SGN speaks with Jacob Rodvelt-Gamlieli of Action Dance and Performing Arts Academy
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Jacob Rodvelt-Gamlieli is easy on the eyes; the man is absolutely gorgeous. He's got a wonderful smile and a warm personality. I've not heard one bad word said about him, and for good reason: he is one of those guys that, at a young age, has figured out who he is and what he wants to accomplish, and sets about doing it in a way that is healthy for the heart and mind. In other words, everyone loves Jacob.
Like most Seattleites, I met Jacob through dance. You can see him go-go dance weekly at R Place. It is safe to say he is a fan favorite. But, as with most dancers, Jacob has a story. His is one of perseverance and love, art and teaching.
'At the age of 22, I quit my job as the dance coordinator for my local YMCA and left college to open my own dance school, Action Dance and Performing Arts Academy (1010 South 30th St., Tacoma, WA), following in the footsteps of my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother,' Jacob told Seattle Gay News. 'I am the executive and artistic director of the school. We present two or three shows each season which showcase the talents of each class. I teach many of the classes at my dance school, but I am also responsible for all the other responsibilities of a small business owner, including things like marketing, social media, HR, accounts receivable, accounts payable, building maintenance, and more.'
Jacob says he's been teaching 'on my own in the classroom for eight years now. I work with dancers age 2 to grandma. Every age has its own teaching requirement. Children learn differently than adults do. I have grumpy days, and my students have bad days when things are difficult. I've found the common thread that allows me to get through to any student is to genuinely listen to them. They're telling you what they need from you in one way or another. They won't care what you have to say unless you care what they have to say. Knowing that I am influencing and making a positive difference in my students' lives has saved me from some depressing points in my life. I wouldn't give it up for anything.'
'I also currently teach at Camille's Dance Edge in Edmonds and Cornerstone Studio in Bellevue,' said Jacob.
Jacob is easy to talk with, and is very kind. On the surface, one would never guess that he came from an abusive background.
'I was born in Eatonville. I lived in Puyallup until age 8, when we moved to Bend, Oregon,' Jacob told SGN. 'At age 15, I ran away from my abusive father and moved in with my grandmother in Puyallup. My father was convicted of child neglect and assault. His jail time freed my mother to divorce him without fear for her life and let her take my sister into a safer place. I've lived in the Seattle area since I was 15.'
Luckily for us, dancing is in Jacob's blood. 'My Israeli grandfather was guest performing at Radio City Music Hall where he met my grandmother, who was a Rockette. They married and had my mother and uncle and opened one of the South Puget Sound's first dance schools,' he recalled. 'I began training with my mother at her dance school, Action Dance School, at the age of 2. My father made it difficult for me to have consistent dance training since he thought it was a 'sissy' activity. At certain times, I'd take secret dance classes with my mother to continue my training.'
'I truly began to blossom as a dancer once I left the small city of Bend and the tyranny of my father at 15,' said Jacob. 'I joined a high school dance team and started a step dance team at my school. I jumped from a few dance classes a week to 15 or more dance classes a week. I joined the competition/convention circuit heavily at that time and took classes with people you now see on the TV dance shows like Tyce Diorio, Brian Freedman, Mia Michaels, Cris Judd, Laurie Johnson, and the list goes on and on.'
Jacob specializes in tap dancing but has extensive training in ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, contemporary, and step. 'I have recently started aerial training and hope to be performing that by June,' he said.
One of Jacob's best memories of dancing was when he competed in a tap solo competition at age 18. 'I had choreographed it myself, and for myself. I was competing against my fellow dance-mates, who also had solos. I was very nervous about how my choreography would go over with everyone as well as whether or not I would execute my solo technically correctly,' he said. 'When I won first place, I remember feeling like I had finally stepped out of my family's shadow and was ready to be recognized individually. I still owe my family for my training and thank them for it.'
