MC Dance Team Welcomes First Male Jasper Dancer

by Kelly Kennedy & Niamh Delargy, Asst. Social Media Editor & Contributor

Having wrapped up their 2021-2022 auditions, the new Jasper Dancers may look a little different than in years past as they welcome their first-ever male dancer. John O’Connor is a junior management major who has made history with his accomplishment of being able the first male Jasper Dancer. The Quad sat down with O’Connor to learn more about his experiences as a dancer as well as what the opportunity to join the Jasper Dancers means to him.

Manhattan College Jasper Dancers welcomes their first male member, John O’Connor as a welcomed addition to the team. JOHN O’CONNOR / COURTESY

The Quadrangle: What made you want to audition for the Jaspers Dancers?

John O’Connor: So growing up, I was very much into theater. I’ve been used to performing. And then as I got into high school, I became more invested in dancing. And then when I came to college, I was finally ready to leave it all behind. But after COVID happened, I realized that I missed it a lot. So after I found out about auditions I decided to just give it a shot because I knew if I didn’t try now I probably never would. So I tried out, and now here we are.

TQ: What was the audition process like?

JO: So this year the team got two new coaches, Liz Henrick and Taylor Post. They hosted two clinics, just to kind of get the current dancers on the team used to their teaching style and work with them, and then also to kind of get people to come out and see what it was like. The day started off with just warming up, and then we transitioned to do different exercises across the floor such as pirouettes and leaps, a bunch of exercises like that. We then learned a hip-hop routine and a jazz routine from two guest judges who were really amazing.

TQ: What are some of your previous experiences with dance?

JO: Originally, for me, dance was just part of the theater. I never really looked at it as something I was super strong in. Then I did a production of “Chorus Line” in high school which is a very dance-heavy show. And I kind of just fell in love with it and realized that it was something I actually was good at. I just kept working hard and I began loving it and eventually, I joined the Broadway Dance Center Junior training program. It was a very intensive program for high school students, and it was amazing getting to train with dance teachers from across the world.

TQ: What are your favorite dance styles and why?

JO: So one of my all-time favorite dance styles has always been tap. I’ve always loved tap dance, it’s something you don’t see as often but it’s just so satisfying when you get the right sounds going. There’s also so much room for emotion. And I also really like jazz because jazz is so broad, it can be super fast, high energy, or super hard-hitting. Jazz also leaves a lot of room for you to show emotion while you perform. I’m really into showing emotion while dancing because I feel like that really makes the performance.

O’Connor with the rest of his new teammates, the Jasper Dancers. JOHN O’CONNOR / COURTESY

TQ: Are there any dancers who inspire you?

JO: There are so many, but in particular I really look up to Ben Tyler Cook and Tommy Bracco. They’re both amazing dancers who have performed on Broadway. I’ve been following them since I was little.

TQ: What are you most excited for this upcoming season?

JO: I think I’m just excited to grow as a team. Being the only boy, so far it has actually been a really good learning experience on and off the floor. I’ve learned so much already just from watching the girls dance. They work as such a unit and that’s something I really want to push to do. It’s. First of all, I’m the only guy on the team and second of all, I’m six feet tall. So I obviously like much different from the rest of the people on the team but I think something I really want to work on is blending. I’m also super excited for Manhattan Madness since we didn’t have one in person last year.

TQ: How do you feel about being the first male Jasper Dancer?

JO: I think it’s great. One of the main things I think pushed me away from trying out was kind of the fear of being the only boy. I feel like this happens for a lot of guys in dance. This factor kind of deters you from pushing and trying. But now that I’m actually here, it’s, first of all, a great learning experience but also I hope that just being a part of the team can help inspire other boys to try out as well. There could be many other male dancers who have wanted to try out but were too intimidated, so maybe soon we could become a full co-ed team that can bring more to the table. I may be the only guy on the team for now, but hopefully, we can start a chain reaction.