TEDxUCLA 2018: Waves

Dance is my ministry


About Jade

Jade Charon is a choreographer, community activist, dancer, filmmaker, and teaching artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She began dancing at the age of 5 with City Ballet Theater, and trained with many local dance organizations around Milwaukee such as: Art in Motion, Milwaukee Ballet School, Feet of Praise Dance Ministry, and graduated from Milwaukee High School of the Arts as a dance major. In 2005, she joined Signature Dance Company where she served as a company member and choreographer. In 2007, she was accepted into Columbia College Chicago.


How are you guys doing today? (cheers)

That was okay. How are you guys doing today? (louder cheers) All right! I need your energy.

What would the world look like if we all became choreographers? And then what would our communities look like if the dance studies we created as choreographers focused not only on our own specific human needs but included the narratives of those connected directly to us?

What if every time we were moved with compassion or felt empathy towards someone else’s problems or our own problems we made a dance about it and offered that work to an audience? And as our bodies dance our narratives, the performance becomes a place of confession which is the first step of the healing process.

And this healing process is inclusive to everyone in the room. If we took hold of the potential of dance to heal ourselves and our communities, dance will become more than a performance. Because of my background, I call this ministry.

September 2015, I started my first quarter at UCLA World Arts and Cultures Dance Department as an MFA student in choreography. (applause) Yes!

I was excited, I was nervous, but I was humbled at the fact that out of all the people they chose me, a girl from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (cheers) Okay! To be a part of their program.

I had the privilege and the opportunity to make dances about anything, yet since 2012 — the death of Trayvon Martin — my life hadn’t been the same. And with the death of Sandra Bland happening a month prior to me moving to LA, I wasn’t inspired to create anything other than bringing awareness to the pain I felt being a black woman in America.

And it was at that moment that I decided I would focus on my choreographic studies while at UCLA on black social justice issues.

Now, while attending UCLA I also work at the Watts/Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club teaching dance and mentoring programs to youth in Watts and Compton. So while working in Watts and Compton and living in Westwood attending UCLA, my world is split into two: one full of privilege and hope, and the other underserved.

And this is all the while trying to define my own self and my own blackness living amongst tragedy in America: the Flint water crisis, the death of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Dontre Hamilton, and the countless names of others led me back to my spiritual route, my faith.

There was no way that I was going to continue going through life without it. I needed God and I needed to create something that superceded the church walls or the school walls. I needed to create something radical. I needed to go to the streets.

To me, ministry is less about being a savior to the lost. To me, ministry is about being a vessel.

My hope for you is that you add ministry to any gift or skill that you have. You choreograph your journey and offer that work to an audience. Your performance shows your openness, your vulnerability, and your authenticity. It makes you real. And real change only comes from real people. Thank you.