BDC Works: Jared Grimes

Broadway Dance Center’s Jared Grimes is not only a triple threat; he’s also a producer, director and choreographer! His unique style of blending tap, jazz, and hip-hop within his performances leaves audiences speechless. Jared has showcased his talent through nearly every facet of the entertainment world, from appearing on television shows such as FOX’s Fringe, touring with stars like Mariah Carey, and recently debuted on Broadway.

He lent his imaginative choreography to commercials for Macy’s and Chili’s, as well as appeared in commercials for Coca-Cola and Subway. He danced alongside legends like Gregory Hines and Wynton Marsalis, and even performed for President Barack Obama. Grimes gives us the chance to take a closer look into his world, and tells us more about choreographing for Cirque Du Soleil and the production of his project Broadway Underground.

What was your dance training like growing up?

My mom was actually my first teacher. I would watch her dance and think, “I want to be just like her!” So, I started off taking tap, and then I tried different styles at other dance studios.

Where did you get the idea for Broadway Underground? Can you tell us a little about it?

When I first moved to the city no one would let me perform, and it was just because no one knew who I was. It was the first couple of months that I had moved here, and I was new. I was like, damn! I called this person and he said no, or this person said that she didn’t have any space. I always wanted to create an outlet for people that gave them an opportunity to showcase their talents, whether they just moved to the city or they recently started dancing. I hoped that one day I would be able to do something like that, and the vehicle that I came up with was Broadway Underground. The whole idea was to mix my Broadway friends with people who are not on Broadway; passionate people who are just looking for a chance.

How can artists become a part of Broadway Underground?

Broadway Underground the remix is kind of like an open mic. In a way, we revolutionized the whole thing. Everybody can bring their own CDs, choreography, and costumes, and showcase their talents. I always have agents, producers, directors, and casting agents there to pick up people that are looking for an opportunity. The acts should be under three minutes each, and the first thirty numbers that sign up get to perform. Then there’s the element of putting together a show on the spot with these acts, five minutes before the show starts. I look at the list, craft the whole show and make sure that it’s all balanced. There can’t be too much of one style of dance back-to-back.

How did you get the opportunity to choreograph for Cirque Du Soleil? What has that experience been like?

They actually saw me at Broadway Underground! A long time ago we used to do it more like a choreographer showcase. It was a production of people that I would see around the city and ask to perform. They happened to come one night, and I guess that some of my material was exactly what they were thinking for their show. I want to say just two or three weeks later I was having auditions for the show. I was one of six choreographers at the time, and I ended up being the only one. Cirque Du Soleil was tough! You know when you envision such an entity, and you have so many thoughts about what it will be like before you get into it? For me, none of those were accurate. It was a lot of mountains to climb daily, in terms of what they expected and how they expected it to be. I didn’t enjoy it at times, but did enjoy at other times. So it ended up being a challenge and one of the toughest and greatest experiences at the same time. I always say if I can make it through that, I can do anything!

Do you prefer appearing in commercials or choreographing for them? What’s the difference for you?

I am a performer first and foremost. I’m really not sure how all of the choreography stuff even started. I began doing choreography in college and then through Broadway Underground, and I didn’t mind doing it for my own projects. Then my career kind of took off, and I started doing everything at the same time. In a way, I was killing many birds with one stone. It was easier to hire me to perform, choreograph, direct, produce, and even compose for one project. To me, appearing in commercials and choreographing for commercials are each their own form of freedom. When you are actually performing, you get to indulge in freedom in the moment. When you choreograph you feel that freedom for a second and then you have to live vicariously through the people that get to do it every night. It’s very bitter sweet.

What would your advice be for any artist trying to pursue a career in entertainment?

My advice would be to do as much as possible. I came to the city and thought that I was just going to be a tap dancer. Then thanks to all of the training that I had done growing up, I broke down all of the doors. The fact that I could do more than one discipline was a huge plus. So, take as many classes as possible and train as much as possible. You need to eat, sleep, breathe your dreams, and you need to be constantly thinking about how you are going to achieve them. There is no down time or time to relax. As soon as you relax, somebody passes you by. So, always keep busy and constantly work. I always say that you should practice as if you are not good; as if you suck! You should be afraid of becoming complacent. The entertainment world is one of those worlds where people become comfortable with their names or their resumes and they sometimes feel that they can relax. I think that’s unacceptable for people that are up-and-coming, and even for people that have already made it. To me, it’s about the heart and it’s about propelling the genres and taking them somewhere. Then maybe one day people will be saying your name. Duke Ellington for example; people will know who he is forever because of how hard he worked.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My two idols are Fred Astaire and Sammy Davis Jr., for very obvious reasons! My whole goal was to be a different, updated version of those two.

Can you tell us about The Jared Grimes feel?

That’s my band! It’s like Pop and R&B Jazz. We are kind of like the Dave Matthews Band. Well, we don’t play that type of music, but when you hear DMB you know that they have a signature sound. I thought it would be cool to do something where everybody kind of connected to tap and music. I always wanted to be in a band. I am one of those people who set a goal in my mind and the goal was to breakthrough into the music industry, and to change the whole landscape. Jared Grimes Feel is the name of the band because we are probably the only band where the front man can sing, write, compose, and dance as if my tap shoes were a guitar or piano. So we came up with the idea to throw a party at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill where we open up for choreographers that I admire. We do a 45-minute set, and after that we clear the table and open up the floor for the dance performances. It’s kind of like a new version of a speak easy. It’s a Vegas type of feel with a little twist, but in New York. 

Can you talk a little about your experience with After Midnight?

 It’s cool! It’s actually my first Broadway show! I’ve done a lot of regional theater shows and I am really kind of tired of doing regional. I love it, but the whole goal of regional is to hopefully do a show that comes to Broadway. I have done so many shows that haven’t, so it was kind of cool to do something that was Off Broadway but kind of seen as Regional Theater. I always thought it would be cool if it went to Broadway, but in the back of my mind I thought it probably wouldn’t. So, when the buzz started about it might go on Broadway, my good friend, who is one of the producers, brought me on as one of the choreographers. It’s been a blessing, but it’s also still kind of surreal. It really hasn’t hit me yet, because this world is so new to me. It’s a show where I can do whatever I want on stage. I almost feel guilty about that. I have hustled so much until I got to that point, so that was kind of a big payoff. I am blessed an honored and excited to see where that takes me after.

You have been a part of so many amazing projects. Is there one you’re most proud of?

I don’t think that there’s one in particular. Everything is school, and everything is a lesson. With Cirque Du Soleil, I learned how to be a crazy choreographer, with After Midnight I get the opportunity to grow every night in the show. I never look at it like I have a project; I just think about what choreographer I get to work with or how I can’t wait to work with a certain director. I see all of my projects as an opportunity to enlighten myself and those around me, and see what I can add to the pot.

What has been your most memorable TV/FILM moment?

I think it’s the movie I did, The Marc Pease Experience, with Anna Kendrick and Ben Stiller. I got to improvise with Ben Stiller for two scenes. Everyone thought that I was pretty funny, and I don’t think they expected that. Ben and I dug doing improve scenes outside of the stuff we were given to see if we could find anything. I thought he was going to be this really light, fun, loving guy on set but he’s really not. He’s funny but he’s all about the scene and devoting as much energy to the take. So, here I was all smiles ready to do a scene with him. There was a balance between his professionalism and my ambitious personality. I saw it as a challenge to not get blown out of the water, but yet add comically to the scene. The other projects that I have done are more dramatic. Its fun to do more dramatic roles because its challenging, but I enjoy comedy the most because being silly is more my true personality.

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