StarQuestian Spotlight – Jennifer and the “Dance Across the U.S.A.” Project

January 5th, 2017 by Roy Patterson

Dancer performs leap at StarQuest Dance Competition.
StarQuest Dance Competition dancer performing for Dance Across the U.S.A.

Photo Credit – Jonathan Givens for Dance Across the U.S.A.

Dream Duffel is the 2017 StarQuest Elite 8 Award Sponsor


For our next installment in the StarQuestian Spotlight series, I choose to highlight Jennifer from Connie’s School of Performing Arts in Louisville, KY. Jennifer is 11 years old, a 4.0 GPA sixth grade student in the Advanced Math, Science and Technology Magnet Program at Farnsley Middle School. Earlier this year, she was selected to represent the state of Kentucky in the Dance Across the U.S.A. project – an endeavor aimed at showcasing the diverse beauty of America as well as its dancers. This project selected one dancer from each state to be shot in a national park, national historic location, or state park in order to highlight the beauty of the United States as well as promote dance as physical activity and creative endeavor.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jennifer and learn about Dance Across the U.S.A. and how she prepared for the shoot.

Photo credit: Jonathan Givens

Photo Credit – Jonathan Givens for Dance Across the U.S.A.

How were you selected to participate in Dance Across the U.S.A.?

I actually didn’t know I was even a finalist until I got out of dance class one day and my mom was waiting for me and she told me I was chosen to represent Kentucky. I was super excited because I’ve never done anything like this before. For the final round my mother picked a video of me doing my solo at StarQuest, sent it and they came back saying I was in.

Prior to the shoot, had you ever been to Cumberland Falls? What was the experience like dancing in such an organic location, representing the state of Kentucky?

No, I have never been to Cumberland Falls before. It was super fun to get to go out and dance at such a beautiful location. It was really hot and there wasn’t much shade to rest in.  I also had to change costumes out in the open behind a towel my mom was holding up.  Doing all of the jumps barefoot on the rocks and in the mud was quite an experience.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

StarQuest Performing Arts Competition dancer participates in Dance Across the U.S.A.

Photo Credit – Jonathan Givens for Dance Across the U.S.A.

One of the main goals of Dance Across the U.S.A. is to get people excited about visiting the national parks and other important locations in the country. How do you foresee this project achieving that goal?

I think it achieved this goal because you see all of these beautiful and amazing dancers doing extraordinary things at these amazing locations that you may have never seen before. It sparks an interest in most people’s minds and they want to go there.

What was your biggest takeaway from participating in Dance Across the U.S.A.? Any funny / exciting / “OH MY GOODNESS I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT JUST HAPPENED” moments from the shoot to share?

StarQuest Dance Competition dancer participates in a Dance Across the U.S.A. shoot.

Photo Credit – Jonathan Givens for Dance Across the U.S.A.

There was one time in the shoot where Jonathan wanted me to go up on top of this rock and do a pose where it felt like I was falling. I tried it the first time and landed flat on my stomach on the rock. I once also fell into the water and my hair got pretty wet.

When preparing for the shoot, or for competitions, what helps you focus and get into the zone?Dancer performs leap at StarQuest Dance Competition.

Well normally I listen to my teacher’s advice and go over the movement in my head. Then I reassure myself because I know I can do it and it’s not like I haven’t done it before, so why worry about it?

What is your motto?

My motto is pretty well-known: “never give up!” Because there are times I may want to give up and quit, but I put in all my effort because this is what I love to do. It takes practice but in the end, the hard work is worth it.

Dance Across the U.S.A. is a project conceptualized by Jonathan Givens to increase interest in dance and the natural beauty the United States has to offer. Proceeds from the Dance Across the U.S.A. book will benefit the national parks and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information on Dance Across the U.S.A., please visit:

Do you know an exceptional StarQuestian? Email the dancer’s (or studio’s) name, state, and why you think they should be featured! You may see your nominee interviewed in a future StarQuestian Spotlight blog!

Mariel Pauline Rosen is the StarQuest social media concierge. She likes shiny things and believes in your sparkle!