Photo Credit Erik Hyler
Dance Mogul Magazine is always looking for trailblazers in our industry, we are honored to present Jerome Alexander. Not only an accomplished choreographer but an innovator in the business of dance. Jerome and his team were able to produce the first dance subscription app, in this new digital age, it is vital that we find new and creative ways to present quality work and engage the youth at the same time. We hope the ambition of Jerome and others can lead to more creative ways to engage the arts. Jerome Alexander is originally from Napa, California. He comes from a large family, 10 sisters, and brothers, but has always managed to find the spotlight. Two days after graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles to train for the summer before attending Chapman University in the fall. Upon graduating from Chapman a double major in Dance and PR/Advertising, Jerome found himself dancing for Kanye West and rock group Ok Go! in Nike’s Human Race Campaign.
That same month, he booked Lady Gaga’s music video “Poker Face,” and booked his first national commercial for McDonald’s. Jerome was off to a great start! His next jobs included dancing for Brian Friedman on America’s Got Talent and Macy’s Passport Fashion shows; Tyce Diorio, Andre Fuentes, and Kevin Maher were also choreographers that year. Shortly after completing those jobs, Jerome did his first campaign for Aczone, a skin care line, he danced in music videos for Lil John and Sean Paul, and he became a series regular dancer on Nickelodeon’s number 1 show “Victorious.” The next year, Jerome would dance for Jennifer Lopez, appear on Keeping up with the Kardashians with new girl group BG5, dance in the opening number for the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and travel to Japan to dance for Japanese superstar Domoto Koichi.
Having only been in LA for 4 years, Jerome has broken many barriers. In 2012, he booked 3 national commercials: So You Think You Can Dance, Little Caesars (he was the Assistant Choreographer and also danced), and a promo commercial for Zooey Deshcanel’s New Girl; 2 of the commercials even aired at the same time! After that, Jerome was asked to be the Assistant Choreographer on a feature film, he choreographed a campaign for marriage equality and traveled to Tokyo, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland in between jobs to teach and choreograph. A huge milestone and accomplishment in Jerome’s young career is becoming a co-creator for The Dance App, a dance application for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Many choreographers and teachers have tried to break into this untapped market, but Jerome has succeeded in creating the first subscription dance app with a consistently changing dance faculty! As of March 2013, the app has been downloaded over 5000 times!
Dance Mogul: At what age did you develop a passion for the arts?
Jerome Alexander: I don’t remember the exact age, but I do remember wanting to rent videos of Michael and Janet Jackson way more than I wanted to rent The Ninja Turtles. I always found myself in the tour’s section at Blockbuster! We would go to checkout, and I would have at least 5 videos in my hands. And when my mom made me decide which videos to keep, I would almost always keep the dance videos. Between The Ninja Turtles and Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Tour, there was no comparison! I literally remember getting ready to go to school in the morning with Janet’s music videos on repeat in the background. And I vividly remember watching movies of Gregory Hines as well. I think I was 4 or 5 when I was first introduced to him. I was getting ready for bed and my mother asked me to come downstairs to watch Gregory Hines in “Taps.” I was hooked! Though I was definitely interested in dance at the age of 4 or 5, I did not take my first dance class until I was 8.
Photo Credit: Robert Tsai
Dance Mogul: Who were some of your early inspirations?
Jerome Alexander: I would definitely have to say, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Gregory Hines were some of my early inspirations in addition to the dancers on the Mickey Mouse Club and Kid’s Incorporated. I will admit it! I can remember asking for videos of Michael Jackson for Christmas, and I’m quite certain I still remember the choreography from the music video “Do You Remember The Time” till this very day! And Gregory Hines, well he’s definitely one of the most successful male actors and dancers we have ever had. When I think of great dancers, his name comes to my mind first.
Dance Mogul: Were your parents supportive of your passion for dance?
