We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Jonassen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Intrepid Dance Project was born out of my belief that everyone can dance. I wanted to build a platform for people of all ages, sizes, abilities, levels and experience to be seen and celebrated. I wanted to help diversify dance and the performing arts.
Being a larger “plus size” performer- I have always known on some level that I would have to create my own opportunities- particularly opportunities that defied stereotypes. As I got older I realized I wanted to give other performing artists- those who may have been turned away from the traditional world of dance and performance. I wanted to form a safe place to explore movement and self expression without judgement.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
If anyone would have told me that I would end up running a dance company one day I would have said they were crazy. From an early age, like many children, I wanted to dance. But as early as five or six years old I was made fun of and told that physically I was not the right size. So I turned my attention to acting. I was lucky to grow up in Brooklyn so I had a lot of exposure to and experiences in theatre.
My biggest challenge is how I am perceived. A lot of my work exists to challenge stereotypes and hopefully break them altogether. I think I avoided Hollywood for many years because I was afraid of the roles I would be offered— and rightfully so. At best the roles are dull at worst and more often than not they are painfully demeaning.
Ironically Los Angeles would turn out to be where I would find the juiciest opportunities I could never have imagined for myself. When I first got to L.A. in 2007 — I auditioned for Cirque du Soleil.. This was almost just on a whim but also definitely because I promised myself I’d audition for Cirque du Soleil if I ever got the chance- so I did. And this set my career and artistic life off in an entirely different direction. It led me to signing up for clown classes which led to dance both of which led to amazing performing experiences including: go-go dancing, scare-acting, performance art, cabarets, clowning and circus work. I spent several years dancing in other companies before branching out on my own to start my own.
Intrepid Dance Project is my proudest accomplishment. I’m proud of everything we do because it is so hard earned and fought for. I have been so honored to witness many people blossom and be transformed by dance. The message *that everyone can dance* is so crucial especially in a society that keeps so many out of dance and performance of all types really..
I think of the many years I wasted by not allowing myself to even consider dancing in anyway—let alone performing dance. When you don’t allow yourself to dance I think you cheat yourself out of so much joy. My goal is to share that joy with as many people as possible. I’ve learned that once you start moving your body you realize you are capable of things you never thought you could do. Life really is too short not to dance so if you are reading this and would like to join us please don’t hesitate to reach out!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Recently I had an amazing chance to perform at Wisdome – an immersive art venue which projects mind blowing images 360 degrees. They host many different events with many fun themes.
There are so many wonderful variety shows in town: “Was Ist Das” is outside and online and I am hoping other shows like Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap will return soon. Electric Lodge has a lot of great performance art and theater as well.
We would have to go to Eagle Rock Bakery where you can find raviolis imported from Bensonhurst and the best cannolis I’ve tasted in L.A. and of course you can’t go wrong wrong with Canters Deli for matzoh ball soup and black & white cookies. Mashti Malone’s serves up exotic ice cream tucked away in a little strip mall in Hollywood.
I love taking out of owners to The Queen Mary which is both fun and spooky and while we’re in Long Beach stop by Spires Diner.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This is such a hard question! I have been blessed with many mentors and friendships that have helped shape me as an artist and nurture me as a human. Everyone who has ever encouraged me to create Intrepid Dance Project, every single person who has shown up to our dance labs or performed with us or supported us. All the curators and impresarios that have booked us particularly Helene Udy who runs a variety show in L.A. called: Was Ist Das? Helene even found a way to keep the show going outdoors & online during the height of the pandemic. Additionally she has been incredibly supportive of the work I do both as a solo performer as well as my work with Intrepid Dance Project. She encourages me and gives me the freedom to perform whatever I like whether it’s comedic or deeper dramatic material.
I also want to give a shout out to my friend Marilyn Giardino who told me once that I was going to have to create my own opportunities in show business. She encouraged me to start my own projects. The last time I spoke with her (about a week or so before she passed away from pancreatic cancer) she was excited to show me her recently and officially embossed business license for a production company she had always wanted to launch. “You see Jennifer it’s never too late to live your dreams.” And she was right.
Masquerade photo:Vojislav Radovanović Aerial photo: Sierra Lisa Gong Show photo: unknown Was Ist Das: Clarence Alford Desert photo with umbrella; T.Bosch Leg lift in Wonder Woman: M. Cote Everyone Can dance: Jo Jett Boobie Trap: Richard M. Johnson Intrepid: Paul Zollo Wisdome: D. Goldstein