How to dance your way into success: Jessica Lord and The Next Step
Art for art's sake is a wonderful thing, but at the end of the day, you need a career, because no one wants to be a starving artist. That's why in Centennial College's School of Communications, Media, Arts and Design, we focus on taking your artistic abilities, nurturing them, and helping you build a career out of them. If you like to dance enough that you'd like to turn it into a career, we can help with that, too, with our Dance Performance program. It doesn't just teach you the skills. It also teaches you how to turn it into a living, and become a working professional.
Jessica Lord is currently in her second year of the program, and has already found success on the small screen, securing a lead role in the dance-themed Canadian drama, The Next Step, currently airing on the Family Channel. Here's the story of her success, and how we helped make it happen.
A lifelong passion
"I was born in England, and my mom did ballroom dancing," Jessica says. "When I was four, my mom put me into the toddler class for ballroom dance, and I just absolutely loved it." Jessica would then move to Canada when she was six, where she'd start learning western-style dancing, like ballet, jazz and hip hop. When it was time to pursue a post-secondary education, though, she wasn't sure that she could make a career out of it, until she heard about Centennial College.
"Before going to Centennial, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," she admits. "I knew that I wanted to continue dance, but there was no program that stood out for me for what I really wanted to do. My current dance teacher, Jennifer Barton, told me that she's going to be teaching at Centennial College in a commercial program that runs for two years. She told me about it, and I thought, I'm just going to go for it."
A program in motion
"We do all the practical dance forms," Jessica says of the program, "like ballet and contemporary. We also do cultural dance, and it helped me become very versatile as a dancer, which is really important for when I've graduated school."
"Something that has really helped me outside of college is the improvisation we've been doing in acting and dance," she continues, "and I love how in the program, we do an acting class and a singing class as well, and we learn about nutrition and our bodies, things that are also important. We aren't just dancing all the time. We also learned how to properly audition, and everything else that goes along with the industry."
Another positive of the program? It let her pursue work in the dancing field before she even graduated. "They allowed me to audition for jobs outside of their program, and a lot of the other programs in Toronto don't allow that," Jessica explains. "I want to act, and I want to dance, so that's why I chose Centennial."
Taking the skills she learned in the program, Jessica would find one such career opportunity in the world of television.
The Next Step
"I was in The Next Step in Season 3, in a really minor role," Jessica explains. "I was only in three episodes, I only had a couple of lines. I had an agent here in Toronto, so The Next Step reached out to my agent and said they wanted me to audition for season 5." Eventually, she'd be chosen to become one of the show's new leads.
Fortunately, she was able to take part because the shooting schedule didn't interfere with school. "It started in the summer," she explains. "I was done school when the auditions began."
"I'm not allowed to say too much," she says of her work the upcoming season, "but I can tell you that I was filming pretty much every day for two months. We would rehearse on weekends, and then film every day of the week. It was long days, but it was awesome, it was so much fun, and definitely what I want to do."
The new season of The Next Step will air in March on the Family Channel.
Looking to the future
"I want to be in Los Angeles for sure," Jessica says of her career after graduation. "My manager is based in LA, and thinks I would get a lot of work there. When I've graduated, if I'm not working in Canada, I think I'd want to go there. Of course, before that, I'd also like to continue onto Season 6, but that depends on how many views Season 5 gets before we know if there's going to be a Season 6."
"Train in all styles, don't just focus on one style," she says as advice to other aspiring dancers. "If you want to be a commercial dancer, never give up. There's been so many times when I wanted to stop. I was going to stop before I came to Centennial, and go to university for philosophy or criminology or something, and this came up, and I thought, why not? This is what I'm going to do, I'm not going to give up on it. Fight for what you love to do."
By Anthony Geremia