After a lifetime of preparation, a South Dade dancer plans to move from Magic City to the Big Apple this August to attend The Juilliard School for performing arts but he needs help to finance four years of living in the Capital of the World.
Jamaii Melvin, 18, beat the odds was accepted into the dance program at The Juilliard School in New York City, a highly selective institution that only accepts the country’s elite performers. Now that he has been fully accepted into Juilliard, Melvin worries money will get between him and his dream.
His hard work has afforded him several scholarships that will cover the school’s tuition that clocked in at more than $45,000 for a nine-month 2018-19 academic year. The standout ballet dancer is responsible for the cost of living in the city that never sleeps. the school puts expenses at nearly $70,000 per year, depending on where the student chooses to live. Off-campus students must account for transportation and extra living costs.
“I almost feel like I’m fighting. I never felt like I was fighting so much, than the demon of this world, which is money," Melvin said. ‘It can hold people from training and from getting experiences like Juilliard.”
As a result, Melvin’s supporters opened a GoFundMe page to help raise money. Currently, contributions for Melvin’s cause total around $12,000 as of June, with the goal to collect $25,000 by the start of the school year in August, and $100,000 overall for the next four years.
Melvin has been dancing his entire life and has been keen on attending Juilliard since he was 9 years old after an older friend got accepted into the school’s dance program, he said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to go to this school,” Melvin said.
He began looking into the curriculum and tailoring his dance education. Though, for Melvin, the odds of landing at his dream school were stacked against him.
Juilliard has an acceptance rate of less than six percent, according to the U.S Department of Education. Melvin beat the odds and is one of 12 male dancers accepted into the school’s dance program for the 2019-20 academic school year.
The school requires applicants to have a minimum of three years ballet and modern dance training. Prospective students need to have trained for a minimum of 10 hours per week, which Melvin did while attending New World School of The Arts and the Miami Dance Collective. Students are allowed to apply twice. After two unsuccessful attempts they are no longer eligible to apply. Melvin only had to apply once.
“At first it was unreal,” he said. “But, in reality, it is so humbling to know that I worked so hard to be recognized as one of the 12 dancers to be selected to such a rigorous program.”
For Melvin, dancing takes him to a world of his own making.
“When I dance, my main goal is not to be on this earth,” he said. “I can be uncomfortable, weird, pretty; everything that when I come back to earth, I cannot be.”
Dancing consumes almost all the hours in the day for Melvin. When he was a student of New World School of The Arts, his days were filled with early risings and late nights. He commuted from Homestead to Downtown daily for school, to be followed by evening dancing and technique practicing at Miami Dance Collective, the studio he has been attending for the last two years.
“Dance is my love. It’s what I think about every day,” he said.
He has wowed audiences and instructors alike through his graceful moves and technique.
“The way he moves, you can't teach that,” said Kristin Douthit Richards, instructor, and co-founder of the Miami Dance Collective. “That is in a child.”
Richards and her fundraising team opened the GoFundMe page to help finance Melvin’s dreams of attending Juilliard. She and her team have been helping Melvin refine and improve his dancing skills.
“We are all about training and making sure we prepare the children for a solid dance career,” she said.
Melvin hopes his experience at Juilliard takes him all over the world, working as a professional stage, theater and concert choreographer. He has already been eyeing different theater companies such as the Nederlands Dans Theater, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
At the moment, he is focused on learning and developing his skills at Juilliard.
“I am ready to take on the challenge,” he said.
To contribute, search "Help Jamai's Juilliard Dreams Come True," on the GoFundMe website.