Jason… His Life So Far

Jason Winters

DanceLife is extremely lucky to have the amazingly talent Jason Winters on board as one of our bloggers. Enjoy Jason’s first blog!
The end of my travels here in Australia are fast approaching, and what an incredible experience it has been!! The people I’ve met, events I’ve attended, work I’ve created, and friendships I’ve forged will all be burned in my mind for so many years to come. Coming all the way from NYC, I had only one image of this great country. A big rock in the middle of a continent, endless beaches, and this funny accent half way between British and American. Come to find out, this magical place is filled with some of the most talented and colorful dancers/artists in the WORLD!
I have had the great pleasure of dancing for some of the biggest and best shows/companies/people on the planet, allowing me to travel to incredible places like Tokyo, Montreal, Athens, NYC, L.A., etc. What I realized early on was that we are all the same, striving for the same experiences, while along the way developing long lasting families and friends. When I first started assisting Mia Michaels in the late nighties, my dancer self experienced the beginning of what would feel like a slow death. As I danced less and created more with her as well as Mark Dendy (an original Martha Grahm and Bob Fosse dancer), I found that I had to develop new skills, new social networks, and sometimes even a new identity. When you are someone’s assistant you are an extension of that person and every word out of your mouth is practically a commandment directly from them to the performer. So, I learned that I better know what I was talking about and be confident with how I presented it. There were times, especially during the creation of “Delirium” with Cirque de Soleil, that I thought to myself “it doesn’t get any bigger than this”. We had an unlimited budget for the show, rehearsed in a building that was originally built to store massive airplanes, had the best talent from all over the world, and a enormous support system of people to provide us with our most whimsical desires, no matter how frivolous. This sounds like a dream, but even in our most incredible dreams, a nightmare or two can creep in. Four months of snow up to your shoulders, the worst cafeteria food imaginable, 12 languages between a cast of 80 people, and one choreographer and her assistants thrown into the fire at the last minute. Mia and I would receive the music for the following days routine the night before we were set to teach it to the performers. Many nights we slept in the airplane hanger working out steps, blocking, props, costume issues, etc. It was one of the hardest and most amazing times of my assisting career, and what made it truly bearable was that I was doing it with my best friend (Mia). It is so rare to get to do jobs in our line of work with close personal friends, as we all know it is usually a cast of unknowns who discover all the good and bad of each other throughout the course of the entire project. Then, as soon as we have come to feel like a family, it is off to the next gig. This is one of the equally frustrating and exhilarating aspects of this business.
As the years went by and I began to discover the artist in myself and realize I had a unique voice that needed to be heard, I made the choice to move into the next phase of my career as a choreographer. Just as before, when I transitioned from dancer to assistant, this shift was emotionally difficult and even painful at times. In order to be seen as a solo creator in my own right, a kind of death leading towards rebirth, was necessary. Just as before, I needed to make new contacts, do work for free (as we all do from time to time), develop relationships and a body of work that would be respected, all in the hopes of wearing the new title of choreographer. This is where I am today, and it is exciting as well as terrifying at times, but it is a part of every one of our lives if we choose to stay on this path. The beauty of it, is that without fear, we can get through the difficult times where work seems lacking and inspiration seems fleeting, knowing that we will come out all the richer in experience on the other side.
I have only touched the surface of working here in Australia with these amazingly talented dancers/singers/musicians/friends, and now as I return to my faculty position at STEPS in NYC, and Canada’s incredible convention DANCFUZION. I am so inspired to bring the last six months of my work to a new group of young dancers. Watch this space as I document the next year as a master teacher around the world, and as the co-founder of a brand new contemporary company to hit Sydney next year.
Love & Light,