Shayla-Vie Jenkins

Jenkins performing with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (photo by Paul B. Goode)

Bill T. Jones dancer Shayla-Vie Jenkins is a collection of opposites: majestic yet modest, poised yet relaxed, explosive yet contained. She dances as if she’s having an intimate conversation with each member of the audience.

A native of Ewing, NJ, Jenkins began her training at the Watson-Johnson Dance Theatre and the Mercer County Performing Arts School. In 2004, she graduated from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program (with a minor in English literature) and went on to dance with the Kevin Wynn Collection, nathantrice/RITUALS and the Francesca Harper Project. In 2005, she became a founding member of Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre and joined the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Today, Jenkins continues to captivate audiences as a dancer and artistic collaborator in both companies. —Maggie McNamara



Hi Shay Shay,

Try not to worry so much about things. What will be will be. You’ve heard that song before, right? You only have control over yourself—your words, actions and efforts. Put your focus and energy there.

Your dream is to become a professional dancer? Keep your nose to the grindstone. Don’t get hung up on your fears and insecurities. Developing a strong work ethic now will set you up for not only your dance career but also your life.

(courtesy Shayla-Vie Jenkins)

There’s no greater way to express the range of human emotions than through dance. But I know you feel you’re not as good as others. You tend to get lost in clouds of “if onlys”: If only you had started in the Alvin Ailey junior division earlier; if only you were shorter, thinner, had higher arches, were less muscular. If only you were another version of yourself. But then you wouldn’t be YOU! Accept where you are at any given moment. No excuses, no comparisons, no “what ifs”—nothing but the work. You must be fearless.

In dance class, you gravitate toward the back row. Move forward into the light and take the space. Lift your head up and dance with your eyes wide open.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I know dancing on pointe is a challenge. Don’t avoid it. Keep going—you’re getting closer to success. Stay with the things that are difficult. Push your limits, girl. You don’t know how far they go.

Learn to love the process. The collaboration and everyday practice that go into creating a work are just as important as the final outcome. We are not fixed beings—nothing is permanent. Enjoy the transitions. Be brave.

I love you unconditionally.

PS: Wrap your arms around your amazingly supportive parents and tell them how thankful you are for all they’ve done.

Latest Posts

Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search