Paul Taylor Dance Company is reputed to be one of the best in the world; Bermudian Jada Pearman becomes part of that legacy this month.
A massive feat, she credits the unconditional support of her parents, Sanz and Roxanne, and years of training; the 21-year-old’s grounding began as a toddler, with classes at In Motion School of Dance.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, be a professional dancer,” she said. “I always wanted to work for a company.
“I wanted to get a job out of college, but it’s rare. Even then, typically people go to a smaller company first and get experience under their belt before moving on to a bigger company.”
A legendary choreographer, Paul Taylor “helped shape and define America’s home-grown art of modern dance from the earliest days of his career until his death” last August.
He founded Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1954, earning “public and critical acclaim for the vibrancy, relevance and power of his dances”.
“I had [Paul Taylor] on such a pedestal,” said Ms Pearman. “But I thought, whatever happens, I’ll be happy I went to the audition.
“I got there and saw 300 girls were trying out and said, ‘Oh my gosh!’.”
Despite her fears she was ready, having studied dance since about the age of 3 when her parents signed her up for combo classes of jazz, ballet and tap.
She left Bermuda as a teenager for Grier School. The all-girls boarding school in Pennsylvania exposed her to top choreographers from all over the US.
It prepared her for the University of Arizona where classes “taught me a lot about how to push myself”.
“In dance now, you have to be very versatile — even ballet companies are doing jazz work. It made me such a well-rounded dancer. Whatever they threw at us, I was able to handle it.”
Audition season, which runs from January through March, proved more stressful. Ms Pearman tried out for “six or seven companies” while preparing for her final exams in her senior year of college. “We still have to attend classes [while] auditioning for companies. I was flying every other weekend, constantly travelling. The auditions were an eye-opener.”
Paul Taylor Dance Company was her last try of the season. Although it was her dream to get hired there, she had two summer intensives as back-ups. Failing that, it was her plan to move to New York City and work as a freelance artist until the next audition period.
“At Paul Taylor, I auditioned with 300 girls. You arrive and get your number, hand in your headshot attached to your résumé.
“They took us about 50 at a time, and we learnt a piece of choreography for 30 minutes. You then go into a bigger room, with a ton of people watching, and do what you just learnt; you have to be on your A game.”
Part of the challenge was that the choreography was taught “in such a tiny space”.
“You don’t get to do it full out until you get in front of them,” Ms Pearman said. She made the cut from fifty down to three, and then “started freaking out because it was Paul Taylor”.
“I made it through on a Friday and had to go back on Monday for a company class. I thought it would be terrifying, but it felt right.”
At 2pm that day she got a call from Michael Novak, the company’s artistic director, who offered her a spot.
“I went to the studio and he introduced me to the company members. It still feels unreal because it was one of my goals.
“I had a good audition season. I made it through every audition I went to, but just because you get through an audition [doesn’t mean you have a job]. Some may not be hiring for direct into company, but for apprenticeships until somebody leaves. But this was for immediate employment.”
She starts with Paul Taylor at the end of the month. Interestingly, she’d always felt she was best suited to the company’s technique. “While I was at the University of Arizona, one of my professors introduced us to [it].
“She always said that I danced like a Paul Taylor dancer, but we never had a full Taylor class, just segments. It’s clean. It has a lot of history behind it. I just think the technique is beautiful in general.
“Everybody’s body is different. There are different styles of modern done: Graham, the Horton Technique at Alvin Ailey ... but for me, Paul Taylor is the one I feel like I could do all day. It feels right on my body.”
Her time with the renowned company will be spent touring the US; Ms Pearman is looking forward to it. “Definitely, if the future allows me, I would want to grow with the company and see where that takes me.
“It’s hard on the body, but there are many dancers who have been with companies for nine years. If my body allows me, I definitely want to grow with the company.”
• Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company performed as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts this year. Learn more about Paul Taylor Dance Company at www.ptamd.org