NBC’s World of Dance returned with a lot of familiar faces, but with all the hype surrounding their return, we almost forgot about the incredible stories we would be introduced to as the second season unfolded. 16-year-old contemporary dancer Jaxon Willard is the dancer behind one of those stories. Returning to the competition as a solo act after participating in Season 1 as a member of Utah Junior jazz group the 801 Squad, Jaxon is already one of Season 2’s most memorable acts. We talked to Jaxon about World of Dance, the future of his dance career, and his inspiring motivations for sharing his story with the world.
If you missed Jaxon’s incredible debut during the Qualifiers 1 episode, then you might have also missed out on a touching story. Adopted at a young age, Jaxon grew up facing bullies who used the ways his appearance differed from his family’s – namely his skin color – against him. This was a difficult time for Jaxon, but it was also an important part of what brought him to dance. Using dance as a creative outlet, Jaxon tells his story through original choreography. The confidence he has found through dance to share his experiences helps him share what he has learned from them with others.
His initial performance featured Jaxon’s original choreography paired with the song “Fragile” by Kygo and Labrinth. “For me, it’s just saying that, like, I’ve gone through all of these hard things,” Jaxon says about the song. “Why would I try to be something I’m not?” Both the song and choreography told a story about showing your emotions, particularly pain and sadness regardless of what anyone thinks because those emotions make us human, and there isn’t any shame in sharing them. This is the message Jaxon shares about his story and others like it. We asked Jaxon about why he thought it was important to share his story with the world, especially to an audience that could relate to his experiences. “No one should have to go through, like, feeling alone,” he says. “It always gets better, but you have to have the mindset.” Jaxon has that mindset, and each of his performances conveys that mindset to his audience.
“Don’t dwell on the past, you have to keep moving forward.”
Most 16-year-old dancers are not as ready to take on the world as Jaxon is, but most 16-year-old dancers also do not have Jaxon’s talent for choreography. After his emotional performance in the Qualifiers, Jaxon revealed that he does all of his own choreography. Even more impressive, Jaxon has picked up the skill on his own.
For me, I find things I really like, and keep it in my back pocket.”
“I think it’s just a natural thing,” he says about how he learned to choreograph routines. Jaxon is inspired by many things when it comes to developing his style as a choreographer. He mainly uses a song’s underlying rhythms and melodies to enhance the lyrics, but his overall focus is less musical. “I try to focus on being human, so it’s relatable,” he says about how he builds his powerful routines. “I try to focus on moments of stillness and vulnerability.” It’s those moments of stillness and vulnerability that make Jaxon’s performances so moving. He takes on powerful feelings and leaves negative space between motions to let viewers dive in and experience what he is feeling.
Many people have been drawn to Jaxon since his powerful appearance on World of Dance. His inspiring story about overcoming bullying and his drive to use his experiences and emotional strength to inspire others is incredible and is quickly attracting an adoring fanbase. But we wanted to know who Jaxon was beyond the story that initially drew us and the rest of the world to him. We asked Jaxon to tell us something about him that his rapidly growing audience might not know watching him on TV. “I get inspired by a lot of things,” he says. “I like to watch people and wonder what their stories are. I try to understand who people are instead of making assumptions.” It wasn’t surprising then when Jaxon told us that his dream is to be a choreographer in the future, taking dancers’ unique abilities and traits and turning them into art.
“I want to choreograph for people and try to get them to dance from a place that is real.”
Season 2 of NBC’s World of Dance has only just begun, but we’re sure Jaxon will go far in the competition. Whether he makes it all the way to the million dollar prize or not, Jaxon is a dancer you’re going to want to keep up with. With so much incredible support from the world he has been introduced to, he will not be fading out of the spotlight any time soon.