Many would argue that contemporary dance doesn't have an off-season. In Utah, while the bigger companies have started shutting down for the summer and are preparing for the fall, most of the smaller companies are preparing for dozens of summer performances at festivals and non-traditional venues, to give dance fans their fix and turn them on to new works. Such is the case with Rhythm Against Society, who have been performing a variety of hip hop-influenced showcases over the past two years, and are set to make the summer brighter with new original performances. Today we chat with co-founder Jasmine Wheeler about starting up the troupe and being an independent dance company in Utah. (All pictures courtesy of the company's Facebook page.
Rhythm Against Society on Facebook
Hey, Jasmine. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jasmine Wheeler I am one of the founders, owners and coaches. I'm 22-years-old, I study at Salt Lake Community College. I'm studying in the Fashion Design program I am getting my Fashion Design and Merchandising degree. Hopefully, I will be finished by next year. My brother, Karlswood Wheeler, is 20-years-old he studies at Salt Lake Community College, he is majoring dance and business. We both came up with the idea of starting this group together. He is one of the owners and coaches of our dance team as well.
What got you interested in dance and performing arts early on?
Our older sister, Octavia, was the one who opened up our minds to dance. We watched our very first dance concert when we were 8 and 10; our sister was on the dance company in junior high school while we were in elementary school at that time. After that show, we learned that we could do this as well.
What is your background in dance prior to joining this troupe?
As soon as we started junior high school we joined our dance companies. We learned so much about choreography and basic dance-tech. We then danced in high school, took classes, but we wanted something of our own. We hated the fact that people look down on hip hop dance.
What style do you prefer, and what about it is most appealing to you?
We love hip hop dance, it’s our culture (we are black Afro-Latinos), and here in Utah I feel it's looked down upon. ... Karlswood has a love for modern dance and contemporary. I love lyrical and hip hop dance; they're my favorite styles.
How did the idea of forming Rhythm Against Society come about?
We did a lot of deliberating when it came to the name. Our first name was Trill, but people in Utah just weren't getting it. They were constantly asking us, “What does Trill mean?” We would explain that it meant "True and Real," but they still weren't getting it. My brother and I decided on Rhythm (because you have to have it do dance), Against (showing the way people are Against our cause, no matter if it was positive or negative and not everyone will see your vision at first), and Society (because Society is all fucked up and always telling you what do, how to dress, and how to look). It's difficult when you are young and trying to figure yourself out, and society isn't always a happy place. So Rhythm Against Society is what we finally decided on.
Stylistically, what is it about this troupe that separates you from others performing around Utah?
We accept all types of people. Whether you're gay, straight, black, or white, green, you came from planet Mars, nothing—we are all about giving opportunities for the youth of today. We are here to better the world and bring a positive image through our love of dance. Another thing that singles us out from the rest is that we allow all levels to join, whether or not you are a beginner or an advanced dancer, we help each other build up to their best ability.
You officially launched back in 2014. What were some of your first performances like?
These last two years have been exceptionally difficult. We have had dancers leave, come back, leave again, arguments, fights, and getting everyone to like each other’s personalities. On the dancing side of it, it's been hard to push people to try their hardest while keeping a positive attitude, making sure people are on time to practices and performances, etc. I would be a liar if I told you that this is an easy thing to do, but it simply isn't. Being the director of this team, I am in charge of booking shows, recruiting members, and organizing the structure of the overall team. It's hard to get things done while being in charge of not only myself but my members. Even my schooling had suffered because of managing this team, but I still would do it all over again, because I love my members.
Some of our first performances were hectic. We had to make sure everyone had the same hair, makeup, clean costumes, and making sure everyone showed up on time. But, on the other hand, it's been amazing. Those hard times are what bring our members together to be one big family. We have touched people’s lives with our performances as much as they had touched ours with the opportunity to showcase our talent. It gives us motivation with each performance to keep getting better and better every time.
What's the process for you when choreographing a new piece?
Choreographing a piece is extremely difficult. First, you have to think of a song that you will be able to work with, while at the same time trying to stay away from the bandwagon music. And you have to think of how many people would work with your choreography, and how it would look with other people doing it. It sucks when you come up with some great choreo
in your head, but then when you try and execute it, it doesn't always look good! It’s extremely frustrating.
How often do you perform? How has it been for you getting around the state and performing different shows?
Almost every month we have a performance. It’s difficult when it comes to traveling to performances, because not everyone has a vehicle, so we take the bus or carpool to our shows.
Where do you hope to take the troupe over the years and help bring to the SLC dance community?
I have really big dreams for this group, I would love for us to dance on Ellen
! Most of our dancers have come from difficult backgrounds, and I feel like we could better the community by sharing our stories. Also, my main goal is to get us to World Of Dance, which anyone can perform at, but you have to be incredible. I feel like that could ultimately better our professional careers and get us where we want to be.
What performances do you have lined up this summer?
Our first performance of the summer will be June 25, at Seven Peaks for Splash Fest. There will be a fundraiser for us, and if you buy your tickets under SplashFest2016.com
, we will get $2.50 out of the proceeds of each ticket. That would help us with new costumes and help us pay for the location of our practices. You can expect a breakthrough with this team this year. You'll see us around a lot more during the year and we will be showing Salt Lake the difference we can make in our community.
For those wishing to join in, how can they audition to be a part of the group?
For those interested in joining, they can contact us on our Facebook page. We are holding auditions on May 26 at 4:30 p.m. The location will be the SLCC South City Campus in the Dance Rooms located upstairs. You can contact my Vice President at email@example.com
, or myself at WheelerJasmine801@gmail.com
, or call us at 801-980-4960.