Jamaican dancing his way to international stardom
Tampa-based Jamaican dancer Chester Jones learnt the hard way just how much of a difference a seemingly insignificant 'point one' can make in a competition.
That was the total which separated his dance troupe from a much sought-after top-three placement in the World of Dance competition in Los Angeles, USA, last summer.
Explaining that the dance contest is considered the most prestigious one globally, Jones said that placing fourth was still commendable, but his group has been practising and will make their return this year, anticipating better results.
"We are looking forward to the competition and we plan to really make a huge impression," Jones declared.
A master's student at the University of Tampa, Jones, who migrated a year ago, revealed that he was self-taught up until a certain point, after which persons crossed his path who assisted him with formal training.
"I always loved dancing and would dance in the streets of my community and also at school, but there were no resources at home to actually pay for professional dance classes. However, while at Manchester High, I met my first dance teacher, Shelly-Ann Sibbles, who got us involved in mainly folk dancing; but it still helped to put me on my eventual path," he said.
Jones has choreographed for large stages, such as Boys & Girls' Athletics Championships and for the Wolmer's Dance Troupe's 25th season of dance.
In 2016, he started teaching dance at Encore Dance Studio and he commended Danah Chisolm for his initial success in this space, as she gave him the administrative freedom to do whatever he wanted.
He brought Encore to another level - with diverse genres being offered and public awareness, and quickly climbed the ranks from instructor to associate director.
Jones also credited Jamaican dancer L'Antoinette Stines and L'Acadco with assisting with his formal training. He joined the troupe in 2016 and says he learnt a lot during that period.
"It was through her (Stines') relentless pursuit of excellence that I was given the opportunity to perform alongside a talented cohort of dancers for Celebration to Rio in 2017 and Carifesta in Barbados, 2018," he said.
Now in Tampa, he has several projects on the table, including an ongoing tour and teaching various classes. Jones tutors in dancehall, soca, Afrobeat and other styles.
"I realised that I am the only Caribbean dance instructor in Tampa and I decided to make the most of it. The market is wide open, so I am aiming to fill the need of the people who are definitely showing an interest in learning," he said.
Pole dancing, chair and heels are routines which Jones has also mastered and teaches.
He is simultaneously working on two new choreographies which he will be showcasing at an event for dancers staged by the University of Tampa in May.