If breakdancing and ballet had a baby, it would be Jacob Jonas’ dance company

By Christina Campodonico

Jacob Jonas takes a leap over the Santa Monica Pier in this self-portrait.
Photo by Jacob Jonas

When Jacob Jonas needs a hint of inspiration, he goes to the sea — the Venice Pier actually.

“I rely heavily on inspiration from watching the ocean and catching my breath at the pier,” he writes in an email.

The 24-year-old Santa Monica-based choreographer and founder of Jacob Jonas The Company got his start dancing with the Venice Boardwalk’s Calypso Tumblers at age 13, and he has emerged over the last two years as a creative force and community connector within L.A.’s dispersed dance scene.

At the Dance Camera West film festival in 2015 he assembled 25 of L.A.’s most legendary dancers and choreographers for a moving and historic improvisational dance jam session on the stage of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Former Alvin Ailey dancer Hector Mercado and Emmy-winning choreographer Anita Mann were among the performers who shared how dance changed their lives through movement and spoken word.

Online, Jonas has created a digital hub through #camerasanddancers on the Jacob Jonas company’s Instagram account (which has more than 75,000 followers). The photography series brings together dancers and social media influencers for photoshoots in iconic and out-of-the-ordinary places, from cultural institutions like The Getty to the sands of Venice Beach.

Jonas’ work also goes outside the box on stage. Combining break dance and ballet, Jonas’ fusion of stage and street styles is not just refreshing, but kinetically explosive and visually vibrant.

When I first saw Jonas’ work last year and reviewed it for the L.A. Times, I was impressed by the choreographer’s ingenuity and fearless risk-taking. A relevé, or rise onto toe point, could coexist with
a contorted breakdance handstand. A delicate arabesque could cross paths with an exuberant flip or head spin. To paraphrase what I wrote in my review, if breakdancing and ballet had a baby it would be Jacob Jonas’ dance company.

Cross-pollination is at the center of Jonas’ work and it’s a welcome addition to the L.A. dance scene, itself a marvelous mixture of dance traditions and styles.

Jonas’ hopes to shine a light on this diversity through his choreography, which will be presented at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Friday. On the bill are the world premiere of “Fly,” a short film titled “Grey,” his breakout 2014 work “In a Room on Broad St.” and the 2016 dance piece “Obstacles.”

“We all come in different colors and sizes, with different perspectives, but yet we all coexist,” writes Jonas. “To me that is fascinating. Mixing this diversity while showcasing and telling the stories of the talented and remarkable artists I work with is what I am hoping to accomplish and share with those who see my work.”

The experience promises to be eye opening.

The show has sold out, but call (310) 310-746-4000 or send an email to tickets@thewallis.org to be placed on the wait list.