Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

Catching Up With Cover Model Search Finalist Jamaii Melvin

We're thrilled for our Cover Model Search winner, Jasmine Cruz—but we also love our two runners-up, Abigail Jackson and Jamaii Melvin! We talked to Jamai about how life has changed since the last time we spoke with him.

What have you been up to since we last talked?

I've gone out of my house a few times just to touch real marley and dance, but for the most part I've been staying at home with my family, taking virtual classes. I actually got to participate in the first ever virtual Jacob's Pillow contemporary ballet program, which I was supposed to attend in person. I was bummed it got moved online, but I'm so glad I still got to work with Sascha Radetsky from American Ballet Theatre and Virginia Johnson from Dance Theatre of Harlem.

I also passed down my title at NYCDA's Virtual Nationals and got to virtually assist Sonya Tayeh and Tiler Peck during their auditions for NYCDA's Outstanding Dancer.

What was your favorite part of being a CMS finalist?

As a dancer living in your own little bubble, you don't really see how much work you put into your art form. I felt so loved and supported through this—it's been overwhelming in the best way. I didn't realize how many people, some that I've never met, actually recognize and support the path I'm on. It feels like confirmation that everything I'm doing now is right for me.

Did you have a strategy for the voting period?

I tried my best to stay true to myself and be authentic while campaigning. My main strategy was to go through all my recent DMs and message people with a short paragraph about how I wanted to promote the contest and what their support would mean to me. As time went on, people started posting on their Instagram stories about me, which helped a great deal. Towards the end, my dance teachers and studio owner from my hometown made a campaign page on Facebook, and people started joining that and posting about their support for me.

Courtesy Jamaii Melvin

What are your goals for the future?

This time has been so eye-opening, with drastic change, progress, and shifts in the world we're living in right now. Within these tough times, I've been seeing the opportunity to figure out what I wasn't that great at, but always knew I wanted to do. An example is that through the Jacob's Pillow virtual intensive, I found a really deep love and appreciation for ballet as an art form. I'm realizing it's something I like to do, and I could do professionally if I approached it differently. But I'm still sticking to my main goals of getting into Nederlands Dans Theater and then transitioning into having my own company, Unchartered Figures. Overall, this time has helped me become my own motivator and my own teacher. I feel a lot more confident in my dancing and artistry as a whole going into my second year of school.

What advice do you have for CMS hopefuls?

Remember the solo that you submit is representing not only the artist you are, but the human being you are. Try not to get caught up in the numbers on social media and who's posting about you, but instead use the opportunity to connect to your dance community and to the other CMS finalists. This is a way to promote yourself in a positive light, connecting with new people, as well as the people you may have lost touch with over the years, but are still very much supporting you. It's bigger than just a contest: It's about building connection and community.

Being a Dance Spirit CMS Finalist is beyond the title. Even though the Dance Spirit staff and finalists were not able to come together in person, I felt a new community established, and such care and interest in an upcoming generation. For that, I'm forever grateful to be a finalist with such beautiful and inspiring artists like Jasmine Cruz and Abigail Jackson. I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that voted, shared, liked, campaigned, and believed in the artist I aspire to be. Thank you to Paramount Dance Studios, Dance Empire of Miami, Miami Dance Collective, and the New World School of the Arts dance faculty, and the dance faculty at The Juilliard School for seeing and nurturing the artist I am today. I would not be the dancer, let alone the person, I am today without your guidance and patience…LOTS of patience. Last, but most certainly not least, an endless amount of thanks to my committed and deeply devoted parents that trust and believe in both my failures and accomplishments. Thank you for seeing that 5-year-old boy and not putting him in football, but in dance. My parents, I can't thank you enough for giving and showing me unconditional love. I hope one day I can affect and impact audiences' lives the way you have mine. A Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist is a glorious dream, and to become one is transformative. Keep your hearts open, your minds rushing with curiosity, and your soul forever free. Most importantly, keep thriving.

With so much love,

Jamaii Miles Melvin

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