Education: BA in Dance, Performance, Choreography & Theory, UNC Charlotte (2016)
Hometown: New York
Jasmine Bunn is proof that hard work pays off. With less than two years in LA after moving there post-graduation, she is currently on tour with Chance the Rapper and just wrapped up a music video with Carley Rae Jepsen. As a UNC Charlotte student, Jasmine was actively involved in the Department of Dance, performing in concerts, traveling on field study programs, and was a dancer on the Golddusters Dance Team.
We sat down with Jasmine to get the scoop on her latest projects, her transition to LA, and how the Department of Dance has prepared her for the work she's doing today.
// What brought you to LA?
I knew I wanted to pursue dance professionally, I was torn between NYC and LA. I visited both within my last 2 years of college and I fell in love with the dance community in LA. Perfect for someone looking to pursue commercial dance.
// What are you currently working on?
Currently, I’ve been working with Chance the Rapper as a dancer for him.
// Can you talk about your recent projects with Chance and Carly Rae Jepsen?
As far as Chance, a friend who knew his choreographer presented the job to me. Chance was coming to LA for Jimmy Kimmel Live and needed some dancers. Of course, I was so excited. Chance has been one of my favorite artists for the last 6 years! We immediately hopped into rehearsals for that and it was an amazing process. Once we finished those rehearsals, we got a call two days later that they wanted to fly us to Vegas for the Life Is Beautiful Festival and iHeart Radio Festival. After we finished the iHeart Radio Festival, we were celebrating backstage and Chance made the decision right there that he’d like to find a way for us to come to Chicago for his concert the following weekend. Everything happened really quickly, but it was incredible to be able to travel, make new friends, and perform in front of my biggest audiences yet in a matter of two and half weeks!
For the Carly Rae Jepsen video, I was actually approached on Instagram by the director, and he asked me to be a part of it. We had rehearsals the next day and filmed that weekend. This was also an awesome experience. The set was really cool - it was hot and in the desert, but we got to dance in water, which really make it a fun set. What I love about this video is that they really wanted to put the focus on the dancers!
// What's a typical day in your life?
Along with dancing, I'm also a certified personal trainer. Typically, I have a few clients every morning, so I go to work, train them, then leave go to the gym for myself. I may possibly have a few more clients that day, and then I either take a class or have rehearsal afterward.
// What were you most afraid of when you first arrived?
I was most afraid of the financial aspect. LA is expensive, much more than Charlotte, so I just really wanted to make sure I could survive fist before I got involved in dance. I made sure I had a job, a place to live, and felt financially secure.
// Describe the moment when you knew you had made the right choice, to move to the city.
Ironically, I was sure I made the right decision once I came back home to visit Charlotte. As much as I love Charlotte, it doesn’t make me feel the same way LA does. I feel like I reached my cap In Charlotte, but out here, I feel so limitless. Going home now is important to me because I want to share what I have learned in LA with my dance community. I want to show people how possible their dreams are.
// What steps have you taken to establish a career in LA?
The main thing I feel like I did was establishing connections. Unfortunately, making it in the dance industry is only like 50% being a good dancer. The rest is about who you know and the impression you make with them. So, I have made an effort to really connect to as many people as possible. I only recently got signed - in the past 8 months - but for the rest of my time in LA, any job I booked was based on connections. Other than that, I have really tried to make sure that I’m consistently training with the right teachers, making sure that I’m always proactive as far as going to auditions, and being prepared for any moment.
// What about your education at UNC Charlotte prepared you/inspired you to go to LA?
We are fortunate to have a faculty who has worked professionally in the industry, making our transition into post-college life much easier. They had genuine advice to give about where they lived and who they worked for. All the questions that we may not have known to ask, they had the answers! They let us in on what it was like to be professional before we needed to be and they encouraged versatility. That was very beneficial in my eyes.
// What advice do you have for others who may be considering that move?
My advice is to just do it! It will be scary, but I think I would have been scared no matter where I went. Don’t block your blessings by letting fear get in the way. Sometimes, you just have to do things that scare you and trust that it’s the right decision. Save some money before you go so that you have less financial stress. Regardless of what you’re pursuing in the entertainment industry, don’t feel ashamed to have a regular job to feel secure enough to support and invest in your industry career choice. Also, visit before you move so that you can look at areas you want to live so you can find some peace in the decision.
// What was your favorite thing about UNC Charlotte's Department of Dance?
My favorite thing about the Department of Dance was the multiple opportunities I had to travel and perform. I was a part of the department's performance of Martha Graham's “Panorama” in 2013 which had the opportunity to perform in Charlotte with professional dancers in the Martha Graham Dance company. I was also part of the “Steps in the Street” cast who traveled to New York City to perform at the Joyce Theater as part of the Martha Graham Dance Company season. In 2014, I spent the summer in Turin, Italy to study abroad with the department. I was also granted a scholarship to the Graham School in NYC for one summer. We were constantly given opportunities to really expand our minds beyond UNC Charlotte and find our potential before graduation.
// What do you want prospective students considering the Department of Dance to know?
Know that these professors actually have your back. They want to see you succeed. They have actually worked professionally and know what they’re talking about. And know that, fortunately, our department prepares you to be great in every aspect of the industry - from behind the scenes to on stage - you will leave feeling ready and accomplished.
Don't be discouraged by anyone telling you currently that you won’t make it, or by the many people probably questioning your decision to pursue your career choice. It may not be the “easiest” choice, but it is the best choice. I refused to be unhappy in a career just to make money, and that’s what got me to where I am now. I still have so much farther to go, but to know I got here in just two years is what keeps me going.
Photos by Jimmy Love and Alissa Roseborough