Rising stars: Energetiks Talks with Jacob Speakman and Joshua Arkey
If you're a fan of photographer Jordan Matter's breathtaking 'Dancers Among Us' series, and follow-up 'Dancers After Dark', then you've most likely admired a photo or two featuring talented American dancer Jacob Speakman, or his equally gifted best friend, Australian dancer Joshua Arkey.
Both boys are accomplished performers with a string of major roles in Musical Theatre and classical performances, as well as minor television appearances already under their belt. Jacob and Joshua took time out of their busy schedules to chat with us about dance, future goals and Dancers Among Us, read on!
Jacob Speakman is currently a sophomore at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School and Center for Performing and Fine Arts. He received his jazz and contemporary dance training from Gina Veith at Dance Fusion Performance Center and his classical training under the direction of Denis Gronostayskiy and Anastasia Babayeva at The Academy of International Ballet and their professional dance company International Ballet Classique. Most recently, he attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in NYC on partial scholarship. Jacob also enjoys performing in musical theater with Center Stage Productions, including performances in Annie, Fame and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Joshua was born in Sydney, Australia, and just recently finished his High School Certificate (HSC) and moved to Perth after being accepted into WAAPA, The Western Australian Academy Of Performing Arts, to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Dance). Joshua has danced for 15 years and has toured overseas, including America, performing at Downtown Disney, Universal Studios and on The Enchantment Of The Seas, and appearing in Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us Project whilst in the States. He has also toured Singapore and Australia performing in various shows and appeared as an extra in the Channel 7 Television series Home and Away and Australia, The Story of Us.
Energetiks: Hi Jacob, Hi Joshua! So first off, what got you both started with dance, is anyone else in your family a dancer?
Jake: I have only been dancing for about 3 years. Prior to dancing I was a gymnast. I just started training to compete and both of my shoulders started to dislocate from the rings and high bar. The orthopedic surgeon said that if I didn’t stop gymnastics now, by the time I was 16, I would need both of my shoulders fused. So my gymnastics career was short lived. A few years later I decided to try something new and I auditioned for the local middle school play. The choreographer, Gina Veith owner of Dance Fusion Performance Center and an international dancer, saw something in me that I didn’t know was there. She invited me to come to one of her dance classes and I have been dancing ever since. As far as family members, my Grandfather had a cousin who was one of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in the 1940’s. My mom always says all my talent came from her side of the family.
Josh: I started dancing when I was 3 years old under the direction of Edward Rooke. My uncle started dance classes and I thought it would be awesome if I could do it also, so I joined up. No one else in my family are dancers but my parents were both athletes when they were younger.
Where did you grow up?
Jake: I grew up in Upper Chichester, which is a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA.
Josh: I grew up in Sydney Australia and have recently moved to Western Australia to study at WAAPA.
At what point did you realise that you wanted to pursue dance as a career?
Jake: I knew I wanted to dance from the time I took my very first dance class.
Josh: As soon as I started dance classes at the age of three I knew that this is exactly what I wanted to do.
What has been the biggest challenge for you to overcome so far in pursuing dance, and what keeps you motivated?
Jake: My biggest challenge so far in dancing I would have to say would be the financial aspect of it. Everyone who dances knows that dance lessons and training are not cheap. Last summer my Instructors at The Academy of International Ballet, Anastasia Babayeva and Denis Gronostayskiy, who were trained at The Bolshoi Ballet in Russia encouraged me to audition for The Bolshoi Ballet Summer Intensive in New York City. I decided to go just so I could get audition experience. Since I have only been dancing for 2 years at that point I really didn’t think I would get in and I knew there was no way I could afford it. However, to my surprise not only did I get in but I also received a 60% scholarship. If there were not scholarship offers out there, there is no way I would have been able to attend such a prestigious program. What keeps me motivated is just knowing that if there was something out there that I want to do, if I wanted it bad enough, things will fall into place one way or another.
Josh: One of the biggest challenges for me would be the financial side of dancing. As a lot of dancers know dance classes and tuition is immensely expensive. I was lucky enough to be given numerous Scholarships to help me pursue my career in dance. I’m thankful for being given numerous scholarships from Edward Rooke, National Institute Of Performing Arts and Loredo Malcolm. I’m a big fan of quotes (if you follow me on instagram you would know haha!) I find quotes really helpful to keep me motivated and to stay sane! Haha!
Josh, you had the amazing opportunity of playing the role of 'Benji' in the original cast of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert The Musical, what was the audition process like and how did you find the whole experience?
