Dance instructor Ja’Vonda Jones makes fitness her business to teach
Ja’Vonda Jones is not your average 25-year-old woman. Nor was she your average 24-year-old when a little over a year ago, she decided to drop everything and build her own dance studio. The name of her studio, Just Dance Co., certainly reflects Ja’Vonda’s firm belief that once you find something you love, you should “just go for it”.
Ja’Vonda took her first dance class at the age of 6, although she says she doesn’t recall a time in her life when she didn’t love to dance. Before she ever set foot in a studio, she relished the moments in which she would perform dances with her sisters and cousins during family dinners. For her, dancing on stage has always been unlike anything else in the world.
Once Ja’Vonda entered college, she began to teach and tutor children. And through this experience, she realized that what she wanted most was to give children the agency to discover what they loved. Today, she uses that desire to empower children along with her passion for dance to sustain her own business.
I sat down with Ja’Vonda to ask her about her dance studio and see what advice she has for young girls who want to pursue their dreams.
L.A. Sentinel: So, you’re a businesswoman and an entrepreneur at such a young age. Can you give any advice to young women who want to be entrepreneurs like yourself?
Ja’Vonda Jones: Growing up, my mother and father always told me and my sister: whatever your dreams are, go after them. Whatever they are. She’s always been a huge aspiration. And she’s always said its okay to change your mind for a little bit, but don’t keep changing your mind. Find something that you love so that you’re not all over the place. Go after your dreams. Whatever inspires you.
But, not everyone had what I had. Not everyone had my support system. I just want children to know that if they find something that they like, they should just go for it. Go for it and see what happens.
LAS: What do you enjoy most about having your own studio? What has been most rewarding?
Jones: The most rewarding part of it is teaching the kids because I truly love teaching, and of course I enjoy the recitals as well. I love to watch the kids put everything together after they’ve worked so hard. They can show their parents and friends and anybody in the community who wants to come what they’ve been doing. When they perform, I see that what I’m doing is working.
LAS: Can you share any particularly meaningful moments you've had as a teacher?
Jones: I had a student who started off with me in gymnastics. She had taken ballet for one year when she was 3 and that was it. She never did it again. And then she started to dance again with me when she was 12. She didn’t know anything. She went from not knowing anything to being incredibly flexible. It’s just really wonderful to see when the kids really love it.
LAS: Did you encounter any setbacks while you were trying to begin the dance studio?
Jones: I started off with a partner. And just last year, she decided to leave. I don’t know her reasoning. But from there, I was very overwhelmed. I was doing a competition team in the city of Torrance, I was teaching gymnastics at Lawndale, and we had the studio. It’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of emails, just a ton of things to do. So I just thought to myself, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this by myself. I was like, how am I going to pay this rent and pay all of these teachers? That was so difficult.
But then just this past December, when the lease was about to run out, I decided to keep it. I was like, I can do this by myself. I can figure this out. I just told myself, things are hard in life but its important to keep going. So I made it, and today I’m still by myself.
LAS: What are some important lessons you believe kids can learn through dance?
Jones: Kids should understand that they can use dance as their go-to. If you’re upset about something but you don’t want to cry—dance. And dance teaches you that even when you’re scared, just go for it. Recently, one of my girl’s father called and said that his daughter was crying because she was scared of doing a backhand spring. I told her, I used to have the same exact fear. Backhand springs are terrifying. But dance is all about trusting yourself. It takes time. You just have to go after it despite your fear, and if it’s something that you like to do you’ll get through it.
Another one of the most important things they learn through dance is the importance of practice. You have to really practice, not just for 10 minutes. Practice outside of the studio and commit. Just because you can’t do it, don’t give up. Practice.
LAS: What are your aspirations for the future of your studio?
Jones: I would like to expand it and open it up to more kids. It’s really hard because there are so many kids that love dancing, but it costs money. When we first opened, there were a lot of single parents so one of our main goals was to make it affordable. Today, I still want to open it up to more people who can afford it. I want to get funding so that more kids can come.
I want to help the kids who just love dancing along with the kids who want and need to lose weight. I remember that a little boy who I used to tutor had to roll over to get up. And it was really sad, he was only in the 2nd grade. I would watch his mom give him snacks, he would always reach into his mom’s purse, and she would take him to McDonald’s all the time. I know that when kids grow up its hard, because they get talked about. I want to help these kids to see that dance is a great way to stay healthy and have fun at the same time.
LAS: Can you talk about what exactly you have to offer at your studio?
Jones: My studio age range is 1 and a half to 15 and we offer the main genres of dance (ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, tap, lyrical). We also host birthday parties and sometimes teach dance for those birthday parties. We do baby showers, bridal showers and other private events as well!