Choreographer Jared Fox came from Los Angeles to teach improvisation and contemporary dance to students at The Dance Connection in Webster City this week. For Fox, those forms of dance are more than just movement.
"I always tell my students how dance is a form of therapy, and it's what gets me through my everyday life and through all my problems and struggles," Fox said. "That's kind of what contemporary dance is to me."
Fox lives in Los Angeles, Cali., and has worked with Celebrity Dance Competitions based in Phoenix, Ariz., has taught dance across North and South America and later signed on with DDO Artists Agency to become a professional dancer. HE has performed for the Latin Video Music Awards, was a backup dancer for Ryan Adams and took the role of the Nutcracker Prince with the Southern Crescent Ballet Theater.
Professional dancer and choreographer Jared Fox teaches a class at The Dance Connection on Wednesday evening. Fox taught about improvisation and contemporary dance, and is shown here warming up the dancers.
Fox's Wednesday class was held with students 12 years old and up. Becky Harfst, owner of The Dance Connection, said these advanced students will use what they learn with Fox during competitions in Spring.
However, Fox is not far from home while teaching at The Dance Connection. He is a Fort Dodge native who trained and competed with the Hollingsworth School of Dance and Gymnastics. Fox competed against dancers from The Dance connection when he was younger. He said he met with Becky Harfst, owner of The Dance Connection during a Celebrity Dance Competitions meet and she asked Fox to teach at her studio.
On Wednesday, Fox taught a class for dancers 12 years and older. Fox said he likes to begin with an intense warmup with stretching, abdominal work and some conditioning. He also taught the young dancers about improvisation. Fox said improvisation is not an exact science.
"It's more about practicing and becoming comfortable with it. It's one of those things that, as a dancer, is extremely important when you become a professional dancer, because it's what sets you apart from everyone else," Fox said. "Basically, improv is just turning the music on and start moving your body to the music. You don't pre-plan anything and you just let it go. It's a completely artistic form of dance."
Fox also gave the dancers lessons on contemporary dance. He described it as a fusion between the elements of modern dance and ballet, which was popularized after being featured on the show "Dancing With the Stars." It has fewer rules than other forms of dance, and is more free and open.
"You can basically dance however you want to with contemporary," Fox said.
Contemporary dance also includes a message. Themes are often inspired by current events or personal experiences, and Fox said he draws more from the latter.
Harfst said her students will be performing several pieces they learn from Fox at dance competitions with duet and small group choreography. Her students have learned from Fox several times, including a class he taught last year at Iowa Central Community College. Of about 200 students taught at the Dance Connection, about 66 compete. Harfst said most of those advanced dancers were in attendance for Fox's class.
The Dance Connection teaches tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and hip-hop dances. However, she had something different in mind with Fox.
"I want him to have the kids be learning something outside of the box," Harfst said. "Something that they're not used to doing. He wants to challenge them."
While she said Fox tries to get the most of out his students, he is also very supportive.
"I loved the fact that he said, 'If you don't get it perfect, that's fine. Just keep on moving, keep having fun and just keep dancing,' and I think that's what it's all about. Just finding that passion and just enjoying yourself and not worrying that you're getting the steps perfect," Harfst said.
The students of The Dance Connection work year round, and will be going to competitions in Ames, Des Moines and Omaha in Spring.