Jerome Alexander: Yes, I think my parents were pretty supportive. It wavered at times, but for the most part, they were supportive. To test how serious I was about dance, my parents made me try everything though! I was an Eagle Scout, I swam, I played golf, I did Bok-Fu (a combination of Kung Fu and kickboxing) for several years, Basketball, and even track. I was a very fast kid, and my PE teachers made sure my mother was aware. My mother and grandmother would ask, “Are you sure you don’t want to play Football professionally?” Despite their attempts to persuade me into doing other activities, I kept coming back to dance. So yes, there were periods in my childhood that I stopped dancing. Even though I think they were okay with my dancing as a child, both of my parents were concerned after I graduated from Chapman University still wanting to pursue dance. During my graduation dinner, my father made some comment about me giving this dance thing up, buckling down, and getting serious. I understood the spirit of his concern, but my mind was made. I was going to dance professionally. I did not know how I was going to do it, and I must confess I didn’t even really know what a career in dance really entailed day-to-day, but I knew I had to give it a try.
Dance Mogul: When did you know that you could become a professional?
Jerome Alexander: After I started training seriously as a teenager, I knew I had to dance professionally. At that time, there was a TV show on MTV called “Making the Video” that showed the entire process of creating a music video. It chronicled the dance audition process, rehearsals, and what set life was like. I watched it religiously and recorded some of the episodes on VHS! I even learned the dances! I think it was around that time that teachers and choreographers started to acknowledge me at conventions. I feel like their support gave me an extra push and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a career in dance. When I was about 16 or 17, I started traveling to conventions on my own, and then I was ultimately hired by Co. Dance Convention to assist for 2 seasons. After working with their faculty and being exposed to that lifestyle, there was no way I could stop.
Photo Credit: Robert Tsai
Dance Mogul: How did you develop your work ethic?
Jerome Alexander: I didn’t have a choice! At age 11, my dance teacher, Lisa Clark, would keep us in the studio all day the weekends before a performance and/or competition. We literally rehearsed from 9AM-9PM with a 1-hour lunch break. I loved it! There wasn’t much adjustment needed between what I did then and what I do now. She taught us to be low maintenance. We had to always do our best, “Even if you’re tired, even if you’re sick, even if the moon is made of cheese,” was what she joked. We all knew she wasn’t joking though. Get the job done and with a smile on your face… at least in public. I remember preparing for a show with a broken wrist and no cast. I didn’t know it was broken. I just knew it hurt a lot. The next day, I showed up to rehearsal with a cast and that was that.
Dance Mogul: You have had numerous opportunities and accomplishments, what have been some of your most memorable?
Jerome Alexander: I think traveling to Tokyo in 2010 was one of my biggest accomplishments. It set a precedent. I was hired to dance for a Japanese superstar, and there were only 4 dancers hired from America. It was my first international job and also my first time being immersed in such a completely different culture while working. That job was surreal! I also happened to get injured during that job, which was a blessing and a curse. It sucked, but I learned a great deal about the industry during that time… and I firmly believe that’s why I have been blessed to travel to Tokyo as frequently as I do, in addition to traveling to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, and a plethora of other places. It was a very educational period in my life.
Dance Mogul: Why is it important to give back to the dance community while still achieving success?
Jerome Alexander: I think it’s important to give back period, whether it’s to church, to the homeless, or to the dance community. When we are given success, we are obligated to give back. My pastor always says, “Do not forsake the tithe.” I try to give back weekly.
Jerome Alexander and Sophia Lucia worked together on a new venture. It was filmed at Chapman University and the details are being kept top secret! These two international dancers are getting ready to shake up the scene even more! Be on the lookout!
Dance Mogul: What advice would you have for the younger generation of dancers that want to become professionals?
Jerome Alexander: I would tell the younger generation to train in every style of dance! I feel like my generation was the last group of versatile dancers. We had to take Tap, Jazz, and Ballet PERIOD! Today, many dancers de-facto specialize. And I can’t even really blame the dancers. Their teachers are to blame. They should be stricter and require their serious dancers to take everything because they are robbing their dancers of proper dance education. People are so focused on Contemporary and Hip Hop, because that’s what wins at competitions, that’s what’s “cool,” and because that’s all America really puts out there via “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew.” There’s just so much more to dance! Furthermore, there are barely any Contemporary auditions in LA! So these poor dancers who have spent the past “x” amount of years neglecting other dance styles are in for a rude awakening when they move to LA. If you want to have a good shot at “making it,” take everything! I can’t tell you how many times being able to tap has put food on my table. Also, learn to tumble!
