WorldWide Dance Challenge’s Jesse Paul Smith On Helping Dancers Catch Their Big Break

What are some sacrifices you’ve made to get to where you are?

One example that stands out to me is when I went to an audition in Florida, which got me signed as a dancer with McDonald Selznick Associates. I grew up in a lower-middle-class family with 3 siblings. We didn’t have much money. When we went on vacation, we never stayed in fancy resorts or high-class destinations. It was always a low-budget motel or hotel.

This audition was held at the World Marriot Center in Orlando, Florida. It was the nicest hotel I’d ever seen. I remember seeing the waterfalls flow into the pool and staring at them forever. I couldn’t wait to explore and take advantage of all the amenities. 

We had a scheduled time we’d learn the choreography for the next day’s audition. My time was literally an hour after I arrived, so I didn’t get much time to relax before getting into it. I walked in and saw 250 dancers gearing up to learn the choreography. After working for 45 minutes, they let us go. The choreographer saw me lingering around outside trying to practice because I was struggling with the piece. He could tell I was getting frustrated, so he handed me a CD of the music with a small boombox and said, “Take this and go to work. You can do this.”

With the CD and boombox, I found a corner of the hotel big enough to practice in and plugged in the boombox. I was there the rest of the day and into the evening just practicing. While everyone else got to enjoy the resort and the beautiful pool, I was working away.

I don’t regret it. Ultimately, MSA signed me on and I got to do some awesome work with them. It wasn’t an easy sacrifice, but it was worth it in the end.

What drives you to keep working hard each day?

I know who I’m serving: the dancer who’s dreaming of making it big. I know what it’s like to lay in bed and dream about the day you get your big break and can do what you love in front of thousands of people. When I wake up, I know I have the chance to help make their dream a reality. 

What motto do you live by?

If you help enough people get what they want, you will eventually get what you want. 

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