In Conversation With Jenna Dewan
Actress, host, dancer and producer Jenna Dewan rose to fame with her role in ‘Step Up’. She also hosted the reality television shows ‘World of Dance‘ and ‘Flirty Dancing‘, and served as a judge on ‘Come Dance with Me‘. As a producer, Jenna won a Peabody Award for the documentary ‘Earth Made of Glass’ and served as an EP on the full series run on YouTube Premium/Starz’s ‘Step Up’ series.
Jenna, how did dancing become your life?
I started dancing really young, around five or six years old, mostly because my mom just wanted an activity for me. And I found pretty early on that I had a really natural talent for it. Our family split up when I was one years old and so my mom and I moved around a lot for her job. Everywhere we moved was a new dance studio and that became the thing that I really liked to do everywhere that we had moved. Over time, over a few years, I was just naturally pretty good at it. I had a lot of teachers showing me and telling me that I should go more into this. Then it just clicked around when I was 10 years old, everything just kind of came together. And I turned a corner and became really obsessed with it. It was all I wanted to do and then it just took off from there. It grew into love.
What feelings do you experience when you are dancing?
You feel powerful, you feel expressive, you feel a type of release emotionally that I have yet to feel in any other medium or anything I’ve ever tried. There’s no therapy in the world that as is as effective for me as dancing. It is a truly full body experience. It’s mental, it’s emotional, it’s physical and it’s fun. Performing has been probably the greatest love in my life since I was five years old. It’s just a feeling I can’t fully describe, but it is almost as if something comes over me and I can really express myself fully.
You become lost in it, but you also become really aware of your surroundings, of your audience, the powerfulness that you feel. There were a lot of times that I could be so much more connected and fierce on stage than I was in real life. It’s just something that would connect and as soon as I’d hear the music and as soon as I started to dance, I just had this ability to channel this. I’ve always found it interesting that off stage, especially when I was a kid, my persona was so different than on stage.
You appeared in Janet Jackson’s music videos and on her tour, before then later working also with many other artists. How did working with Janet open the doors for you and helped your career?
Oh my goodness. She was my first dream come true. I joke about Janet being my first vision board moment that came to be. I wanted to be a Janet dancer. The second that I saw her Velvet Rope Tour and her Janet World Tour, which I watched from TV at my house, I dreamt of what it would be like to be a dancer for her, because she really was one of the first artists that made her dancers stars with her. And I thought they were the pinnacle of cool. I wanted to be in it so bad.
I came to LA and I thought what would happen if she was hiring dancers. And then low and behold, she was hiring dancers for ‘Doesn’t Really Matter’ video, which is the first video I did with her. I ended up at the audition, I ended up making all the callbacks and then I got a call from my agent that I booked one of the parts and it was truly like a pinch me moment. My dream actually came true. I feel that giving me that break was so huge for my spirit and my confidence, knowing that it was possible for me to make my dreams come true. It lived up to all of my expectations knowing her, working with her. She was the best teacher.
Your dancing career was what led you to a career as an actress. How was it combining two of your passions in one project? How do these two completely different art forms intertwine?
It was a natural flow for me. I had been dancing and was basically scouted out by a manager at the time. I just got off tour and I loved my dance career. At first, I told her no and then she was persistent and I said I’ll go on on a couple auditions and see what happens. I ended up getting a lot of my first auditions and then there were, right around the corner, dance movies. It was another pinch me moment because I was really getting to combine both of my passions. I grew up with ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘Flashdance’ and these incredible dance movies.
Having been the host and judge on many dancing reality shows, what would be your best advice for young and talented dancers, who are trying to establish their careers?
