We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Cummings and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I personally am averse to the words giving up. I don’t believe in giving up. I do however strongly encourage pivoting and changing things up if you’re feeling unhappy, stuck or feel something else pulling you. I think the only way to know when a pivot may be necessary is to really be in tuned with yourself and check in regularly with your gut. My heart has at times steered me wrong but my gut has always known what I needed, even if I have ignored it in some instances. Often times when my heart and gut have not been in alignment, it has helped me realize that a pivot is necessary. When I moved to LA, I had already been teaching dance and choreographing shows and productions for over 10 years. Although teaching and choreographing have always been a huge part of me, I felt I needed a break to focus on my own career as a dancer. My goals as a dancer were set and I was so laser focused on them that anything else seemed like a distraction and I refused to give my time to it. It wasn’t until I was on a job as a dancer and realized that I was so pre-occupied with all the other moving parts on set that I no longer felt fulfilled being in front of the camera. One thing was clear, I wasn’t as passionate as I had once been about my career as a dancer. But what about all of these goals that I had set for myself that I hadn’t yet accomplished? That’s when I had to tell my heart and mind to be quiet for a second so that I could listen to my gut and my gut was telling me that I wasn’t as happy in front of the camera because I was meant to be behind it. Another thing that has allowed me to realize when a pivot is necessary is to see what is coming to me freely rather than what I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall to try to accomplish. When I first moved to LA, I had it so engrained in my mind that any work that wasn’t dance related would be drawing attention away from my ultimate goal. So, I pushed away or worked against the amazing teaching and choreography opportunities that were coming my way. I found myself downplaying the opportunities and not taking time to celebrate those wins because in my mind, they weren’t the wins that I wanted at that moment. It took me stepping back for a second to realize that these amazing teaching and choreography opportunities, including teaching at the most renowned dance studio in the world, Millennium Dance Complex and working as an assistant choreographer on Disney’s Raven’s Home, were coming to me because they were meant for me. Once I allowed myself to enjoy those moments instead of downplaying them because they weren’t in alignment with my vision, it allowed for an entire shift in my life and career. I was suddenly excited about what I was doing again rather than working hard for the sake of accomplishing goals I had in mind for so long. I can be pretty stubborn when it comes to accomplishing my goals, the sort of “reach for the stars and don’t stop until you get there” kind of mentality. But the second I let go of that, listened to my gut, opened my eyes to what the universe was gifting me with and allowed myself to pivot, I started experiencing happiness and motivation I had not yet felt.
So, I guess the moral of my story is that not accomplishing some of your goals doesn’t mean you are giving up, sometimes a pivot is necessary to open up a whole new series of goals and experience a whole lot more joy in your life. If you’re feeling a sense of discomfort or unhappiness in regards to your path, it might be time for a pivot. Listen closely to your gut, open your eyes to the universe’s gifts and always, always do what you love!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Being from Canada, the journey to LA has not been easy! Between gaining and renewing work visas, living far from friends and family, coming out to LA “later” than the vast majority of dancers, and only being able to work in the US in my field (aka no side hustle allowed) this has been the biggest risk I have ever taken. There have been countless challenges along the way but I wouldn’t change my journey for anything because each one of those challenges has provided me with a lesson and shaped me into the person that I am today. I honestly hate talking about my resume but some of the things that I have been most proud of accomplishing out here in LA have been, having the opportunity to teach at Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles and also in Beijing and Shanghai, having the opportunity as a dancer to dance in feature film The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and in commercials for companies such as, Mountain Dew and JBL and having the opportunity to assist in choreography on Disney’s Raven’s Home (choreographers Willdabeast Adams and Janelle Ginestra) and for pop group Now United (choreographer Willdabeast Adams).
I am so excited to see what the future holds for me as I truly embrace this next chapter in my life focusing on my work as a choreographer and bringing all that I have learned to the next generation through teaching. I feel like I have spent so much time leaving my fate in the hands of other people, that I am so happy that I have now made the choice to pave my own path and put my own work out there. In the last two years, I have poured more into my teaching and creations and it has been such a rewarding experience for me. My goal has always been to touch people with my art. I want people to leave my classes feeling empowered and leaving my shows feeling a sense of joy. With the crazy year we have all just experienced, the need for art, entertainment and a sense of freedom and joy is so incredibly important and I hope that my work fulfills that need. So, look out for live entertainment and creative content from my heels based company Hight Standards in the near future!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Sorry not sorry to any non-vegan friend visiting me… there are just too many amazing vegan spots out here that you won’t regret trying! Here’s an itinerary with some of my favourite spots to visit and eat/drink at:
It’s a close call between El matador and Paradise Cove beach as I love both for different reasons – either way I would take Las Virgenes road to Highway 1 (PCH) since the drive is breathtaking
The upside to Paradise Cove would be grabbing some food and drinks at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe
Fairfax market for a little shopping
Crossroads kitchen – more incredible vegan food that meat-eaters and non meat-eaters would enjoy
Hike at Solstice canyon – who doesn’t love a hike overlooking the ocean
Watching the sunset (and maybe so dolphin sightings) at point dume beach
Drinks at the Sunset Restaurant
Drive through Upper Mandeville if you want to be different or Beverly Hills if you want to be basic – who doesn’t want to window shop for their dream home?
Gracias Madre for dinner and drinks
Hike at Stough Canyon – for people who enjoy hiking since this is a more difficult trail but the views are well worth it
Dinner at Nic’s on Beverly – incredible vegan food
Walk through Malibu Creek State park – the views are stunning and it’s a great place for a picnic
In & Out (it’s a staple) or Monty’s Good Burger (because it’s the vegan equivalent)
Lakers or Kings game
Drinks at perch – great view, fun atmosphere
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This is such a tough question because there are so many amazing people that have been a part of my journey! But there are a few select people who have provided me with encouragement almost everyday that I have been out here in LA and those are my parents (Marilyn & Gary Cummings) and friend Sarah Steben. In the beginning my parents may not have understood why I chose a path that for lack of better words, was not the easy path. But they did something that I think every parent should do, they put aside their expectations for me, their fears that I might fail or lose my way and they LISTENED to me. They were curious, they asked questions and they genuinely tried to understand why I chose to leave behind my masters degree in search of something I was truly passionate about.. in another country no less. They support me day in and day out, they encourage me to fight for my goals (even the ones they might not understand) and when they say that all they want is for me to be happy, they absolutely truly mean it, Their support has meant more than they know and I hope that I am making them proud.
Unlike my parents, my friend Sarah knows exactly why I’ve set out on this crazy path because she’s in the same field as I am. She’s probably the one other person that has seen me crash and burn, rise from the ashes and repeat the process several times over. We have lived in different cities, if not countries for most of our adult lives and yet it’s never seemed that way since we are in constant contact. Sarah has been there to pick me up in the worst of times, to encourage me to keep fighting when I second guess myself, to curse the world with me when I need it and then crack a joke to lighten the mood and have me crying of laughter shortly after.
Like I said, there are so many people that I could shout out. I honestly feel like the luckiest person because I am so well surrounded from my family, to my friends, to my mentors, I am forever grateful for every single person that has had a part in my journey thus far.
Instagram: @jess.cummings1 @high.standards.stilettos
Wes Klain Lindsay Rosenberg Susy Miller Millennium Dance Complex China