Jonathan Alsberry was one of my classmates at Juilliard. We have stayed in touch over the years he continues to be one of my dearest friends and a major source of positivity and inspiration. To anyone who has not met him, that may sound dramatic… but Jonathan is not only a great artist, he is a great person. His big heart is what separates him from the other dancers. He would do anything to help a friend. I would like to mention that he is one hell of a dancer as well!
I remember in the very first days of Juilliard, Jonathan stuck out to me right away. He is such a natural mover. Even in those days he was a very mature dancer. He has a brightness in his quality, dare I say, a light from within…for some reason it feels funny to say that. Whenever I watched him perform, I was always smiling. You could see that he enjoyed what he was doing. For me that is the best. Lets not forget his QUALITY… you can’t fake that. Every step with such detail and grace. Even today he is still one of my favorite dancers. What can I say? He just keeps getting better.
I got to know Jonathan more when we worked at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Larry Rhodes allowed us to perform in a couple of productions beside our school work. He knew we needed money… so he made it work. That was cool. Jonathan and I had a blast. To dance on that stage… as soloist…it was great! It was nice to share that experience with Jonathan, who made it so much more. Jojo, as we sometimes called him, is a great energy to be around. He makes everyone laugh with his animated jokes. When we are together, it is unstoppable laughter.
Jonathan Emanuell Alsberry joined Aszure Barton & Artists in 2005, prior to graduation from The Juilliard School in 2006. He has assisted Ms. Barton in over a dozen creations including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He has performed for Prince Edward III in Banff, Canada, and shared two tours with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Hell’s Kitchen Dance. He has performed as a principal artist with The Metropolitan Opera, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Chicago Opera Theater. Other credits include Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Nilas Martins Dance Company, Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, and Eisenhower Dance Ensemble.
He has worked independently with Stephan Pier, Randy Duncan, Madonna, Davis Robertson, and Ron DeJesus. Since 2007, Jonathan has been teaching and creating work at various schools and universities in the United States including The Juilliard School, Harvard University, Chicago Academy for the Arts, and Purchase College.
His work as Rehearsal director brings him overseas so sometimes he visits me! He also is the artistic director of KDT, an online dance company.
Jonathan is an outgoing, positive, and intelligent person. I always knew he would do big things. We all did… What impresses me is his enduring positivity. It is refreshing. Thank you Jonathan for your inspiration.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?
As a child I spent the majority of my time in the dance studio with my mother who at the time directed the local dance company. She danced up until my birth and jumped right back into the studio shortly after. There was never any question in my mind, or body if I was going to dance. Dance became something more deeply rooted for me from the start, like a spiritual practice. My father, an engineer, was my ultimate hero growing up so I remember wanting to be just like him. Did I always what to be dancing though, yes of course.
Jonathan’s Favorite Things
Favorite Things to eat?
I love ham. All things ham. I can go HAM on some ham. I’ve also always loved spinach. I think it’s because I was in love with Popeye the Sailor Man growing up.
Toward the end of grade school my dad gave me the book Ishmael to read. Since then I have read it maybe three times at different stages of my life and had three very different experiences with it. I also really enjoy the bible. So many great lessons and stories about love and honesty. I have the bible app so I can fill up on the goodness from time to time. Another goodie is Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.
The Wiz. I mean, it just doesn’t get much better than that. Also loved Proof. It’s one of the only movies I’ve cried at. All things Tarantino.
Favorite Dance Piece or Show/Musical or both?
I live for a story ballet. Nutcracker(snow, to be specific), Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella.Musicals: Little Shop of Horrors, Wicked, Rent.
I like dancers who…
…Allow the dance to enter their soul. Dancers who understand and read music. Dancers who are sensitive to the energy around the studio and stage. Dancers who dance for no other reason other than because they absolutely have to.
I am afraid of…
…Spiders and rides that go up and then drop. Probably other things too but I really enjoy screaming so it’s hard to say.
A dance piece should…
…Be trans-formative. I like to come out of a show and feel in some way changed.
Something you like to do other than your current job?
Making music videos!! Shooting, directing, choreographing, editing and just doing it all. It brings me so much joy when ever I get the free time to create something like this and typically all in one day. Honestly, I also really love sleeping! I could lay in bed all day long. It’s probably because once I do get up, if you know me you know, I am UP.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
It was awful!! On tour with Aszure Barton & Artist there is a section in “Busk” where we bow in rotation facing downstage then stage right and then upstage and so on in a loop. While we are doing so we disrobe to reveal flesh toned under garments. Well about halfway through this cycle to my terror I realize I have completely forgotten to put my underwear on in the quick change! Needless to say once we got back around to facing upstage I was serving full moon realness. And no it was not a full bottom dance belt… Mortified.
One of the hardest things about your job?
Training. Dance is hard and it more often than not, hurts. As dancer, ballet master and rehearsal director, keeping myself and a company of dancers in shape can be difficult. I love it though.
One of the happiest moments in your life?
Happiest moment in my life is pretty vivid for me. Its freshman year at Juilliard and our class just finished performing “Discoveries Uncovered” by Jessica Lang and I remember being filled with so much joy that I had landed in a place with a group of such amazing friends that were going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life.
One of your most unusual or coolest experiences?
Touring the world with Baryshnikov for two summers. From chilling at a hotel bar, teaching him company class, arguing about God and spirituality or walking the streets of Madrid and dodging drunken Sex and the City fans asking “How could you do that to Carrie?” There was never a dull moment and an experience I will never forget.
Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?
Aszure Barton. She has an unending dedication to the dance and her craft. In creation it is as though she is compelled by her genius to keep going. I have worked along side her in over a dozen creations since 2005 and the respect she has for the effect our gifts have on the world around us is unparalleled. I grew up with praise and worship at the core of my training. Dance “for share” as a testimony as opposed to all “for show”. It has been amazing to find this kindred spirit in her. Her vast knowledge of the creative process informs my own creativity and growth as an artist charged with the task of spreading the gift of joy, through dance, to the world.
Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?
Goals are a tricky thing for me. I live so deeply in the now that it’s rare that I look to the future for inspiration. I love directing and coaching and it’s my motto to give back to the communities that raised me. Starting a conservatory for dance alone is an idea that I think about often. A place were one can study all sides of the field from performing to coaching and on to design and management all in one place.
A question you would like to know the answer to?
Why do more dancers not know about earthing?! In 2008 I tore my labrum in my hip, an injury becoming more common with dancers, and was introduced to the healing power of earthing. I had a surgery scheduled and everything because the pain at time kept me from walking let alone dancing. I ground myself every single night now no matter where I am and as a result have not dealt with painful inflammation in 6+ years now! That’s without taking any over the counter stuff either, get into it folks!
Dear aspiring artists,
What we do as creative artists is extremely valuable to the world as a whole. Try to never take the skills and lessons we acquire along the way for granted. Especially the small ones. Be sure to love.
— Jonathan Alsberry
A short visit in Basel
Have you worked with Jonathan? Have you seen him perform? Help me say thank you by sharing your stories in the comments below.
Thank YOU for reading!