What it’s really like to be a dancer: Jasmine Jenner interview

By Jessamy Baldwin

Jasmine Jenner spent her childhood rockpooling in Guernsey and eating local crab sandwiches, with sand in her toes and salt in her hair. It was a typical, blissful Channel Island upbringing. Fast forward some years later, and the 21-year old is now following her dreams of becoming a dancer in New Zealand and she’s smashing it.

Now based in Wellington and studying for her diploma in dance at Whitireia College, Jasmine chatted to me about her life in New Zealand, the joys and pressures within the dance community as well as her memories of growing up on a small island.

“I knew when I was four years old and living in Guernsey that I wanted to be on the stage, whether that was as an actress, singer or something else, I didn’t know. I just knew that’s where I belonged. It wasn’t until my late high school years that I thought, you know what I could really do this and make a career in dance.

“The turning point for me was when I was cast as a dancer in a high school production and that really inspired me to pursue it seriously. Then everything kind of snowballed from there. I lost quite a bit of weight for a roll in Cats. I felt really good and that role really pushed me more.”

Now in her second year of studying dance, Jasmine is currently weighing up her options of a further study year to gain a full degree in dance or to start applying for jobs.

“I’m keeping all my options open but whether it’s next year or further down the line, I want to be able to travel the world through dance. That’s one of the great things about it, you really can see the world if you get the right jobs.

“I’m applying and auditioning for work in Mexico, India, at various resorts and on cruise ships right now. I’m open to seeing what happens, I just know I want to get out and see what the world has to offer. That’s my dream”

Her training schedule is pretty rigorous.

“We do five hours of training per day, five days a week. I also teach two hours a week on top of that and we’re expected to put in our own stretching and cardio training as well. Then there’s other classes mixed in.

“I’m literally learning new things every day – physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve grown so much as a person, and I’m not sure if that’s from doing further study and living away from home or this dance course in particular. Some of the main things I’ve learnt are how to be disciplined and the art of respect.”

Dance, for Jasmine, is “all about expression”. She says she would be “lost” without it.

“I love choreography. It’s my creative outlet. I’m a very emotional person and I use dancing to express myself. At first, the amount of dancing you have to do is very exhausting, but now it’s my normal and if I don’t dance I feel like I’ve got so much bottled up inside me. I think if I couldn’t physically dance anymore for whatever reason, I’d love to do some sort of social phycology on the side and start up some form of dance therapy.”

“My favourite style is lyrical – which, in NZ, is very contemporary. It’s a meeting of ballet and jazz, there’s so much expression, you use the body a lot. It’s a massive fusion.”

Jasmine has to be very strict with her diet to keep up her energy levels and be in top physical health.

“My body is very particular, and I can’t eat like some of the girls can. I’m currently vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free and sugar free, because my stomach does not stomach many things. We take classes in anatomy and nutrition. They tell us exactly how to be on top form and I’ve really taken it all on board.

“I ensure that every meal has its nutritional value – to help me build muscle. Before a big dance performance, carbs give me the most energy at the quickest rate so I’ll have a carb heavy meal about an hour and half before one of those. I cut down on carbs when I want to lose weight, but it’s not healthy to cut out the whole time and they are a great energy fix when you need it most.”

The world of dance is infamously cutthroat and Jasmine has witnessed its ruthless nature first hand.

“It’s one of those industries where you really need to be able to fight for it until the very end. It’s one of the few industries where you can be cut purely because you don’t have the right face shape, hair colour, your boobs are too big or your butt is too small. For people who work office jobs, hiring or not based on those qualities would be absurd, but that’s our norm. It’s hard but you just have to be able to deal with it.

“We get told you’ll audition 100 times and you’ll get one job. We have to learn to accept failure 99% of the time and grow thick skin. I was always very sensitive but I’ve learn to put up that barrier to protect myself now.”

As for looking to the future, Jasmine is trying to focus on the present moment for now, she says. But that hasn’t totally stopped her from dreaming…

“I’m pretty short sighted at the moment and I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. But I’m always thinking about travelling. I’ve had the urge to explore since I was about 10 years old, so that’s definitely a priority.

“I did a workshop a few months ago and it was all about the concept of people peaking. My goal is that I’ll never peak. I’ll obviously physically peak, but career wise I just want to keep going up and up.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars – isn’t that what they say?

Get to know Jasmine better

Who inspires you? Shana Burgess – small town girl from Australia who is now a dancer on ‘Dancing with the Stars’.

Favourite book? Harry Potter or The Hunger Games,

Favourite song? I am loving my calm playlist on Spotify right now, and my favourite song on there is ‘confidently lost’ by Sabrina Claudio

Favourite movie? Aladdin

Favourite colour? Purple

Favourite place you’ve travelled? Sydney and I love going back to the UK and Guernsey

Describe your perfect day off? Get up slowly and make pancakes, spend all day on the beach, swim in the sea, curl up in bed, watch a movie and have a really nice take out meal.

Three things you would take to a desert island? My guitar, water and my teddy – I could always find food.

Favourite things to do when back in Guernsey? I was last there is 2015 but left properly in 2001. I still love it so much. I enjoy going to kiosks and getting crab sandwiches, walking amongst rock pools and climbing on the old bunkers. I love all the little quirks that Guernsey has to offer.

A version of this article was published in The Guernsey Press.

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