A journey from the College of Dance to a scholarship to Performer’s College and beyond


Jon Ford Smith came to the College of Dance after attending one of the College open days and falling in love with the place. Jon had relatively little dance experience but was dedicated and hard working. He completed the two-year diploma course which enabled him to not only to gain a place at Performer’s College in the UK, but to win a scholarship. Jon has gone onto perform, teach and choreograph all over the world. In later years Jon went onto join the faculty at Performers as one of their Jazz teachers.

In Jon’s interview, he fondly looks back on his time at the College of Dance, the main lessons he learnt and some advice for young dancers. He also describes his journey in dance since leaving the College.

When Did You Start Dancing?

I was a relatively late starter, taking my first dance class at 19. I had always loved dancing, recording music videos from MTV and learning the choreography! However I had no idea where to study dance or take classes. At that time dance wasn’t quite as accessible for boys. Luckily, I met some dancers through a mutual friend when I was 19 and they took me under their wing, pointed me in the right direction. I joined their Hip-Hop crew shortly after and within months we were Irish Champions. I was hooked.

How did you hear about the College?

A friend of mine was due to start first year and recommended it. I was very rough around the edges and knew if I wanted to actually make a career out of dance, I would need formal dance training. I came to watch an open day and that was it, I had to get in. There was nowhere else I wanted to be and nothing else I wanted to do. Thankfully, they saw some potential at my audition! Again, I was VERY rough around the edges. I’m forever grateful for their decision.

What do you remember of your first day at the College?

My lasting memory from my first day was how nervous I was and how quickly that dissipated. Everyone was so warm, so welcoming. I couldn’t wait to get started.

What’s your fondest memory of the College of Dance?

My fondest memories from my time at the College of Dance are always the people, the sense of community. Dance training can be challenging, physically and mentally. Having that community, that sense of togetherness that we all had was so important. We knew we had the support from the staff when we needed it and we were all working toward the same goal. Those days when something finally clicks, when you’d finally get that movement you’d been working on for weeks and the whole studio would be just as happy for you, there’s nothing like it.

“I came to watch an open day and that was it, I had to get in. There was nowhere else I wanted to be and nothing else I wanted to do. I’m forever grateful for the College of Dance”

What subjects were your favourite and why?

I honestly couldn’t pick one! Everything was so new to me, every single day. I think I was just happy they let me come back every day. I loved the discipline and structure of Ballet, the variety and style of Jazz and the freedom and expression of Contemporary. I loved that there was an obvious structure to class, it was very clear what was expected from us and that if we worked hard each day, we’d see the benefits.

What were the key lessons do you think you learnt at the College of Dance?

I would say the key lessons I learned were discipline, work ethic and professionalism. Dance, in general, is a challenging and rewarding experience. I learned that in order to achieve anything in the profession, I would have to work harder than I ever had. These are such valuable lessons for any dancer to learn, they never stop being relevant and will always be sought after. I’m always grateful to the College of Dance for laying those foundations for me. In addition, learning how to conduct myself in a theatre setting, on and off stage, was extremely useful.

What funny anecdotes do you remember from your time at the college?

I always remember a ballet class we had. We were working on grand jete en tournant. I had a lot of elevation in my jumps from my years playing sports but I had really struggled with the technique. I had spent a lot of extra time working on it by myself. I was so happy as I came across the floor and saw my ballet teachers gasping, I presumed, at the wonder of my newly found technique. Actually, they were gasping at how close I was to hitting my head on the studio lights which had been lowered for some repairs over the weekend. I thought I was suddenly Nureyev and they thought I was about to scalp myself.

“Be prepared for the challenge ahead but never forget that love that made you take on the challenge in the first place. We don’t dance to feel perfect, we dance to feel alive.”

What was your career path after leaving the College?

Thanks to my training at the College of Dance, I was able to secure a scholarship to Performer’s College in England. I completed my training there, graduating with a Diploma in Musical Theatre and a special award for Creative Excellence. Since then, my career has taken me all over the world, as a dancer, singer, actor and choreographer. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in movies, music videos, tours, cruises, musical theatre, opera and even realised my dream of being on Top Of The Pops. The thirteen year old version of me said he’d do that one day.

I made the decision while still working at a high level, to retire. I wanted to go out at the top. I moved my focus to my true passion, choreography, and have been truly fortunate to work on some fantastic projects in the U.K, Europe and the United States. I began teaching more, something I had always enjoyed but had never had the chance to do consistently. In 2016 I became a member of the Jazz Faculty at Performer’s College. I try to instil in my students that same work ethic and discipline that I learned in the College of Dance.

What have been some of your Career highlights to date?

I’ve had some wonderful and surreal moments during my career. I never imagined it would become what it has and so I always took the time to truly soak in each moment when possible. A standout moment was while I was on set for a music video I was choreographing in Los Angeles. There was an issue with something, a problem needed to be solved and the director, cast and crew all turned to me to see what the solution was. It was a real moment of realisation. I had always dreamed of this moment. It was actually happening.

If I had to pick one, for me the highlight was the last gig of my dance career. My first big job as a dancer was at the 3Arena, or the Point Depot as it was called then. My last gig was in the same arena. A friend of mine was working on a gig for Google’s annual conference. Rudimental were performing with dancers and she wanted to know if I’d be involved. Dancing on that stage with the next generations of Irish talent beside me, back where it all began in my home town, I couldn’t think of a better way for it to end.

What advice would you give a dancer thinking about coming to the College of Dance?

Be prepared to work harder than you ever have! Listen to your teachers! They know what they are talking about, they were once you too. Be prepared for the challenge ahead but never forget that love that made you take on the challenge in the first place. We don’t dance to feel perfect, we dance to feel alive.




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