It all started with a jazz class five years ago.
After getting a taste of dance from his high school theatre department, Jonathan Velez began attending classes at a studio. To become a versatile dancer, he took jazz, hip-hop, ballet, contemporary, and lyrical.
Now this senior is one of the captains of Synergy Dance Company. Synergy performs during the Homecoming Lip-Sync and Dance competition each fall. In the spring, they have a recital filled with student-choreographed dances.
After transferring to TCNJ last year from Middlesex County College, Velez saw a table for Synergy at the Activities Fair. He auditioned and has been heavily involved ever since. Speaking of being a captain, he says, “I take a lot of pride in it. I’m not just teaching; I feel like I’m changing. I really try to make the girls better some way, somehow.”
He’s the only male on Synergy, but this is nothing new for the 21-year-old Perth Amboy native — he was also the only guy in his previous dance studio. “It’s fun being the only guy in Synergy, because it’s like, ‘Who’s this boy?’ When anyone thinks of dance, they immediately think of girls,” he says. “It’s not wrong, it’s just what people think.”
Velez finally had the opportunity to work with other male dancers during a summer internship after his freshman year. He was at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. This internship was essentially like being a dance major, where he was required to pick a major (he chose jazz) and take 10 classes per week in various genres.
At TCNJ, Velez studies English and secondary education. After graduating, he plans to become a teacher and then go back for his master’s a few years later.
Ironically, Velez did not even really want to go here originally. It was only because of his mother’s push that he selected the school. “I was going to go to Rutgers Newark,” he recalls. “I paid the acceptance fee on a Tuesday, got my acceptance letter for TCNJ that Wednesday. My mom was like, ‘I’ll lose the deposit. You’re going to TCNJ.’
“I fell in love with the school,” he explains. “I really like the major, the school, the people — I got really involved. So my mom was definitely right.”
Now, he even works as an ambassador on campus, providing tours and representing TCNJ to prospective students.
“People think we just give a tour and work the open houses. It’s way more than that,” Velez says. “We actually take a lot of pride in the school and our jobs. We’re really close and we really love what we do. It’s not an act.”
As a transfer, he originally applied to be an ambassador just to get an on-campus job. As he progressed through the application process, the more and more he wanted it. “I realized it’s not just a job. It sounds stupid, but it’s a lifestyle. I was lucky enough to get it and it’s changed my entire college experience,” he says. “Joining the program was like getting another 100 family members.”
While he plans to teach after his college experience ends, Velez is contemplating auditioning in New York City one last time. His passion in dance is undeniable.
“I think it’s a hobby I’ll never lose,” he says. “Whether it’s choreography or just keeping up with dance and taking a class in New York or wherever I can locally.”