Shaping Sound, the innovative young dance company created by choreographers Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance, and Kyle Robinson kicks off its new tour Oct 11. “We think of ourselves as a commercial dance company,” explains lead dancer Jaimie Goodwin. “The show is a hybrid between what you see on TV and the experience of live theater."
An accomplished and diverse performer, Jaimie Goodwin was a top ten finalist on So You Think You Can Dance and returns to the show frequently as an All-Star. Other television credits include Dancing with the Stars and Glee. She’s danced on the big screen in movies including High School Musical 3 and Rock of Ages, and toured with Rasta Thomas’ Bad Boys of Dance. Off stage, Jaimie was Sonya Tayeh’s assistant choreographer for the Miley Cyrus and Kylie Minogue world tours. She also teaches regularly with the 24SEVEN convention and recently taught at Stanford University.
The World Dances spoke with Goodwin about her experience performing with Shaping Sound, her plans for the future, and advice for young dancers.
What has it been like preparing for this tour and what’s in store for audiences?
Last time, [the company’s first tour], we were starting everything from scratch. This time we’re better as a group at everything and the process is more relaxed. There’s a really clear vision. We’re keeping some of the numbers from the last tour but smoothing out the edges. There’s great flow of ups and downs, with heightened emotional pieces complementing the more subtle pieces and making them more beautiful.
What lessons or experiences from the first Shaping Sound tour will you draw from this time around?
Last time, I never left the stage for more than 45 seconds at a time. I gained so much endurance from that and became much stronger. I could feel my body changing and adapting to the demands of the material. I felt like I grew more importantly on a more spiritual, artistic level, though. I was able to really connect with the audience. I was fully engaged with my character and with the other dancers on stage and I think the audience could feel that and engage with us.
That kind of stage presence can seem almost magical, as well as elusive to developing artists. Could you please describe how you cultivated that connection and engagement?
As a child I was really shy. My teacher would always tell me that I had strong technique but that I had to go further. Experience in life made me connect better in dance. Dance has always been my therapy. I didn’t want to show emotions; I was embarrassed or scared to open up. My mom died when I was 17, and then I had no choice but to express those emotions because I didn’t know how else to deal with everything I was going through. At first I’d just try a little at a time through improv. I found that I could bring emotions I explored through improvisation out in my performance. Dance is acting-based. Emotions in acting need a trigger from your personal life, so you have to experience life. When you find real emotions inside yourself and connect them to your movements, your audience will feel it.
Shaping Sound’s style of dance requires a challenging level of athleticism and versatility in addition to artistry. How do you train to keep your body up to the task while maintaining a strenuous tour schedule?
Being on tour and performing you burn a lot of calories but you’re not necessarily developing the strength you need. It’s really hard on bodies. We make a point to do ballet every day. Classical training gives us the freedom to move in different ways and also a foundation of structural integrity. A lot of us also cross train with yoga, pilates, and physical therapy.
Having been through some serious injuries yourself, what advice would you offer dancers regarding prevention and recovery?
I had two reconstructive knee surgeries. For me, the mental/emotional aspect was the hardest. My advice is to allow it to feed you artistically. You can choose to see the light or the dark when you’re injured and you have to choose to concentrate on the light. I got so hungry from not being able to move and I tried to use that feeling as fuel to help me fight. When I got back to dancing I was more passionate, focused, and appreciative. It’s so important as a dancer to educate yourself about your body and its needs—and to be responsive to your body. Having been through so many injuries now, I would never over-push myself because I know better. I hope younger dancers can learn from my experience without learning the hard way.
What are you most looking forward to for the upcoming tour?
I felt so alive! When we wrapped up last time in New York we all just bawled. We all trained so hard growing up and sometimes in the commercial dance world you don’t always get to use all that training. It feels like I’ve found the job that utilizes both my passion and my technique. I’m so excited to experience that again.
What do you think will be the greatest challenge?
We’re doing a lot of short turnarounds, lots of shows in a row without much rest time, which gets very challenging. We’ve got to just really take care of ourselves.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re definitely thinking of this as long-term. We’d really like to make a movie, but not until after we’ve gotten the most out of the stage show. We think of ourselves as a commercial dance company. The show is a hybrid between what you see on TV and the experience of live theater, and we worry that being able to see it too soon on a movie screen would take away from the theatrical experience. We’re hoping that by providing something so different we can help people find their way to live theater who maybe haven’t realized yet that they like it. That’s my first priority, but I will also be shooting a movie soon and then the convention season starts so I’ll be doing lots of teaching with 24SEVEN.
What advice would you offer young dancers who aspire to have a career similar to yours?
Try to become as versatile as possible and as strong in ballet as possible. At conventions, a lot of kids right to jump right to “the cool stuff,” but you can’t. If you build yourself a good foundation of body awareness and technique, you can do anything. Don’t get caught up in fads and what’s “cool.” Try everything, all the styles, but always go back to your foundation to keep it and yourself strong.