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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

USI freshman dances to his own beat

News and Information Article Photo
Jade Perry performs with the USI Dance Team at half time of the USI vs Norther Kentucky basketball game 12/5/2009 at the Physical Activities Center.
Photo Credit:
Elizabeth Courtney Randolph
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Jade Perry knows what it's like to stand out from the crowd. As the first male dancer to be a member of the University of Southern Indiana dance team, Perry has drawn some attention. "At first, people seemed surprised, and it was kind of an eye-opener for some," Perry said, "but overall the reception has been positive."

Despite the attention he's drawn, Perry says he didn't come to the dance team expecting recognition. The day of the dance team audition he had a sprained knee, and he wasn't sure whether the coaches or the other dancers would even be open to having a guy on the team. But he made it through the audition process despite his injury and joined the ranks of the USI dance team, which has embraced Perry's enthusiasm and talent. "Being on USI's dance team has really made me feel like part of a unified group," Perry says. "We're like a family, and each member of the team brings something special to the table."

A Crawfordsville, Indiana native, Perry started dancing at age 10 after participating in a summer theater program. He began taking lessons in ballet, ballroom, hip-hop, jazz, and tap dancing, and while he continued to be involved in theater and choir, he was increasingly drawn to dance. "I just enjoyed it," he said, "Dance is therapeutic. It allows you to express emotion and let out stress."

Although at times he met resistance from people who weren't so sure about the idea of a male dancer, Perry maintains he always has been an inherent rebel, and being male in a female-dominated art means he just has to work harder. His parents, Dave and Pam Perry, have been supportive. Perry's mantra: "If you really love something, you stick with it, regardless of what others say."

As he got older, Perry began competing in national dance competitions and was involved with a group called the National Performance Team, which is part of Pride Youth Programs, the nation's largest organization devoted to preventing drug abuse and violence through peer-to-peer education. While on the National Performance Team, Perry traveled all over the country acting, dancing, and singing. He was able to meet and perform with people from other countries and backgrounds, which he feels helped him grow as a dancer and a person.

At Crawfordsville High School, Perry was active in the theater program, as well as other extracurricular activities and academics. He was a member of the Honor Society and Thespian Society, was involved in the AIDS Advisory Council, the French Club, and served as a peer tutor. Some of the productions he has appeared in include Guys and Dolls, Little Abner, and Seussical the Musical.

Perry has also choreographed hip-hop routines, did the choreography for the Heritage Hills Winter Guard Team, has worked as an actor and choreographer for Meyer's Dinner Theater, and has appeared in hair modeling shows.

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Perry said each rehearsal and performance is about becoming a better dancer. Being a male on the dance team means that sometimes routines have to be altered to accommodate him, and if he makes a mistake during a performance, it's more noticeable. Perry said that being a male in the arts can be easy in the sense that there are fewer men vying for the same parts, but he contends that competition for parts is often intense. Overall, dance has helped Perry learn patience, endurance, and the confidence to unapologetically be himself.

Perry is attending USI on an academic scholarship, and while he has not yet chosen a major, he is currently working on a theater minor. His experience on USI's dance team has helped him realize that he wants to keep dancing and performing in a professional environment. "Having a career in the arts might mean that I don't always make a lot of money, and I might not be able to have a normal lifestyle," Perry said, "but dance is my passion. I wouldn't be happy doing anything else."

The USI Dance Team performs at men's home basketball games, as well as various community events throughout the year. They also sponsor local dance clinics and competitions and attend the Universal Dance Association's national collegiate dance competition in Orlando, Florida each year.



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