Inspiration amidst chaos

MadJax Dance Company: A look at creation during a time of unknown

By Trinity Stevens

What is it like to build something from the ground up, when that ground is already crumbling? Starting a company had long been an idea inside MadJax Dance Company Director, Madi Jackson’s, head. But reason itself kept it as just that, a thought. That was until the year 2020 happened. Then the entire world lost its reason. 

Tumultuous times when tensions were high and a pandemic raged on, things were far from healthy or peaceful. The world had reached its tipping point, but that tipping point was just the thing to push MadJax into motion. Lost were the logistical worries of starting a company and the fears of putting oneself out there. All that mattered was pursuing a dream before uncertainty made it too late to do so. With a background in psychology and dance and a passion for social justice, Jackson allowed her creativity to wander.

“Dance can tell a story, but sometimes that story is the hard reality of what is going on in the world. But the beauty of it… is that there are so many stories to tell,”Jackson said. 

Company Director, Madi Jackson; photo by Josh Heese

Within a short time from the start of quarantine, Jackson had already begun embracing technology in ways she never thought she would. From utilizing Zoom to social media, teaching virtual jazz classes became a weekly thing. Allowing Jackson to reach out and share her skills with people she would never normally see. This gave rise to holding company auditions.

This audition process was one that varied when compared to normal circumstances. Due to COVID-19, there was no way to gather in a space together. This meant dancers submitting materials online; including learning choreography from videos and recording themselves. While this might have been more challenging, steering away from the traditional studio audition is what led Madi to make her company all level. 

Jackson stated, “Having an all-level company creates a necessity to pay attention to smaller details that might normally be overlooked.”

Choreography comes from what means most to Jackson at the core. Using her voice as an artist to reach out into the unknown, unsettled, and unsaid to raise awareness to larger social justice and mental health issues. She wants to create work that leaves audiences thinking. Jackson seeks the same qualities in her dancers.

“Dancers that are just as open, passionate and willing to explore conversation while trusting the creative process,” Jackson said.

Selecting 12 dancers, Jackson began looking at how to hold rehearsals during a pandemic. Being in a studio was not an option right away. This led the company outside for rehearsals. While going to different parks around Cleveland, they began to hold open community classes outdoors for a few dollars a class. 

“It created a connection to others who would not have had the ability to enjoy an afternoon of dance,” Jackson stated.

MadJax was able to get into a studio space by July and forged ahead with their work while enforcing masks and physical distancing. Within the short time since the company’s inception, they have had the opportunity to participate in a virtual performance put on by the MOVE IT Festival, as well as give back to the larger community through charity work. MadJax collected the money raised from shirt sales and open classes to donate to the Innocence Project

With intrinsic values that dig right to the core of humanity, this company aims to use dance as a tool beyond performance with its mission: “Art that compels. Art that speaks to racial injustice. Art that breaks boundaries. And beyond that, art that is inclusive.” For more information on MadJax Dance Company please visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Company Director, Madi Jackson and MadJax dancers, By: Josh Heese

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