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Q&A: Jeremy Duvall

Q&A: Jeremy Duvall

Dance Performance alumni Jeremy Duvall works as a Dancer/Teacher/Choreographer and is the Co-Founder of Industry Xperience, a traveling dance convention dedicated to bringing high-end, exclusive, personal training to the next generation of artists. While passing through Oklahoma, Jeremy stopped by the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment to teach two master classes at his alma mater and sat down for an interview that covered industry trends, the impact of social media on dancers’ careers, how his time at OKCU helped shape his career, and much more! Click below to learn more about Jeremy Duvall’s background.

Jeremy Duvall's Background

JEREMY DUVALL carries all facets of the arts and entertainment industry with him as a working Dancer/Teacher/Choreographer.  Credits include Wicked, The Jungle Book, Billy Elliot, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, ABC Family's Bunheads, Tokyo Disney Sea's premier cast member of Encore!, Spamalot at the Hollywood Bowl, Opera Pacific's Aida and Samson & Delilah, Madison Opera's Carmen, and numerous musicals with the Music Theatre of Wichita.  He has also performed with renowned dance companies such as Jeff Amsden's A Few Good Men Dancin', Mark Meismer's Evolution, and Justin Giles's Soulescape.  Jeremy has taught at numerous college/universities across the country and been on faculty at the prestigious dance facilities Broadway Dance Center, Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, and Edge Performing Arts Center.  His knowledge of dance and choreography has taken him around the globe to such countries as Italy, France, Canada, and Japan, to name a few. A proud graduate of Oklahoma City University-School of American Dance and Arts Management. You can currently find Jeremy playing the role of SVEN in the World Premiere of Disney's Frozen musical! Jeremy is thrilled with any opportunity to share the knowledge he received with the aspiring youth of today and ever-growing artists of tomorrow.

Follow Jeremy on Instagram: @jeremyduvall.

Did you arrive at the Ann Lacy School of American Dance & Entertainment with the intention of pursuing a career as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer?

I definitely expanded my interests as I went along. I started teaching when I was probably fifteen at my local dance studio and then started choreographing for some students in my hometown around eighteen. I would teach other students and I would make up dances for my friends. So I have been teaching for awhile, but my true love for teaching came from being here at OKCU and going through the pedagogy programs that are required for Dance Performance majors. I always knew that I wanted to have a career in dance. Coming here, I knew that my focus needed to be on proper technique and all kinds of styles. That’s why I loved OKCU, because they offer all styles of dance: ballet, tap, jazz, musical theatre, and I always grew up thinking that I wanted to be in a professional jazz company. My path transferred to musical theatre from my time at OKCU and by auditioning for Music Theatre Wichita. I booked Musical Theatre of Wichita during the summers I was in school. So my love for teaching has always been there, my love for musical theatre blossomed from being at OKCU and from working for Music Theatre Wichita.

When you are teaching young dancers at conventions or in master classes, what stands out to you?

Right now, it’s a lot of ego and children not working as hard as they should. Social media has had a ton of influence on the youth. Not saying it's in a bad way but not saying it's in a good way either because a lot of times they think they can just post on social media and become famous and that’s not what being famous is or what is needed to be famous.

It's not widespread. There are definitely kids who are very well disciplined and very respectful and focused in class. But I’m just seeing more and more that social media has definitely had an impact.

So I would say, shut off social media and get back to the basics of class. The thing with social media is that the youth now want to jump right away to things that they probably shouldn’t be doing until they’ve learned the basics of proper alignment with their body and have taken ballet classes and are really focused. Granted, I think back to when I was their age and with ballet, at that point, I was thinking, “Ugh, at the barre again?” I didn’t realize the importance of ballet until I was older.

When I’m actually in the room with young dancers, I try to give to them the need for more need. They should need more from their teacher. Anyone can learn from anyone in any room, that’s up to them when they are perceptive to learning. Learning from their peers, from their family, from their teachers. I try to instill the need for wanting to get better and using their eyes. It’s not just about watching someone's feet or arms. You have to be peripheral.

