Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesse Smith.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I started dance at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in my hometown of Arvada, Colorado when I was 12. I trained in jazz, modern, ballet, locking, and breaking. I trained there throughout middle school and high school, dancing up to 35 hours a week, performing in shows bi-annually, and participating in outreach programs. Upon graduating from high school, I moved to Denver where I danced on and off for about a year, dancing in a local company. I transferred my sophomore year to CU Boulder, where I found Block 1750. This is where I cultivated my voice and my style, training primarily in contemporary and hip hop.
In my final year of school, I discovered house dance and immediately fell in love. I graduated from college, and on a whim, packed up my car and decided to move to Los Angeles, CA to pursue a dance career–may be out of a lack of options or love for the non-profit line of work I was setting up for in Colorado. LA was where I fell in love with street dance culture and club dance culture. I threw myself into the freestyle world of battles, late-night parking lot sessions, and club events. The authenticity, passion, and the pure love of movement was what drew me to the freestyle world. I had been feeling apathetic towards dance until I found these people and these communities in LA. For the last two and a half years, I’ve been working to define my style, trying to find a bridge between the contemporary movement that I grew up with, and the street and club styles that I primarily train in today. The through a thread of movement that I always came back to, however, was house dance.
Early on in 2019, my two friends, G’bari Gilliam and Alex Almaraz, approached me about their idea for a house crew. SyntheSoul House Crew was born April 2019, out of love for the culture, the dance, the music, and the people, with the goal of promoting house culture in LA and growing the house dance community. As I continue on my dance journey here in LA, I hope to really fine-tune my dance that is true and authentic to me, weaving my past with my present, synthesizing my two worlds into one.
Please tell us about your art.
When you feel sad, you listen to melancholic music. When you want to have a good time, you turn on the party tracks. When you’re fuming after a three-hour visit at the DMV and you want to rage, you may blast some Green Day or NWA. What if dance had the same effect? What if when we felt a certain way, we watched Lil Buck dance to Yo-Yo Ma, Svetlana Zakharova in Giselle, Tight Eyex kill off? I believe that dance has the ability to not only express someone’s inner world, but also change something within someone else. I believe that it has the power to build a bridge of empathy between dance and the audience. I believe that when the dance is expressed, it is transmuted into healing for everyone involved. I strive to create art that not only speaks to me, and speaks of my experience, but also speaks to others and what they’re going through. Whether I’m in the club and living my best life, getting other people to smile and jump in the cypher, or I’m performing a solo and baring my pain on the floor, I aim to connect to myself and others in a deeper way. At first, I was able to find this when I did contemporary because I felt the music and the emotions were easily translatable and easily understood.
Recently, I’m finding ways in House to bring out a wide range of emotions: happiness, sensuality, anger, flirtatiousness, aggressiveness, etc. The genre of House music is so vast, that I find myself being carried to these different feels as soon as the track plays. Since House is a social dance, I find that it also has the ability to not only carry someone to spiritual heights, but it allows that person to be witnessed and felt by people who are contributing and sharing the energy within a cypher or an exchange. So, my hope for dance is this: that in a world where we live behind screens, and where image is everything, that we can still shed these layers and uncover each other. Where we can meet late at night in clubs and share our souls. Where we can be seen in our most vulnerable, authentic states, and connect with each other in that way. In this way, dance is healing, dance is revealing, and has the power to change the world.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
In the dance community especially, compensation and representation have been a huge issue. Organizations and individuals are doing good work in terms of helping the treatment of dancers within the commercial and entertainment industry. However, dancers are still getting roused into working for free under the guise of “exposure”, not getting paid enough to work in unsafe (physically and emotionally) environments, and ruthlessly competing against one another in the hopes of maybe getting $100 for a 12-hour shoot. The hard thing about being an artist is not only does one have to train their entire lives to be at the professional level, but also you have to turn the thing that lights your soul on fire into the thing that makes you money. Not that this is a contemporary issue, but I feel as if now more than ever artists are pressured into working in environments that are especially draining and under-compensating for the sake of the image.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My crew, SyntheSoul House Crew, has been working on not only investing in the House dance community in LA with free workshops, club events, and sessions but also theater work and performances. You can follow us on Instagram to see where we’ll be @synthesoul, and my personal page, @justjess0810.
- Phone: 303-642-5463
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @justjess0810
George Simian, Haylie Harwood