Josh: This is quite a funny story actually. The day of the audition I actually was invited to a birthday party and being an 8 year old guy, the party was obviously the more important alternative. Lucky enough my dad made me go to the audition instead of the birthday party. I turned up to the audition nervous as ever because all I could really think of was my friend’s birthday party. The first part of my audition was a song of our own choice that was accompanied by a pianist. I sang the song Karma Chameleon by Culture Club. The next part was the acting, I sat down with the producer and had to say lines from the script such as “Look Tick, that’s the pool, that’s my room, mums room and that’s where you and your boyfriend are going to live.” Pointing at the Lego house that sat in front of me. We then had to improvise some dance moves which came quite naturally to me. After the audition had concluded, there was still enough time to go to my friends birthday party, there’s always enough time to fit everything in! 2 weeks later I came home from school and walked in through the front door to see a big sign that read “ GET READY TO HOP ON THE PRISCILLA BUS!” My parents threw me a surprise party and I literally ran up and down the street for 10 minutes because I was so overwhelmed. Rehearsals started a few weeks later and then onto the big stage I went. Walking out onto the stage every night to thousands of people to later hearing the sound of applause is seriously the best feeling ever! The whole cast was so friendly and loving towards the 4 Benji’s and to share a stage with them is something I will cherish forever.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your cast mates?
Josh: YES! Social media is such a wonderful thing. I’m able to stay in contact with a lot of the cast mates from Priscilla and even sometimes go out with them if they are in Perth in another show. It’s so great to know that even 10 years later, I am able to keep the relationship that I shared with a lot of the cast of Priscilla.
Jake, you’ve also been in several musical theater productions, which has been the most enjoyable production for you so far?
Jake: My most enjoyable theater production would have to be the role of Rooster in Annie. It was a difficult role for me to play because I am not used to playing the villain. However, the choreography was amazing and my dance skills allowed me to shine on the stage. I will always remember the thunderous applause as we finished dancing and singing to Easy Street.
Musical theatre is quite a different discipline to ballet, do you find one more challenging than the other, and do you find one more rewarding than the other?
Jake: I actually believe ballet and musical theater are both challenging and both equally rewarding! They are all aspects of performing and I love them both! Ballet is very beautiful, and it is stunning to have a story told only through movement. Musical Theater is amazing because it brings the aspect of expressing yourself through words and through song and dance! I love performing on the stage in any way that I can. It makes me happy!
Do either of you have any pre-performance rituals or superstitions, and if so what?
Jake: I do have a pre-performance ritual! Before every show I do a muscle relaxing exercise were I lie on the ground and tense every muscle; then relax my whole body. I repeat this 10 times. After doing this I feel relaxed and ready to perform to my best ability!
Josh: I really love stretching. Whenever I get extremely nervous, I start to stretch. I’ll just throw a leg or even have a quick split. Just remember that its okay to be nervous, it’s a way the body can prepare itself to perform to the best of its ability.
What are your plans for the future, where do you hope to see yourself in a couple of years time?
Jake: For the next couple of years I would really like to start auditioning for bigger theater companies and dance companies. I want to start to build my resume and begin an amazing career as a performer.
Josh: In a couple of years time I hope to graduate from the Western Australian Academy Of Performing Arts (WAPPA) and hopefully move over to America (NEW YORK) to audition for musicals or maybe even a dance company.
What do you like to do when you’re not dancing?
Jake: When I am not dancing I am doing many things, as cliché as it sounds I actually spend most of my time stretching. If I’m not stretching then I am spending my time watching YouTube videos for beauty and cosmetology. In late 2015 I hope to save the money to buy a camera and begin a YouTube channel of my own!
Josh: I love exercise. I really love running, swimming, gymnastics and athletics. I’m quite fortunate to have been able to represent the state at Cross Country, High Jump, 800M and Swimming over the past few years. I really just love anything that
Josh, you have spent a fair amount of time overseas, what is your favourite place you’ve travelled to, and which holds the greatest dance memories for you?
Josh: My favorite place I’ve travelled to would definitely be New York City. Some of my greatest dance memories would be performing on “The Enchantment Of The Seas” and at Down Town Disney in Orlando, Florida.
What style of dance are you most at home doing? What style do you find the most difficult?
Jake: The style I feel at home doing would be Broadway style jazz! I think it is fun to do and it makes me so happy to do it! I feel alive when performing it! A style of dance I find a difficult would be Hip-hop. I don’t know what it is but its almost funny to watch me do Hip-hop, I guess I don’t have swag! Haha!
Josh: I’m by far a ballet head. I really love ballet and Contemporary dance. I definitely find hip hop a challenge because I don’t like using my upper torso… haha!