Dance Mogul: Tell us how the Dance App came about?
Jerome Alexander: Last year, I had 2 national commercials on TV, which is incredibly rare! First, there actually has to be a need for dancers. Second, you have to fit the look. Third, you have to book the job! I was blessed to dance in the So You Think You Can Dance Promo choreographed by Sophie Olson, and I danced in a commercial for Little Caesar’s Pizza. I was also the Assistant Choreographer for Little Caesar’s, so I booked the dancers and contributed choreography. It was a crazy time for me! During that mayhem, Kevin Andrews sent me an email on Facebook regarding a new business adventure. We spoke on the phone, and he explained his experience within the app world. It all sounded great to me, but I knew that I wanted to enlist the help of someone with a business background. I knew nothing about starting up a company, and if I was going to invest my money, I wanted it to be in good hands. On June 4, 2012, Kevin Andrews, Stacy Hagen, and I signed a contract to start what is now known as The Dance App. It was a LONG process! Apple’s rules and conditions are exhaustive, but I’m very happy to have helped create the first dance subscription app!
Assistant Choreographer: Jerome Alexander
Dance Mogul: How important is it that dancers try to leave legacies instead of bits and pieces of momentary satisfaction?
Jerome Alexander: I don’t know to be honest. I definitely don’t think people should try and dance professionally to leave legacies. You should dance because that is all you ever wanted to do because that’s all you can see yourself doing. I do, however, believe that being great is no longer enough to have a lifelong career. There were so many great dancers and teachers I respected 10 years ago that are unfortunately no longer relevant or on the “scene.” Yes, they definitely paved a way for me and my peers. Yes, they were indeed influential and the best of their time. But will they be remembered? I don’t know. Will they be written about by dance historians? I don’t know. In today’s fast-paced dance world, in a world where YouTube can make someone a dance phenomenon, you have to be the first or an innovator to even stand a chance at leaving a legacy. You have to seriously rock the boat. It’s a very fickle industry and even more now that people look to social media to determine what’s cool. And who knows, those bits of momentary satisfaction may lead to a legacy? Sometimes, one job can make a career.
Dance Mogul: What are you currently doing now to elevate your craft?
Jerome Alexander: I’m back in LA for about 2 months, so I’m taking a lot of classes. It’s almost May of 2013 and I have already spent more than half of the year outside of the country working. When I returned to LA a few weeks ago, I wanted to train not only in dance but also in gymnastics. I’m constantly figuring out ways to reinvent myself and make myself stand out from the rest. Whether it be changing my hair or adding a special skill, I try to keep it fresh. My partners at The Dance App and I are also getting ready to expand! Stay tuned! Oh, and I’m joining the convention/completion circuit. I am currently working with Next Level Dance Competition and will start working with KAR in the Fall! Be sure to check out their events, and hopefully I will see you in a city soon!
Dance Mogul: Do you feel a publication like Dance Mogul is needed to connect the Professionals with the next generation to help guide them to their goals and aspirations?
Jerome Alexander: I do! When I was younger, I sought out ways to connect with the industry. I am from a relatively small city, so websites and magazines like Dance Mogul are 100% necessary, especially because this publication is credible. I feel like Dance Mogul does a great job of mixing both the dance community and the dance industry; it’s not one-sided like most other dance publications, which may only cater to the underground scene, the industry scene, and/or the company scene. Dancers should readily have access to news from all scenes and in one place. Moreover, I think dancers and choreographers need to be celebrated, which is something Dance Mogul has successfully accomplished. Dancers are often the last on the call sheet and the first to get fired when there’s a budget issue. Still, we are often the reason why performance is memorable. Dancers, dance teachers, and choreographers deserve their fair amount of shine.
Assistant Choreographer: Jerome Alexander
Dance Mogul: Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you on your journey?
Jerome Alexander: Of course! My parents, older sister, dance teacher Lisa Clark, business partners, friends, professors at Chapman, my church family, my students all over the world, and Dance Mogul for the support!