‘I was born to dance’

Sep. 24, 2013 @ 03:28 PM

The popular Fox reality dance show challenges dancers by asking “So You Think You Can Dance?”

It turns out Jasmine Harper, 20, can.

The Monroe High School graduate finished runner-up on the show, beating thousands of dancers in the audition process and the eight other female finalists. 

The show narrows the dancers down to 20, 10 male and 10 female, who compete week after week doing different styles of dance, ranging from ballroom to hip-hop. The show crowns a male and a female winner at the end. The top 10 finalists then embark on a national tour. 

Harper, a contemporary dancer, is currently preparing for the tour, which will visit 42 cities. 

The male and female dancers are sorted into pairs, Harper’s partner for the majority of the show was Aaron Turner, a tap dancer, who was the male runner-up. 

Harper said her favorite dance of the season was the first dance she performed. It was a jazz piece, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and performed to “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae.

“I just felt really comfortable with it and I was able to perform it so well,” Harper said. “It was really me, that dance did mean a lot to me.”

She noted that it was also special because it was her first time on the “So You Think You Can Dance” stage.

Ballroom dances were the biggest struggle for the pair, Harper said. 

“The ballroom, any style of ballroom that I did was the most challenging for me,” she said in an interview. “Both my partner and I, we’re not ballroom dancers. ... it was challenging to pick up the technique of ballroom in one week.”

She joked that they had to “fake it till we make it.”

And they did make it, for 11 weeks. Harper only found herself in the bottom of the contestant pool once, but her solo allowed her to continue in the competition. 

“It’s still a little unbelievable to me just because I never thought I would make it that far,” Harper said. “It’s a process from week to week, and you have to restart each week.”

“I just feel really accomplished and just proud of everything that I did on the show,” Harper said.

Harper’s time on the show began when she auditioned in Memphis. While many dancers work on their audition dances with teachers and friends for weeks, Harper said she freestyled it. Meaning she made up her moves as she went. 

“I don’t know why, but I just felt like if I freestyled it would be more real and I would let the music take over,” Harper said. “I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to do ... (I) wanted to leave my heart out there.”

She danced to a Destiny’s Child version of “Amazing Grace.” 

“I’ve always loved that song and I thought it would be unique,” Harper said. 

Harper said she started dancing when she was 3 years old.

“I just feel like I was born to dance,” Harper said. “I love how I can express myself through the movement. I literally love everything about it and everything that comes with it– the blood, the sweat, the tears.”

She was born in Rochester, N.Y., and later moved to Charlotte. She spent the last half of her senior year at Monroe High School. 

Harper said she cheered for a short time until she realized that she liked dance more and that cheering was not really “her thing.” She also recalled being asked to do dance tricks or other skills at the end of math class if there was extra time. 

Tressa Cox, who was Harper’s guidance counselor at Monroe, remembers her well. 

“She was such a sweet, kind, well-mannered, respectful young lady,” Cox said. 

Cox, who has since relocated to Sun Valley High School, said she remembers helping her apply to college and apply for financial aid.

“She had been dancing for a long time and I really had no idea her talent,” she said. “I knew she loved to dance and we talked about (her) post-secondary plans and her dream was to go to school and major in dance.”

Cox said she was nervous when she heard that, because as a counselor she is always thinking about her students and their ability to get jobs after graduation. 

“I’m not a dream killer, but at the same time, I’m like OK, this could be her passion, this could be her desire,” Cox said. 

Tomara Leverington had Harper in her third block math class. 

Leverington wrote in an e-mail that Harper was always “smiles and polite.”

“A kid that was a role model to her peers and makes you proud to call yourself a teacher,” she wrote. “She kept a high average in my class and she earned it.” 

Leverington wrote she was sure Harper would go far and they are proud of her. 

Though dance is a notoriously difficult profession, Harper said she is open to anything that has to do with dance. 

Right now, her focus is just getting through the tour more than anything, she said.

“I’m really open to anything that has to do with dancing,” Harper said. “I’m ready. I feel like after this show I can really do anything because the show puts you through (so much).”