While at OKCU you were a member of the American Spirit Dance Company. In what ways did that experience prepare you for the renowned dance companies you went on to be a part of (Jeff Amsden’s A Few Good Men Dancin’, Mark Meismer’s Evolution, and Justin Giles’s Soulscape)?

Oh my gosh. It prepared me for every aspect of every job that I was in and have done and continue to do. American Spirit is always double cast so I think that prepared me for being a swing [a member of the company who understudies several chorus and/or dancing roles]. I have been a swing in several shows that I have done. I attribute OKCU and American Spirit with the quickness that a brain needs for a performer to be a swing. Especially with Radio City. The Rockettes show. They are quick. And through the auditions they show steps maybe twice. I was in an audition once for Radio City and the director did a jump. Her arms were in a specific area and she said, “Okay this is the last time I’m going to say it, your arms need to be here, if you do it wrong again I am going to cut you.” And sure enough, she cut the people that did it wrong again. But, being a swing, your brain has to be active, active, active. So being double cast and being put in so many different numbers through American Spirit and in such a time crunch, it definitely had an impact on my career.

When you look back on your time here at OKCU, what stands out the most?

To me what stands out the most, oh gosh, I mean my first thought is Jo Rowan [OKCU’s Dance Chair]. Jo the Toe. I don't even think she truly knows the impact that she has had on my life and in my heart, forever and ever and ever. I’m sure it’s that way for every student that has come through these doors. And it's not just Jo. I had Kay Sandel and Nikki Singer, all those amazing faculty. The true camaraderie and family that OKCU has here is undeniable. That’s what Jo taught us when I was here. We are a family regardless of whether you know people who have graduated years and years before you. You can contact them and you have a bond. You can say, “I am a graduate of OKCU and Jo or whoever has told me to contact you because dot dot dot,”  and there is that camaraderie and family feeling with every OKCU student. So I would say that the camaraderie is what impacted my life the most and definitely Jo.

What is your advice to students who are just starting out at the Ann Lacy School of American Dance & Entertainment?

Trust yourself. And be open to learning all aspects of this amazing program. All aspects from the pedagogy program, all aspects from the entertainment business program, all aspects from the dance performance major and the dance management major. There is so much to learn and I don’t think that I thought about that when I was here. If I could time travel back and tell myself then the more you learn the more you are going to know for what you are needing in the real world. I would say trust yourself, trust that you are in an amazing place at an amazing university and learn as much as you can.

What advice do you give to high school dancers who are trying to find the right dance program?

That’s an interesting question because we do  Q&As throughout the country with our Industry Xperience conventions and a lot of times the question is, “Should I go to school, do I need school?” Our faculty is very diverse and not everyone on our faculty went to school and I can tell you, after my sophomore year, I thought that I was ready to not come back to school and book a job. My goal was to audition for Radio City and book a job and do that and I never got a phone call. So August came around and I thought, “I guess I should go back to school,” and thank God I did because my junior and senior years were the years I learned the most. So I am very thankful that I finished.

So I would say firstly, listen to your gut and your brain. Do you really want to have that schooling? I did at the time because I was the first to graduate from college from my family. So I wanted to do that. The other question is, “What are they are looking for?” Do you want to be in a ballet company, do you want to be in a modern company …  there’s a school for you that focuses on that. OKCU is very all-encompassing. The majors offered here are incredible: Dance Performance, Dance Management, Entertainment Business, Dance Pedagogy. Like I said earlier, pedagogy was where I truly discovered my love of teaching and teaching the proper way. OKCU is incredible because they offer the Pedagogy Program where they teach you how to teach. If you are wanting a job or to book anything in the industry with entertainment, “Hello,” there's the Entertainment Business program.

Do you want to become a company manager? Do you want to be a stage manager? Do you want to travel the country as a dancer in a dance company but also have the side job as a company manager, there is a Dance Management program here for you.

Dance Performance prepares you for all aspects of Broadway, Rockettes, TV film nowadays. They are going to give you everything from this program.

I am an advocate for education because I also needed to grow up. I am realizing now that I really was not ready, when I thought in my brain, “I want to book a job in New York,” and “I want to be in Radio City.” Well, there was another plan for me and thank goodness there was because I needed to grow up.

