Jessica Feltman became the third dancer to be eliminated from Bravo’s Step It Up and Dance. She struggled in the first episode, running off stage in the middle of the performance, and soon became known as the emotional dancer among the cast. However, she quickly vindicated herself the next week with a strong performance in the Apache challenge.
Unfortunately, last night, she didn’t have a strong enough background in hip hop to fare well in the hip hop battle challenge. Jessica spoke to BuddyTV today about how difficult it is to go from her background of classical ballet to the entirely different world of hip hop. She also described the challenges of freestyling, and she spoke about her proudest moments on the show. Below, you will find an audiofile and a complete transcript of the interview.
This is Debbie at BuddyTV, and I’m talking to Jessica from Step It Up and Dance. First, I wanted to ask you about your background in dance. What styles of dance are you trained in?
Classical ballet is the majority of my training. I was in the Civic Ballet, which is a professional ballet company here in San Luis Obispo. And I did jazz and lyrical styles, and a little contemporary. And then when I went to UC Santa Barbara, it was strictly modern and classical ballet.
So, that seems really different than hip hop. The hip hop battle challenge looked really difficult.
I never have done that before and it was very different from anything I’ve ever done. It was fun, but it wasn’t like I trained in this. It was different.
For some of our readers who might not be as familiar with dancing, how difficult is it to go from one style to another? Like, are there things that transfer over readily?
For the majority of the styles that I do, it transfers over. If you’re really good at, say, jazz, you should be pretty good at ballet and lyrical and contemporary and modern. I feel like those styles definitely transfer over. But street battle for me, it didn’t really help at all. It was kind of like something that you just have to get used to and listen to that music and do that. Battle is like this whole thing that my style definitely did not transfer over. It didn’t help at all.
How much freestyling have you done in the past?
Never. They’re sort of like, “Freestyle,” and I’m like, “Well, I can do the worm.” That’s kind of the only thing I – it just came up. You have to think on your feet, and it’s happening right then and there. I don’t know where that came from. I’ve never freestyled like that. You know, I’ve freestyled in my lyrical form to lyrical, contemporary music, but hip hop music is different. So, I’ve never freestyled like that before.
How much of your freestyle routine was pre-choreographed?
Really, none of it. You kind of think, like, you know you have to freestyle. That’s why it’s called freestyle. You don’t want to choreograph it because when it comes down to it, it looks like you’ve thought about it. So I kind of was just like, “Okay, everybody else is going to freestyle.” I thought of some things to do. But when it happened, the crowd’s yelling and someone just battled in front of you, so, I don’t know, you kind of just think of things as you go, I guess.
What happened in the first week’s Callback Performance when you were performing with the group and then you ran off stage? What was going through your mind then?
Yeah, that’s a complicated story, but I guess, bottom line, things happen you’re performing. Something went wrong and the first thing that came to my head was, “Get out of everybody else’s way.” I kind of had this mental breakdown and I think I was just super nervous. It was something that was very different. There’s cameras everywhere, you’re being judged, people aren’t very nice to you, and I think it was all, in a split second, like, “Okay, just get out of their way for a second.” It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, but I just kind of laugh at it now. I don’t know. I don’t really know why I did that, but oh well.
I know that most of the cast are professional or nearly professional dancers, and the way you guys behave with each other is very professional. But behind the scenes, were there any flirtations or crushes among you guys?
You know, it’s so funny. No. Especially not with me. That was the last thing on my mind. You know, we’re in a competition, we’re tired, we’re dancing. That wouldn’t have crossed my mind. And also, most of the guys, they’re either gay or I don’t know. I think some of them had girlfriends, so for me, it wasn’t even a whole thing. I didn’t notice anything else either. I don’t think that really went on. I wasn’t really in tune to that.
Can you describe what you’re most proud of from your experience on Step It Up and Dance?
Yeah, I think, just going through it. I mean, I was thrown in this with 11 professional dancers that live in big cities and they do this for a living. For me, I don’t do this for a living. I have fun with it. To come from such a small town and I don’t know, just to be on it and be competing with that caliber was a big thing for me. And, I think, also to prove myself. Like, I lasted a couple rounds. I wish I had more to give. I definitely didn’t feel like I got to prove myself as much as I would have liked to, but I think just making it on the show and beating a couple of people off was huge for me.
Yeah, and you did really well in the Apache challenge too.
Yes. And, I mean, I feel like that showed a little bit of what I can do. I never felt like I was dancing, but to have Vincent [Paterson] say, “Oh, I’d hire you,” and it’s like, “Oh my gosh,” you know. That was huge, and it felt so good to have them notice like, “Wow, she can dance. She has a stage presence.” It was something I knew I could show them, so that second challenge was big for me.
What are your goals as a dancer? You said that you don’t dance for your career, but do you hope to someday? What are you plans?
I’m always open to it. I’m a very scheduled person. If a dance opportunity came up, I would like it to be a regular event. But the majority of your dance career, you go on auditions, and you might not have a job for two months, and it’s very stressful. Right now, I’m super content. I have a 9-to-5 job and I teach dance on the side for fun. For me, that’s kind of all I’ve ever expected of myself, and I’m having a good time with it. If something else came up, I’d be willing and open to it, but for now, I’m just enjoying dance like a fun hobby.
-Interview conducted by Debbie Chang
(Image courtesy of Bravo)