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So You Think You Can Dance? An interview with SYTYCD adjudicator Jason Winters

There was a lot of excitement about our last dance competition of the year — the VIEW Dance Challenge at the Nerang Bicentennial Centre — and it had a lot to do with the fact So You Think You Can Dance Australia’s Jason Winters was adjudicating.

After the competition, Jason took time out from his busy schedule to give us an insight into what he’s looking for in performance and why our talented ID students deservedly walked away from the recent VIEW Dance Challenge with a swag of awards including:

  • Highest point scoring small group - 96.16 Humanity 15yrs Contemporary

  • Highest point scoring large group - 93.23 Dance Off 10yrs Jazz

  • Choreography Award- “Humanity” awarded to Miss Aleea

Why are dance competitions so important for young dancers?

Any opportunity to perform is of great importance to young dancers, and helps them to remember the purpose of those many, many hours of training, practice, and preparation. Dance comps also provide young artists with the chance to meet and be inspired by other participants from different backgrounds and with different ideas. The creativity and routines can be life changing!

Industry Dance- View Dance Challenge

What are you looking for when you adjudicate a young performer?

I want to be entertained, emotionally moved or surprised, inspired, or made to think outside the box. If a performer can do any of these things during their time on stage, then it is certain that they will make an impression on me.

What did you think were the most impressive aspects of Industry Dance’s high scoring performances at the VIEW Dance Challenge?

Across all ages I was first impressed by creativity, followed by performance commitment and passion from every performer. And finally, technique that seemed completely balanced across all genres and age levels.

From your observations of recent dance competitions, do you see a general improvement in the standard of dancers coming through from the younger ages?

It is very interesting to me as the younger dancers seem to be getting so much stronger in every aspect of training and performance, while the older groups seem to be sliding backwards a bit. Maybe that’s because as our young dancers in Australia grow older, they have taken on more and more obligations with school and extra-curricular activities. I believe it is so important not to overwhelm young people with schedules that have no time to rest or recover. Today, it is important to stay in touch with how the genres are growing and evolving, and that definitely includes how we approach training and performance for every age.

Industry Dance - View Dance Challenge

You are highly regarded as an important mentor to young dancers. Why are dance mentors so important?

Thank you so much, as I feel that is a beautiful compliment to receive. I was lucky to be mentored by 2 incredible choreographers in my time as a performer. Mia Michaels, and Mark Dendy. The time I spent with them is more valuable than any time I spent in a dance class or with training organisations. This is because it is all through real life, professional experiences. Also, it is always one on one practical skills handed down from a master in their field. Truly magical, truly challenging, but definitely worth it!

What should students look for in a mentor?

Someone who inspires them, forces them to dig deeper and work harder at their craft. Someone who does not let them accept anything less than their absolute best. And someone who helps them to discover more than they ever thought they were capable of being, both as an artist and as a human being.

Would you recommend a career in dance? Why?

I definitely do! But I would say to think of your industry as global and not just local. If you’ve got good training, and an amazing work ethic, combined with passion and a sense of adventure then I say go for it. And remember that a talented, hard-working, respectful human being has the world at their finger-tips.

Our Aleea Middling was awarded the Choreography award at VIEW Dance Challenge for her choreography of “Humanity". What were the elements of that dance that impressed you enough to give our Aleea the award?

It was a wonderful routine! I felt its title was the perfect description as it made me truly think of what is ‘Humanity’ as defined by today’s society.

What makes a great choreographer?

Someone who express an idea, emotion, or concept through the physicality of their work. Also, the ability to surprise the audience in some way, or leave them with a question to be contemplated.

How do you see your role in the dance community? How do you hope to make a difference in the future of dance in Australia?

I hope to leave an impression on future generations by sharing all that I have learned from past masters before me, while imparting the knowledge of what I have personally experienced and discovered in my short time here.

What will you be doing in 2019?

I always have a few things planned, and leave much to be discovered along the way. I will definitely launch the brand-new Level 6 Teachers 1&2 of The Jason Winters Contemporary Syllabus sold exclusively through CSTD. Continue as Director of The Winters Experience at TNSPA PRO Fulltime Training Diploma of Dance in Elite Performance in Sydney. Adjudicate many wonderful Comps and Festivals in Australia and around the world. Finish work on the development of my incredible new App. Headline The Summer Workshop Experience Tour throughout AU + NZ, with the beautiful Renee Ritchie and special surprise guest from LA. And as always be open to any wonderful new opportunities the universe throws in my direction. While it’s wonderful to have a plan, it’s always possible Life has something even more amazing that you could have never even dreamed of!

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