I always tell them foundational work in their studio, whether that’s their technique or their ballet, never, ever stop keeping up with that, but also get as much training from other teachers, from the conventions, the competitions, the choreographers that are working in the places you want to work at, whether that’s Broadway or that’s movies or television. Learn from as many different people and get as many different styles under your belt as you can, because to be versatile like that is absolutely huge. And to try and get out there. There’s so many ways to expose and market yourself right now with all the different social media and the media and our business is hungry for dance. I think it’s an incredibly great time to be there as a dancer right now. We just have so much opportunity. I really think the best advice is getting out there and getting as much training in a versatile way as possible and have a plan, have a dream, have a vision and just go for it.
With a career that put you in the spotlight, fashion must be an important part of your life. What do you love most about fashion? What excites you about getting all glammed up?
I really love fashion. I love getting dolled up for an event. I love a photo shoot. I have a lot of fun playing these different characters and the different sides of my personality that can come out with different fashion. And even makeup and hair and different styles that I try on, bring out different aspects of myself and make me feel a different sense of my personality. I really love that. And I think being a performer from a really young age, being used to costumes, being used to being on stage and knowing what it’s like to transform in that way, gives me a very natural transition into having fun and loving fashion.
I have certain actress friends who really almost dread getting ready for something or a photo shoot. And I always have the exact opposite feeling. I think it’s really fun and I think it should be fun. It’s a great way to be expressive. It’s all artistic at the end of the day.
Like you already mentioned, we live in a world of social media, where beauty is something that is highly promoted in almost every post we see. How dangerous do you personally believe this is for young people, who are constantly following these beauty standards?
I love the idea of transparency and honesty and making sure that it’s personally important to me to make it as aware as possible that this is two hours of makeup and hair to look this way, or this is not how I look during the day when I’m not all dolled up and I’m not all glammed up. I think it’s important to show both sides of it because I don’t want to shame anyone or myself for that matter, for loving to look good and to get dressed up and to have these beautiful moments and be able to do your hair, makeup and feel nice and take a pretty picture. However, that’s not how we wake up. Filters are happening, but it’s not real. I do feel like that’s important to express, to make that well known. I’ve said many times that two hours later, here’s this incredible team that’s pulled me together after what I looked like before.
As a mom of two, how do you keep your personal and professional lives balanced?
I’m constantly learning how to balance more. My family and my kids and my partner and my health are top priorities for me. I love my work and I love what I do, but not being able to give to my family would not be an option for me. And also not being able to do what I love is not an option for me, so I’ve just had to balance. Like anything else in life, you figure it out. If you want to do something, you figure out how to do it.
Through the years, I’ve learned things at work, things I could do better a lot of times. For me, balance is like a banking account. It’s like what you put in, what you get out. Sometimes you put more in and you got to balance it out. I feel like I have a constant give and take going on in my brain. If I know I’m going to be on set or working for a little bit longer than normal, then I’m going to balance that with the weekend or whenever I can have and really give my all to my family and to my kids. You just really do a balancing act and you learn it as you go.
What is the most important lesson or value you are teaching your daughter and son for life?
It’s important to me that they are true to themselves, that they follow their own heart and their own passions, that they allow themselves to be themselves and to do as much as possible. It’s important not to let outside influences or anything dampen their energy or hide their light. I want them to really be the best version of themselves. I want them to be who they are and to shine their light as bright as possible. And I feel like that’s something I’m the most proud of. My daughter is really herself and she is such a beautiful, incredible little girl. And I’m really proud that she has such self-awareness and she is really just free to be herself.
What can you share with us about your upcoming projects? Anything especially exciting in the works?
I have a production company called ‘Everheart Productions’ and we have a lot of projects in the works. I started this a few years ago and I am finding unique projects that mean a lot to me. For the most part, these are positive, uplifting, interesting slices of life. And that’s been really fun for me. I’ve always wanted to be more of a part of the creation, not always on camera, but on camera and off. So that’s a big focus of mine, to build that company.
And I’m working with Neostrata, a skincare brand, which I truly am loving. I work with really great people that are really authentic to things that I really love.
Do you have any dancing projects in the works as well?
There are some stuff through ‘Everheart Productions’ that would be possible dance stuff, but it’s not for myself necessarily at the moment.