How Derek Hough Inspires Jay Jay Dixonbey as an Artist
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Jay Jay Dixonbey was a familiar face to So You Think Can Dance audiences last summer when he was a contestant on Season 15. His bright smile and precision turns impressed the judges week after week. He finished in the Top 6 and then toured with his castmates last fall.
This spring, he's back on tour with one of the biggest names in the dance industry, Derek Hough. Derek has launched a tour filled with a variety of dance styles, live music and seven dancers visiting over 50 cities. It's the most impressive tour he's ever tackled and this time, he's doing it without his talented sibling, Julianne Hough.
More: How Derek Hough is Handling the Pressure of the 'Derek Hough Live!' Tour
Jay Jay spoke with Dance Dish about his audition for Derek Hough Live!, the tough rehearsal process and how Derek has inspired him as an artist.
Dance Dish: How did the opportunity to join Derek's tour come up?
Jay Jay Dixonbey: I was auditioning and I was just trying to get myself back into the LA scene. Then all of a sudden, I got this opportunity to audition for Derek, but it wasn't a casting audition. It was a private audition. I just went and did a few solos from So You Think. A few weeks later, I heard back asking if I was ready to tour with the Derek Hough.
DD: What was the rehearsal process like with NappyTabs and their team of choreographers?
Jay Jay: The rehearsal process was great, it felt so fast. We learned so many dances in a short time. The NappyTabs process is just like Mandy Moore on So You Think You Can Dance. It's long hours, 10 hours every day for two weeks straight, you're working hard and learning everything you need to know. It was great.
I got a chance to work with Tessandra Chavez for the first time, Rudy [Abreu] was the supervising choreographer, along with Katy Tate and Anthony Kin. Derek did a lot of the choreography as well. It was a very intimate circle of people on the creative team and it feels like a family now.
More: Tessandra Chavez Delivers a Big Emmy Win for 'World of Dance'
DD: How are you taking care of your body on such a challenging tour?
Jay Jay: I'm stretching my body in my warm-ups and making sure I'm doing it as thoroughly as possible because my body's changing and it's getting older. I have to start taking care of my body a little bit more now.
I also noticed I'm very dehydrated. I feel like I never have enough water. That's a big problem. I like to stay hydrated, eat healthily and take care of my body.
We also have a physical therapist on site all the time, so that's another great thing that we have on tour. I go to her every day for injury prevention and to learn more about my body.
DD: Your mom came out and surprised you on tour last week. What was it like having the emotional support of your family?
Jay Jay: I didn't know she was coming, but she told me my aunt and my cousin were coming to the North Charleston show in South Carolina. She told me my uncle wasn't coming, but that she needed three tickets. I didn't think anything of it.
During Derek's meet-and-greet, someone told me Derek was looking for me while I was warming up in my dressing room. They drove me to the stage and I walked up to the stage. My mom was standing there.
I love my mom. She's coming to five shows and she's already bought tickets, even though I can get her tickets. She wanted the best seats.
More: How Andy Blakenbuehler Drew Inspiration From the Magic of 'Fosse/Verdon'
DD: What have you learned from working with Derek?
Jay Jay: Derek is an artist. Something I've learned from him is that he is so positive. Everything is a process and he loves to have options. So he wants to see different things and collaborate.
So one thing that I learned from him is to enjoy the process and enjoy the moment. He just wants everybody to be so happy and he wants everybody to be okay. Positivity is that one big thing that he radiates and I look up to him for that.
He's like really famous, he's a really famous person. [He laughs.] So to have that name and still be a humble and kind-hearted person, that sticks out to me. I gravitate towards his energy. He is so nice and he's the best boss I've ever had.
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