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.

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