If you see the current national tour of Moulin Rouge!, firecracker Bohemian Jada Clark is bound to turn your head. The young dancer’s movement quality is a mix of stunning dynamism and smooth, sloping pathways. Onstage, she’s surprisingly grounded and confident for someone of just 23 years old—as good a sign as any that she’ll be thrilling under the lights for a long time to come.
Clark began dancing at 7 years old at a studio in Baltimore, Maryland, called Baltimore Dance Tech. There, she studied ballet, modern, and jazz. By the time she was in high school attending Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, she decided she wanted to supplement her concert training by exploring the competition world. She Googled “competition dance studios near me” and discovered Artistry Dance Company in Owings Mills, Maryland. From then on, she attended her arts high school in the morning and ADC in the evenings. When it was time to apply to college programs, Clark teetered between her concert and commercial ambitions. What felt like an obvious choice for her was something like the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. “I had done Ailey intensives growing up in the summers, and I thought I wanted that,” she says. But her studio owner, Jessica Gary, suggested she apply to the commercial dance program at Pace University. “She thought I was a good fit for that world,” Clark says.
As it turns out, Gary was right. Clark attended Pace, graduated in 2022, and almost immediately booked the national tour of Jagged Little Pill as an ensemble member. Six months later, she booked her second (and current) job as a swing in the national tour of Moulin Rouge!.
On the most helpful corrections she’s ever received “Dance can be discouraging if you don’t feel like you have the body for it. [Pace University faculty member] Scott Jovovich showed me the most efficient way to move through space so I didn’t focus on what was wrong with my body, but rather how to use it to the best of my capabilities. He wanted our legs up, and for us to rotate, but he didn’t leave us disappointed when we couldn’t initially do it. He focused on goals, and used physics and anatomy to help us improve.”
On the turning point in her training “I really took off as a dancer while I was in college at Pace. The program was very intense and diverse, and my freshman year was totally overwhelming to me. I’d grown up being told I was amazing, but in this setting my teachers told me I had room to grow, and that was hard for me to hear. Eventually, though, I was able to process what they were telling me, and I was encouraged by their belief in my potential. That was the turning point for me.”
On her most influential teacher “I have had several fantastic teachers, but Jessica Gary, from Artistry Dance Company, really set me on the path I’m on today. I joined her studio in high school, and there were only around seven other students there. She was a young teacher, but she saw my potential and immediately agreed to work with me. She was hopeful for both of our futures in the dance world. She opened my eyes to a part of the industry I’d never experienced before. Without her, I never would have attended Pace and likely wouldn’t have the career I have today.”
Her advice to dance teachers in 2023 “I would encourage teachers to respect their students’ dreams, regardless of their skill level. If you have a child who takes their craft seriously, and they are eager to learn and grow, shed light on them. Don’t only praise the student who’s at the front of every routine. Look for those who show up and are willing to listen to what the teacher has to say with hearts that are ready to grow. They will fly in their own way at their own time.”