I went to high school at Robert Clemente in Chicago which was 80% Puerto Rican, 20% African American. During the day from 2-4 p.m. — study period — they turned the lobby into a discotheque and we would have a live DJ and we’d just dance. It was a way to keep us active and get us tired so we wouldn't be on the streets. Little did we know, amongst us we were trying to make new moves with hustling, salsa, and break dancing, making up new tricks. We didn't realize we were becoming choreographers. We had to come up with new material every week to win the dance floor. Also while we were at school, one of our English teachers — she created a Puerto Rican dance group called the Lasting Impressions, and we would dance the mambo, chacha, and salsa. Every regional dance of Puerto Rico, we were doing. We would do it for Puerto Rican parades and senior housing clinics, in gyms, for our community.
...I wondered, ‘What other ways can I provide my students with tools for the industry they are going into?’ So I tapped into my Broadway family and asked if they would each be willing to have an hour and a half long conversation with my students, talking about themselves and then opening the floor for questions. I find it fascinating to get this opportunity to call them up and have them agree.This is such an intimate interaction with the students and each artist. The artists will see the students and remember their faces, so all the students have to say for the artist to remember them if they go to an audition is, ‘I was in the UM Broadway Chatbox series.’ It is also an opportunity to get the expertise on the inside tricks of the trade and see everyone has a different approach. The students are getting this broadspectrum, intergenerational knowledge. We have people from A Chorus Line to Hamilton, and if you step back you can see how we are all interconnected.
RON DE JESÚS (Artist, Teacher, Director, Choreographer & Asst Professor University of Michigan of Musical Theatre), danced with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, starred in MOVIN’ OUT- Original Broadway Musical, "Come Fly Away' creative team, Artistic Associate for StagePlay’s Theater Company. Film credits: League of Their Own, Road to Perdition, Stay & Across the Universe. Awards: Best Choreographer, Chicago Music & Dance Alliance Award, 2 New York Musical Theater Festival Awards , National Choreographers’ Initiative, Ruth Page Award for “Outstanding Male Dancer”, Carbonell Award for Outstanding Choreography. Ron is repetiteur for Twyla Tharp Productions.