And Jake, you haven’t been dancing all that long, what do you think was the most difficult part of mastering dance at a much later age than most performers, was it more the flexibility/turnout side of things, learning the technique, or something else?
Jake: In the time that I have started dancing I know there were challenges, but I believe that anything can be overcome with hard work, practice, and loving the challenge. The only thing that I could even think of as being difficult would be maintaining the mindset and accepting that no one is perfect. No one has perfect hips or legs. Dancing is about expressing how you feel and telling stories. This past year I was diagnosed with depression, I went through a dark time where I began to hate dance and I never thought I would be good enough! Now with the support and love from Friends, Family, and Joshua, I know that I love what I do and I am beyond happy with where I have come as a dancer.
You’ve both been featured as dancers in photographer Jordan Matter’s stunning ‘Dancers Among Us’ series, how did you get involved with this project?
Jake: This is actually a funny story!
Josh: So on my first trip to America I had seen some of Jordan’s work so I sent him an email asking if he would ever come to Australia (not knowing that I would return to America later that year) I ended up messaging him, letting him know I was coming to America and he said that he would love to shoot with me and that was that!
Jake: …and I’m a part of 'Dancers Among Us' only because of Joshua. He was given the opportunity to work with Jordan, and due to Joshua living with me in the U.S. at the time I came along with him. Being there Jordan asked if I was a dancer too and I respond with a big “Yes!” Jordan then asked if I wanted to take some pictures too and with even more enthusiasm I said “Yes” again. Later that week Jordan and I met and took the photo in the snow.
We also know that you guys are really good friends, how did you meet?
Jake: Joshua and I actually met though Instagram. I know, its sounds crazy but Joshua has become my best friend and he has helped me through many hard moments I have faced in life. This past winter he traveled to the U.S. and spent Christmas and New Years here with me! I am so grateful to know him and I am beyond happy to have him in my life!
Josh: It’s quite hilarious actually because I had never met Jake until I flew across to the other side of the world to go and stay with him! I really believe that sometimes you need to take a step out of your comfort zone and do something that you never thought you were capable of doing. For me, this was the first time I had ever travelled by myself somewhere and it was the longest flight of my entire life!! But hey, it was all worth it in the end, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to be reunited with Jake on my return to America.
Was shooting with Jordan fun?
Jake: Shooting with Jordan was a stunning experience! His spontaneity makes for lots of laughs and he can create such amazing photos by using the dancers abilities, his creative eye, and both of your love for the work! I am proud to be a part of such an amazing project!
It must be hard keeping in touch with the time difference and the distance between you guys, any plans for another trip to America Josh, or a trip to Australia Jake?
Jake: The time difference and distance is a little hard but we do what we can to make it work for us by chatting when we can! It has been difficult because sometimes we didn’t get to chat for a few days…
Josh: …But it’s got a lot easier now that I’m in Perth. We are exactly 12 hours different from each other and I try my best to face time Jake almost everyday. I mean it gets hard when your best friend lives on the other side of the world... but anything is possible as long as your committed! YES! I’m planning to go back to America at the end of this year again, I may even go and look at other parts of the world like Europe and Asia.
Jake: And I would really love to go to Australia to spend some time with him. I would love to go and meet his family and spend time where Josh grew up! I am trying to save what I can to get there or even help Josh come back to America!
Do your families come to see you dance very often?
Jake: My family has been beyond supportive to my dancing and me. They almost never miss a performance!
Josh: Well, I don’t live with my parents any more since I’ve recently moved to Perth to study at WAAPA so its quite difficult to see my parents as they live on the East Coast.
Who inspires you?
Jake: Someone that truly inspires me everyday is honestly Joshua! He has been through many things in his life and no matter how tough or hard things get; he can always find something positive! He is the one person in any situation I know will find a light!
Josh: I’m inspired by life. I believe everyone has something to offer in this world and everyday someone and something new inspires me to be better then I already am.
What career would you pick if you didn’t dance?
Jake: If I did not dance I would be a makeup artist or an esthetician! I have grown fond of make up techniques and skin care over the year and I think it would be good for me to have an actual education in them.
Josh: If I wasn’t a dancer, I would most likely be a gymnast since I love acrobatics!
Are there any other activities you like doing (apart from dance) to keep fit?
Jake: I do not do many other activates other then dance but I do keep a stretching and conditioning routine that I try to follow before classes and days I am not at dance!
Josh: And I really love to run as I said earlier. It really gets my blood rushing and it makes me feel alive.
Young dancers (especially boys) can often cop some slack from their friends and peers, who don’t understand the passion and dedication that dance can inspire. Did either of you experience this when you were younger, and if so how did you deal with it?
