June Jubilations for Jennifer Jones! Happy summer, friends! I’m thrilled to feature the sensational Jennifer Jones. You can find her lighting up the stage as Penny Johnson in the national tour of Dirty Dancing.
Happy soon to be final week, sweet friend!
I first met Jen a year ago when she joined Dirty Dancing. Our stars aligned once more and I had the honor of working with her again this spring. We spent a morning back in May strolling through Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, catching up over coffee and finding her light.
Jen is the epitome of light and love sealed with a fierce vibrancy for humanity. She is a dream to work with and even more amazing to witness her dancing brilliance dazzle audiences. #electricbeauty
Meet Jen: Jennifer Mealani Jones was born in San Jose, Costa Rica into a beautiful Hawaiian and Puerto Rican family. With Hula dancing being a staple on Mom's side and salsa dancing at every family get-together on Dad's side, dance was always in her blood. Jennifer started taking class at 7 years old in Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Tap in Ellicott City, MD. After high school, she continued her training at the University of the Arts and, after graduating with a BFA in Jazz Dance, she joined the modern dance company Philadanco. While her time in Philadelphia was so rich in education and experience, she wanted to try work on the West Coast with sunshine and palm trees. Jennifer moved to Los Angeles, CA to pursue commercial work but found herself in the musical theatre world! She is currently playing "Penny" on the National Tour of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage.
Significant Quote: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Q: Tell me about how you discovered your passion for performing? Moments you remember as soul-igniting?
I always loved music. Music was huge in my family. Some of my best memories sprung from music with my Mom, Grandma, and Aunties Hula dancing to the beautiful Hawaiian island sounds, my dad playing Spanish Guitar that would echo through his high-ceiling apartment, and my brother on his electric guitar, late at night, playing Jimi and Eric Clapton. My sister, like me, wasn't very in touch with instruments but she would try with her toy flute, all the time...at all hours. When I think of what my relationship with my sister was like growing up, it was mainly me banging on the bathroom door because she was singing too loud. So I think I discovered my passion for performing through music because it was so present in my family. I couldn't sing or play any instrument well so my instrument became my body.
Any special teachers?
I wish I could name every teacher I ever had and tell you why they were special to me but that would take up five more pages. I'll give you two: Olga Toziyakova and Kevin Malone.
Olga was my ballet mentor. When I was in middle school, my ballet teachers told me I would never be a professional dancer. I met Olga and she changed everything about my training. She was so hard on me but she believed in me. I was with her 6 hours a day, every day, for 3 years. I feel like I owe that woman the world. I wouldn't be efficient in my ballet technique if it wasn't for her.
Kevin Malone I feel like I have known all my dance life. I don't remember a time before him. I was terrified of him for years. Every time I walked into his class I had chills. The man would throw chairs at us if we did something wrong too many times, put coffee cups (yes, full of coffee) on our backs during "flat backs," make us chase dollar bills as we would "sit and twist" across the floor, and have us hold a contraction for what seemed like an eternity. He was so influential in the trajectory of my career. He was in Philadanco and Alvin Ailey so I wanted to go to Philadanco and Alvin Ailey. I am so blessed to have crossed one of those experiences off the list.
My freshman year of college, I was asked to do a piece for one of the Senior Dance Concerts. I was the only freshman in the cast, it was a pointe piece, and I was asked to do a solo. Come performance time, it was opening night, I'm doing my solo and I get stuck in a leg-catch turn. I did a double leg catch turn, the box on my pointe shoe was stuck on the floor when I finished the last rotation and I held it for at least five seconds longer than I should have. Everyone in the audience was screaming and cheering with all of the YASSSS's and WERKKK's, meanwhile I was scared shitless because my box was super glued to the floor! I couldn't come down! And I was late for the next dance section! I still get excited thinking about that moment. Its cool to have friends, 7 years later, still bring up it up haha
Q: What healthy habits and/or positive anchors have you found along your way to help keep you grounded and focused?
When I started touring, I realized I needed something to ground me; to remind me what's important like family, friends, and self-care. So I started a "Travel Box." It has a journal, sage, a beautiful tapestry of the sun, trinkets from my mother, photos of people I love, and so many hippie dippie things that remind me to hold on to my magic. This travel box has saved my life on tour. I try to write in my journal every day, sage all of my hotel rooms to give me a familiar smell in each city, and my beautiful tapestry and little trinkets always bring me light.
Q: How do these habits impact your performance and how do they inform the goals and next steps of your career?
Journaling has been a game changer for me. I "word vomit" all of my insecurities to leave them on the page and let them go, moving forward without fear. This practice has given me identity. I am able to sift through all the bullshit on paper and make discoveries of who I am as an artist, as a human. If I can put my intentions and my goals into words then I can manifest them.
Q: What's your favorite way to celebrate?
Q: How do you take care of your body, mind and spirit?
I take Yoga! I also love to take all styles of class. To be surrounded by fellow artists and hard workers; feed off their energy and move through all styles of movement, is very spiritually fulfilling for me.