Photo Credit: Brown Skynn
Dance Mogul Magazine had the honor of interviewing one of the industry’s most sought out choreographers, Jamal Sims. It comes a time when it’s about helping others to succeed, and Mr. Sims was generous enough to advise dancers how to do that.
Dance Mogul: Mr. Sims, are you currently getting ready to prepare for an audition now?
Jamal Sims: Yeah. Actually, we’re waiting for the word for the next audition in L.A. It’s in Vancouver for right now.
Dance Mogul: Okay, and as far as shooting, where would you prefer? Is it in Vancouver because the cost would be cheaper or is it the environment?
Jamal Sims: Oh yeah, definitely. They offer a tax break to them for the companies; so up there, it’s cheaper, which means you can get more days to shoot when it comes to the total budget, so it’s cheaper. But I wouldn’t mind L.A. That’s where I’m from. I’ve never been able to shoot one of my dance movies in my home state; you know what I mean?
Dance Mogul: Yes, and do you think it would be easier for the talent to get there?
Jamal Sims: The talent is here; you know what I mean? Like, as far as dancers, when they really make the decision to do it, they usually move to New York or L.A. I would have loved to be able to stay here. One day, we will.
Dance Mogul: What exactly are you looking for, specifically, because you’ve been around dance pretty much all your life, and you know after a while it’s like, what’s that new thing, what’s going to be new? It’s only so many ways you can spin on your head. It’s only so many ways you can do a pirouette.
Jamal Sims: Yeah, “the new.” That’s what I’m looking for. In the last movie, we were looking for a lot of group dancing. This one is going to be leaning towards individuality and uniqueness. When we’re looking to audition, I’m looking for a unique style and things that stand out, but they should be able to catch choreography as well.
Dance Mogul: When you’re looking at the dancers and you’re analyzing them, how do you judge them on dance itself? Because everybody’s interpretation of it is different based upon their influences and how they were brought up. How do you judge or determine “They got it!”, or how do you feel they can get it or they have the spirit of dance? How are you able to see that?
Jamal Sims: I like to compare dancers to listening to music, like listening to a song. There are just some songs that just affect your mood; you know what I mean? So it’s the melody and lyrics, something that just grabs you, and you could almost feel like, “oh wow, I feel like this, so it feels like everybody else is going to feel like this,” you know? You can kind of tell a hit when it’s a hit, you know? So when I see dancing, and I watch them …and I think that you can watch people do the same exact stuff, but the way it’s performed and the feeling behind it and what makes them stand out; it makes you feel a certain way, it’s like, that’s the stuff I’m connecting with. When somebody can move me, that’s the best! You can see when a dancer is more than just a step.
Dance Mogul: Yes, I understand. Let’s say someone was between 18 and 21, and they wanted to audition, and they’re just, you know, fresh from the street… they’re not technically trained, but they have a love and a passion for dance that is just enormous. How would you go about advising them to audition for something as big as this, even though they might not be technically trained or professionally polished?
Jamal Sims: JUST COME! There’ve been so many people that I’ve used over the years that have done the same thing and they just come to an audition and have waited around and waited until they got their turn, until they got their chance to take the floor. They go for it and they stand out above the rest; not just because of their technically trained abilities, but because of the passion, you know? So I think that anybody that’s going to take the chance like that and is bold enough to take the floor, they have something. So I would just advise them to be calm when they hear about the audition. We’re still trying to figure out if we’re going to do the L.A. audition, so I’ll know more soon. This all just unfolded as of yesterday, so it’s really fresh and new. But, yeah, I’d stay calm. I remember being 18 and going to a Michael Jackson audition for “Remember the Time”. The audition was in the newspaper, and I didn’t have an agent at the time, I just went to work at the audition and I booked the job. So, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’re doing it.
Dance Mogul: What would be the industry’s standard as far as being professionally ready when going to the audition? Like, do you have to have headshots? Is there a specific thing you have to wear? What is the industry looking for when they do have their standards for professionally polished dancers?
Jamal Sims: Depends if we were looking for sexy girls or if we’re looking for guys with great bodies or whatever… I think that’s depending on what the audition is. Of course, you should try to have some kind of resume, even if you haven’t done anything, just something that lists something like who you are or whatever, ’cause not everybody has a resume. But a picture is definitely helpful in the casting process because sometimes you get lost in the shuffle. When I look at the pictures and I’m casting and I don’t have the picture of the person that I remember…yes, I remember their dancing, but, there are so many dancers that if you don’t have a great picture, or don’t have a picture at all, sometimes you get lost in the shuffle. So, I would definitely say if you have a picture, have a professional picture. The better the picture, the more chances that you’ll get the job because this is something the industry looks at when it comes to entertaining people. People want to see beautiful people on the screen, so you want to try and represent yourself in the best way. As far as dressing, you want to represent yourself the best way possible in that aspect as well.
Dance Mogul: Okay, and you, personally, with every movie and every opportunity that you’re blessed to have, what do you hope to accomplish with it as far as dancing, you know, getting it out there more to the mainstream? Because dancers are always looked at as “behind the scenes” people, but clearly, you know, with the growth of these movies and competitions and things like that, that’s not the case. Dance is very relevant to society and culture today.
Jamal Sims: Yeah, you know, I just really want people to be introduced to different styles, and I want people to know that these performers are not only dancers. Most of us are great actors; most of us can sing. That’s what I hope to be able to show in these movies. Like, not only can we do this, but we do that. There’s just so much more to the average dancer, and I hope in creating these pieces that it will hopefully stand the test of time after we’re gone. I want people to come back, like, “Ahh, you guys should have seen this!” you know, and that kind of stuff. Those are things that we’re trying to do. That’s really important to me.
Dance Mogul: Okay. I know you have a busy day flying out and everything. I just want to say thank you, and I appreciate you taking the time out to share your knowledge with us. And I know other people appreciate your advice as well. Because many people want to be in a movie, whether they’re a dancer or actor; so telling them how to be professionally prepared with a professional photo is valuable information. You don’t have to be a dancer to help someone…Anybody can help somebody get to the next level. Sometimes it’s the simplest things… like a conversation such as this, that can help them and motivate them and steer them in the right direction. So, again, I just want to say, thank you, on behalf of Dance Mogul Magazine and we look forward to having you on the cover.
Jamal Sims: Absolutely. You’re so welcome and I want to thank you for putting this out there for dancers to have. It’s important.
Stenographer Credit: Monet Henderson
Edited by: Flo Jenkins