'That summer I took that solo to Las Vegas for the world championships, and took second place overall for tap,' he continued. 'Although I didn't win first place, I still keep that trophy, out of the hundreds I have, next to my bed to remind me I should take risks more often and believe in myself.'
When you watch Jacob dance, you are witnessing someone do what they love. He makes it all look so easy. Still, there have been times when the gravity or enormity of a performance has humbled the accomplished dancer. 'The last time I got nervous was when I performed at the Tacoma Dome for a Michael Jackson tribute shortly after his death,' he told SGN. 'It was the biggest venue I had ever performed at live. We had just learned six full-length music videos to perform in a few days, and I was afraid of not living up to Michael Jackson's fan's standards. It all came out great on stage when the adrenaline hit.'
Jacob is proud of his job as a go-go dancer. 'To me, go-go dancing is a way to entertain people and to let go without having choreography or the limitations of a predetermined routine,' he said. 'Go-go dancing is like getting paid to do my cardio, drink, and meet new people. I know it has a stigma attached to it, but I really don't care. When people get to know me beyond the dance floor, they realize I'm not the stereotypical go-go dancer. I remember one of my favorite lines from one of my friends when I was first getting to know him, he said, 'Wow, I thought you were just a whore because of the go-go dancing, but you have a real house, drive a nice car, and have a real job. I'm impressed!'
'I am thankful for the Seattle scene. I love walking into a bar knowing that I'll have friends inside. You're not going to be guaranteed that in Los Angeles, New York City, or even San Francisco,' he said. 'R Place, Rick and Steve [owners], Floyd [manager], and Eric [assistant manager] have always treated me with respect and made me feel welcome and appreciated. R Place is where I call home, and I'm happy with the constant improvements R Place makes to the venue. I am also proud of the work R Place and Lady Chablis have done for our community. I've seen many go-go dancers come and go over my almost three years of go-go dancing at R Place. I've had disagreements with some, dated one, but right now I'm extremely happy with my main go-go colleagues: Julio, Manny, Mark, and Jaquan.'
Jacob told SGN he doesn't know what life would be like without dancing. 'It's something I've always done for as long as I can remember. I continue to dance because it's a great physical workout. Mentally, it's stimulating, because as a student you've got to remember sequences of moves, and dance also allows me to be artistic, which is good for the soul,' he said. 'We've got a whole package going on of body, mind, and soul. I teach because I know the influence I make is lasting and positive. Most teachers work with children for a year before they send them off to the next grade level. I've had students for eight years and have supported them and their dreams through half their life. I know I'm making a difference.'
'I'd like to offer adult classes in Seattle this summer in hip hop, tap, and whatever else there is a desire to be taught and learned. Hopefully this article will help get the word out about that,' he said.
'I've worked with other performers and venues for choreography such as Julia's on Broadway and drag queen performers for their numbers,' said Jacob. 'I love doing gigs on the side as a way to help people out and let a little more of my adult choreography express itself. I volunteer myself when possible.'
'I also sit on the board for a nonprofit which promotes youth in dance in Tacoma,' he said. 'We had a successful teen urban dance program last year. This year we're focusing on all ages of youth by re-launching our Adopt-a-Student program. Basically, for $25 a month, you sponsor a child to dance in Tacoma. I've promised to personally match every dollar raised - up to $750 a month - with my personal funds.'
A link to participate in this program can be found at washington.actiondance.com.'
'I don't like to give advice unless it's asked for, but I would like to share my philosophy and my belief that each of us can create the life we desire,' said Jacob. 'The reason so many of us are in emotional, financial, and personal turmoil is because we are ignorant of who we are and what we want. Peace and serenity continue to elude us because we spend our time trying to please everybody else and because we judge ourselves by standards set by others. To transform our lives, we must first be willing to accept responsibility for its current condition. Any person with courage, who knows what he or she really wants to do, can change his or her life from failure and boredom to success and contentment.'
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