Jake: Personally I have never had the problem, starting at an older age I was able to cut myself away from that sort of negativity. I think everyone gets a little bit though. I’ve gotten a few rude comments from people and it’s hard to hear it sometimes but I have an amazing group of friends that really care for me and they help me get though the negativity! I just have to say that I hate hearing of young dancers (especially boys) that end up quitting because of negative people! But I want to tell them all personally to just keep going! If you love it, do it! It doesn’t matter what other people say or think; it is your life! Never give up because someone else says you can’t, or you’re not good enough, or for boys if they say it’s for girls! If you are happy then keep doing it!
Josh: I believe that everyone goes through this at some time in their life and you know what... yes its going to be hard. I was lucky because I went to a Performing arts high school so it wasn’t as bad but to those who may experience it… Remember that you aren’t alone. Don’t let someone who gave up on his or her dreams talk you out of yours.
What was your New Year’s resolution this year?
Jake: This year (2015) my New Year’s resolution is just to grow as not only a dancer but as a human! I want to experience new things and new style! This world is amazing and I want to see it all! I want 2015 to be the start of it!
Josh: I don’t believe in new-year resolutions because I believe that everyday I need to aspire to better then the person I was yesterday. So therefore the new year is just another day that I can be better.
Do you have any special talents or party tricks?
Jake: A special talent I have I would say is my “C” jump, or as my family refers to is as my “O” jump. It is something that you can see I mastered pretty quickly by the looks of my very first dance photo. Having the training in gymnastics also helped with my flexibility.
Josh: I can do a back handspring.. Does that count?
Definitely! If you could meet anyone, living or dead who would you choose?
Jake: If I could meet anyone I think I would love to meet Bob Fosse! I would love to learn all about his unique style of movement! He has impacted the Broadway world in such immense ways it would just be amazing to meet him and talk to him about what he has accomplished!
Josh: I would choose to meet Hugh Jackman.. One day I aspire to be exactly like him.
What always makes you laugh?
Jake: Something or I should say someone that always makes me laugh is Joshua! He always knows how to make me laugh and make me happy! He is a funny guy and it’s really nice to have him in my life!
Josh: My friends make me laugh more then I could ever imagine.
Do you have any pets?
Jake: I have two dogs, Specs and Raven. Raven is a 10 year old black pug and Specs is my 2 year old Chiweenie!
Josh: Nope, no pets.
Song you keep listening to at the moment:
Jake: I have actually been listening to the 2006 cast recording of “A Chorus Line!” It is a beautiful show and I hope to be a part of it one day!
Josh: I really love the song “Corner Of The Sky” from “Pippin”.
Favourite dance movie:
Jake: My favorite dance movie is “Singin’ in the Rain!” When I first started taking interest in dance and theater this was one of the first things I saw and I just fell in love with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds!
Josh: I don’t really have a favorite dance movie because I love everything dance!
What’s your favorite part of class?
Jake: My favorite part of class is actually stretching and warming up! I don’t entirely know why but it is just nice to take time to yourself and relax!
Josh: I really love jumping and adage.
The best advice you’ve ever been given:
Jake: The best advice I have ever been given was “Never give up!” There have been many people that have told me this and it is something that I always keep in the back of my head!
Josh: The best advice I have ever been given is to BE YOU!
Finally, do you have any advice for other aspiring dancers?
Jake: One thing what I want tell any aspiring dancer is truly NEVER GIVE UP!! No matter how hard a class was or if anyone ever tells you that you are not good enough, NEVER GIVE UP! Every single person is stunning in their own way and what you have no one else has. Without you the dance world loses an amazing talent that can’t be replaced! So, anyone who reads this; if you can only take one thing from anything I have said, I want it to be that! Never Give Up!
Josh: The only advice I have for everyone out there is to believe in yourself and do what makes you happy. Anything is possible because no dream is too small and no dream is too big! Live the life you’ve imagined! xxx
Thanks for chatting to us guys :) we’re wishing you all the success and accomplishments you deserve, and we can’t wait to see what you both get up to in the future!
Follow Jacob on Instagram.
Follow Joshua on Instagram.
Follow Leandra Photography on Instagram.
Follow Jordan Matter on Instagram
(Pssst! He's just photographed our Model Ashi Ross too, go have a look!).
For more incredible dance photography be sure to check out Jordan's Facebook as well as the website for his latest project, Dancers After Dark, which captures dancers at their most daring, in photographs that resonate with both power and vulnerability. Beautiful!
DANCERS AFTER DARK
Interview by Elly Ford for Energetiks