How did you go about landing your first gig after graduating OKCU?

There was an audition for Tokyo Disney. They were opening a brand new park which was called Tokyo Disneysea directly across from Tokyo Disneyland. A couple friends and I drove to Dallas to audition and in December, I got a phone call that I had booked the job. It was starting end of May. So three weeks after graduation I was on a plane and moving to Tokyo and because I was still in school, in January I strategically took a Japanese course here at OKCU to start learning the language.

What trends do you notice in the dance industry and how can students best prepare for them?

For students now, social media is huge and sadly people and agencies at auditions will ask you, “How many followers do you have?” Which is sad because in my mind, they are thinking, “Oh, you have 75,000 followers, that’s more followers that we can have if we have you on our roster,” which is something I think is sad. But that is something to think about. Knowing that that is out in the Industry. I would say yes, don’t be behind the times. You should have some form of social media in your life just to stay up to date on what’s going on and what’s trendy, but I’m not saying go crazy and buy followers just to have more. I don’t even know how to do that or have the need for that. But it is a trend to where people will book someone who is maybe/ definitely not as talented as you might be because they have more followers. So I would say be aware of what’s going on in the industry.

How would you describe the network of OKCU alumni in the entertainment industry?

It’s vast. We are everywhere. There is always a family based camaraderie with every OKCU student that walks through those doors. OKCU students are everywhere and I think the faculty from day one has instilled that we are a family. There’s no better bond than a family. Some faculty members this morning were saying to me, “We are so grateful that you always coming back,” and I told them, “I feel just as close to family here at OKCU as I do to my true family.” So I would say, it’s incredible what we have with OKCU.

How would you describe the programs here at OKCU?

Intense but necessary. The programs are here to give you everything needed and necessary for stepping out into the real world. There are certain things that you can only learn on your own when you are out there in the real world, but I would say they prepare you as much as they can while you’re here.

What impact has Jo Rowan had on your career?

Oh my gosh. What impact hasn’t she had on my career, really? I think I just have had an unspoken connection to Jo. Certain people’s hearts connect and I feel that Jo has always shown that she is a spiritual person and I’m a spiritual person. Spiritual meaning our souls are connected, you know? Yes, our hands can shake and we can hug but that’s a different connection than souls being connected. I think that her witty sayings have stuck with me for years and years and I hear them still to this day, which is amazing. I  take them with me throughout the country and throughout the world when I go teach. They make sense. She has an uncanny way of connecting her words to your brain to get you to understand what she is wanting from you. She taught me to really trust in the artist that I had inside of me and helped me pull it out to the world.

With Industry Xperience and your time visiting the Ann Lacy School, is there anything else you would like to add?

I would say, come see us whenever you can! When we are in town come to an Industry Xperience event. It’s like no other. I grew up in the convention world. Like the huge conventions. Tremaine, West Coast Dance Explosion, LA Dance Magic, the huge New York City dance lines, the huge ones that are in hotel ballrooms that also have competition connected to them. But my co-owner and I a couple years back noticed that the convention world is oversaturated. There are a ton and it’s a lot of competition and not about training anymore. There are conventions where there are 600 people in a room and you have 45 minutes with 600 people.. What are you really going to teach them? You’re just going to throw choreography at them and basically say good luck or, to the more educated or more talented ones in the rooms, “Good job, you got it.” To the other ones, “Keep working.”

So we found a need to bring the convention to the people so we bring a full-scale convention into your home studio. We typically like to find a studio within a town and open it up to anyone and everyone in the town. Every dancer who wants to join us can come because we also want them to know that in the real world, yes the other person may go to another studio and they may be your “competition,” but when you’re in the real world, you’re going to be working together. So why not have that camaraderie now?

We are about proper training for what’s in the industry right now. We offer all styles of dance plus on-camera commercial acting and dance for the camera. We teach the difference of dancing for live theatre compared to the difference for dancing for a five inch lense and knowing spatially how to dance. We offer all that, and we also offer several scholarships and we are super happy that OKCU has trusted us in what we have to offer and that they give us scholarships for OKCU High School Dance Workshops. We are very thrilled to be offering OKCU workshop scholarships throughout the country.