Making Moves: A Q&A with Kaufman dancer Jake Tribus


Photos courtesy of Jake Tribus

Jake Tribus has received a lot of buzz around the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance lately — for good reason.

Tribus, a sophomore majoring in dance, already has an extensive career; he has trained with the CC & Company Dance Complex since sixth grade and danced in Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” music video in August. In addition, Tribus was named the New York City Dance Alliance’s Teen Male Outstanding Dancer and the National Teen Male Non-Stop Dancer for 24/Seven Dance Convention, and he apprenticed with the Next Generation Ballet program at the Patel Conservatory. He also co-founded Artists Giving Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “encouraging artists to come together to inspire people to act with compassion and kindness, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or beliefs,” according to its website.

The Daily Trojan interviewed Tribus to uncover the origins of his relationship with dance and understand how he has reached this exciting, upward-trending point in his career.

Daily Trojan: What first got you into dance, and why did you choose to stick with it?

Jake Tribus: Ever since I was little, I was dancing whenever there was music playing. I have home videos of me doing the robot to NSYNC and Britney Spears in the living room. It wasn’t until around fifth grade that I actually started dancing. My best friend decided to use “Bring A Friend to Class” day as an excuse to bring me, and I instantly fell in love with it.

DT: Who were some of your biggest influences growing up, and how did they contribute to bringing you to where you are now?

JT: Both of my parents danced when they were in high school. My dad was heavily involved in musicals, so he was the classic triple threat — he sang, acted and danced. My mom was a gymnast and dancer growing up, and convinced me to participate in gymnastics for a while before I started dancing. I continue to use some of my tumbling and acrobatics in my dancing to this day. My studio owner, Christy Curtis, was definitely an inspiration and motivator for me as I developed through high school into wanting to pursue dance as a career. She presented an endless amount of opportunities for all her dancers, and without her training, guidance and love, I wouldn’t be the dancer I am today.

DT: How do you think you have evolved as a dancer since attending Kaufman?

JT: Since being at Kaufman, I have developed not only physically as a dancer, but intellectually. We pride ourselves on being both dancers and scholars in the Kaufman program and I take both of those roles very seriously. I found that I am not only growing in my ability to perform complicated movements and harder repertoires from contemporary companies, but in my ability to understand the history of dance and how to use my body. Having the requirement of taking other general education courses allows us to combine other fields of study with dance as well. This leads to countless discoveries and uses for the art form that aren’t typically considered conventional.

Photos courtesy of Jake Tribus

DT: What has been the highlight of your dance career so far?

JT: When looking back through my dance career thus far, I think of three performances that I will never forget. The first was being able to perform “Rhythm Nation” alongside Janet Jackson on her tour when she visited Raleigh, N.C. She selected a group of dancers from my studio to learn the choreography and perform it with her and her dancers on stage for the show. The second performance was a show put together by the Emmy Award-winning choreographer Travis Wall called Hollow Suit for Dancerpalooza in Long Beach last summer. I was honored to play Travis as an 18-year-old in the show, highlighting his childhood and performing alongside some of my best friends and mentors. The third highlight was being a part of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” music video that premiered at the beginning of September of this year. Being on set with her and the other dancers was a dream.

DT: How did you come across the opportunity to dance in Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” music video? What was the experience like?

JT: For the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, I was chosen by Taylor’s choreographer, Tyce Diorio. I [took] his class growing up on the dance convention scene, and he had seen some of my dance videos on my Instagram page. He messaged me asking if I would like to be a part of the project, and we were able to make it work around my school schedule. It was an unbelievable experience! This was my first music video job, and getting to work with a professional artist like Taylor was a dream come true. I love doing commercial work, and the other dancers in the video are some that I have looked up to for a long time. It was so exciting. I don’t think it actually hit me that it was real until I saw myself in the video.

DT: What’s your favorite style of dance and genre of music to dance to? Do you have any favorite jams?

JT: I would consider myself a very versatile dancer, trying to train in many styles ranging from ballet to contemporary to hip hop. If I had to choose one, I would say that contemporary work is my favorite to perform and explore. I love the freedom contemporary movement gives you, and I love being able to transform into something or someone else when I’m performing. In terms of music, I listen to about anything besides country and heavy metal. Some of my favorite artists include BANKS, Sia, Galantis and Lady Gaga. If you haven’t heard it, listen to “Underdog” by BANKS. I have had it on repeat.

DT: When you’re not dancing, what are you doing?

JT: Because of the crazy busy Kaufman schedule, when I’m not dancing, I’m typically doing homework or sleeping. But if I ever get time on a weekend to relax, I love to find new music, lay out at the beach, go see a movie with my best friend or explore Los Angeles!

Photos courtesy of Jake Tribus

DT: Do you have a “dream production” you would love to be a part of? What is it and why?

JT: I have two dream jobs that I would love to make happen at some point in my career. One is more concert dance-based, and the other is more commercial. First, I would love to be a company member with the Nederlands Dans Theatre. It is my favorite contemporary company based in Amsterdam. I have participated in its summer intensive before, and I fell in love with the work. The second job would be to book a world tour with either Beyoncé or Lady Gaga. I love both of their music so much, and getting to travel the world with them and a group of talented dancers would be the best experience ever.

DT: What’s something most people do not know about you?

JT: I love to bake. I lived in Hawaii. My brother is a fashion designer. I have never owned a dog, but have desperately wanted one my whole life. I am a self-taught makeup artist and did the makeup for my high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast for my senior year. Some of my weaknesses include chocolate and ice cream. I really do not like the texture of Jell-O. I love taking naps, and can fall asleep almost anywhere. I was almost named Christopher.

DT: Lastly, what does dance mean to you?

JT: I have said this for a while, and I think it really aligns with both how I view dance and why I dance: Dance is a way for me to become whoever or whatever I want, while simultaneously being 100 percent authentically myself.

  • Xiomara Orozco

    Oh the places you will go Jake! Loved this article and may have to taste some of that baking when you are in town!! Christopher huh! We love to watch you on stage, you take us to another place! We love you so much Jakey Poo!!