studio I attended in [my hometown of] Frederick, MD, also supported and posted the information on their social media and studio website. I gave the magazines I received from Dance Spirit to family and friends who used it as a tool to campaign for votes. My grandmother shared the information with her church members and I put my cousins to work, asking them to campaign for me with their college friends.
NLG: What was your favorite part of the CMS experience?
KJ: I absolutely enjoyed the entire process but my favorite part was seeing the Broadway show Finding Neverland. It was nothing short of incredible! The cast members made the entire experience feel like actual magic. In fact we even got to see a little bit of how that magic worked backstage after the show with some of the cast members. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
NLG: How have you grown since the CMS trip and what are you looking forward to next year?
KJ: Having to campaign gave me so much more courage to approach people and just be me. I’ve opened up more as young girls, especially young girls of color, are now reaching out to me asking me questions about how to become a better dancer. I’m so honored that they see me as a source of information and inspiration.
NLG: Do you have any words of wisdom for future CMS hopefuls?
KJ: Always believe in yourself, keep training and never give up on your dreams or the desires of your heart. And lastly don’t worry about the things you can’t control but don’t let them control you.
It is with a very grateful heart that I say thank you to everyone that took the time out of their very busy day to vote and support me on this amazing journey. To the amazing staff at Dance Spirit magazine and the sponsors Sugar and Bruno, thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime. I enjoyed meeting each of you. I sincerely enjoyed meeting and spending time with Briar and Tatiana—we clicked immediately. I’m looking forward to continuing my friendship with these two amazing dancers. And lastly to my mom, thank you for all that you do and all the sacrifices you make for me. I would not be where I am if it were not for you. I love you.
From my heart,
I had the weirdest dream last night, you guys.
I dreamed that Brian Friedman choreographed a fantabulous routine to Ariana Grande's "Into You."
OK, that part's not so weird. Brian Friedman being fantabulous is pretty much par for the course, actually.
Here's the crazy part: I dreamed the choreography video featured LITERALLY EVERY DANCER I'M OBSESSED WITH RIGHT NOW.
Best dream ever. (Screenshot via YouTube)
May/June 2016 cover girl Larsen Thompson was there. So was 2016 Cover Model Search finalist Kerrynton Jones. And January 2013 cover girl Ryan Ramirez. And March 2014 "You Should Know"-er Sean Lew. And—yes—2015 May/June cover star Maddie Ziegler made an appearance, too.
Then I woke up and discovered IT WAS ALL REAL.
Happy Friday to me! Happy Friday to everybody!
She's dominating contemporary routines and hip-hop combos. She's booking jobs in L.A. and NYC. She's slaying onstage at conventions (she's a lifetime assistant with Artists Simply Human) and on set with the Suga N Spice crew. Basically, 17-year-old Kerrynton Jones is everywhere, doing everything, all the time. If you've seen her nail heels choreo by Yanis Marshall or breeze through an intricate routine by Janelle Ginestra, it can be hard to imagine that Kerrynton didn't always love hip hop. “I actually started out taking contemporary, and thought I would never need hip hop," she says. “But when I was 11, I attended The PULSE—and once I saw the kids assisting onstage, I wanted to be up there too." Kerrynton added street jazz and hip-hop classes to her schedule, and eventually achieved her goal: She was named a PULSE Elite Protégé for the 2013–14 season. “Now, I use the muscle control I learned from hip hop in my contemporary classes," she says. “Each style makes me stronger in the other."
Kerrynton is currently a trainee in the Joffrey Ballet School's Jazz and Contemporary Program in NYC. The Maryland native has become a bona fide New Yorker: She lives in a dorm on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and is homeschooled to accommodate her hectic schedule. When she has time, she squeezes in extra classes at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center.
For the moment, Kerrynton is focused on her Joffrey School traineeship, and dreams of booking a gig with Disney and eventually moving to L.A. “I think I'm leaning toward a more commercial life," she says. “But I also think I could work well in a company. I can't say where I'll end up yet." It seems possible that Kerrynton really can, and will, do it all.
“As a PULSE Elite Protégé, Kerrynton set the bar for how assistants should work for their teachers: full-out, with exquisite technique and ferocious passion. She's the ultimate role model for young female dancers, and girls in general. She grows with each passing year—she's unstoppable!" —Brian Friedman, choreographer
Birthday: March 12, 1999
Dream gig: “Dancing for Beyoncé!"
Favorite food: Cookie butter
Dance idol: China Taylor
If she weren't a dancer, she'd be: “A personal trainer"
Biggest fear: Spiders
Her dancing in two words: “Powerful and emotional"
Go-to stress reliever: Foam-rolling
Advice for DS readers: “If anybody tells you that you can't do something, do it and prove them wrong."
We never get bored watching the fierce and fabulous ladies of Brian Friedman's Suga N Spice crew. In their latest video, to "Hit the Gas" by Raven Felix, Amanda Kinert, Sarah Kinert, Trinity Inay, Amy Magsam, Taylor Knight, Leah Roga, Taylor Hatala, Larsen Thompson, Soraia Esteves and Kerrynton Jones hit it hard. This one is definitely more spicy than sweet.
Usually we try to give you a moment of Zen on Fridays, but this video, directed by Ryan Parma and choreographed by Robert Green, has us feeling psyched for the weekend. Enjoy!
The latest project to stoke our WilldaNestra obsession? A New York Fashion Week video the duo choreographed for Vogue. It's an awesomely fun backstage dance party featuring Korean pop star CL, celebrating the close of NYFW.
The vid's a whirlwind mash-up of amazing dancers (including former PULSE Elite Protégé Elyssa Cueto, vogueing icon Javier Ninja, and our April 2015 Cover Model Search Editors' Choice winner Kerrynton Jones) and strutting models—all sporting the trendiest of outfits, naturally. It's the stuff that dance/fashion dreams are made of. Plus, videographer/director Tim Milgram was involved, so it's no wonder the finished product is pure #perfection.