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Dancing Brothers: Jesse and Joel Rasmussen

Joel and Jesse Rasmussen.
Joel and Jesse Rasmussen.

Every dancer knows that dance friends are some of the best in the world. From shared studio time, long rehearsals, and joys and sorrows onstage and off, dance friends experience it all by your side. But what is it like when your brother or sister is also part of the mix? We were curious to find out what sharing a dance life with a sibling is like, and reached out to hip hoppers and tappers (or urban dancers?) Jesse and Joel Rasmussen to hear how the dancing brothers affected each other’s training and careers. 

Who started dancing first? 

Jesse

Jesse Rasmussen.
Jesse Rasmussen.

“Joel and I actually started dancing at the same time. It began as an after-school activity at our primary school, Burleigh Primary. We made a promise to our mum to give it a try for three months, and if we didn’t like it after that, we could try another sport. We never looked back.”

Joel

“We both started dancing at the same time. I was seven, and Jesse was nine. There were dance classes at our primary school, so mum signed us up as she needed to put us in after-school care.”

What was it like growing up dancing with your brother? 

Jesse

“It was the best. I couldn’t imagine it being any different, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It brought us closer together. Joel’s my best mate, and we have very successful professional careers touring, choreographing and creating productions together. There’s nothing stronger then brothers working side-by-side.”

Joel

“Jesse was one of those freak kids who was so good at every style and a crazy acrobat. He always won his comps, so I always looked up to him. Watching him pushed me to be a better dancer.”

Was there ever any competition? 

Jesse

“It’s safe to say that Joel and I are very competitive people by nature. We like to be good at things we put our minds to, and strive to be the best in that field. (I think we get this from our mother.) However, I never looked at Joel as competition. I played the big brother role, and I always wanted the best for my brother. Having a brother raises the bar because if Joel learned a cool new move, I also wanted to know how to do it. If I did a backflip with no hands, Joel would have that trick down soon after. It was healthy competition.”

Joel

“There was only healthy competition. I would see him get a bit better than me, so I would train harder, then I would come back and raise the bar, so he would step up. And so on and so forth.”

When did you each know you wanted to make dance a professional career? 

Jesse

“The moment I started taking dance seriously was at competitions and eisteddfods. They give out these special awards at the end of a competition called Aggregate trophies to the best all-round performers in any style. Once I learned this and you get your name engraved on that trophy, I was hooked. I told you I was competitive! From there, I watched Todd McKenney in musicals, and worked on corporate events and night club shows with Robert Sturrock while I was still in high school. At the end of grade 11, it became very real when I landed my first big musical theatre show, Hot Shoe Shuffle. After that job, I moved from the Gold Coast to Sydney, and the rest was history.”

Joel Rasmussen.
Joel Rasmussen.

Joel

“From the age of 14, I knew I was going to make a career out of dance. In my mind, there was no other option. I just loved it so much!”

What’s the best and worst thing about having a dancing sibling? 

Jesse

“The best thing was that it brought us closer together. We were duo partners as kids, we created a hip hop crew in our early 20s (winning us second place at the Australian Hip Hop International Championship in 2009), and created brands and productions as adults. We were pretty lucky. The worst thing is that it brought us closer together (just joking). Joel and I worked together on so many high-stakes projects, from choreographing Jessica Mauboy’s Beyoncé‘s support tour, to choreographing three seasons of The X Factor Australia and So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). You tend not to sugarcoat things and tend to vent to family members in a way you wouldn’t with a work colleague. Like all siblings, you bump heads occasionally when the stakes are high, and Joel and I have had our fair share of those bumps. But working relationships/partnerships are all about learning to communicate and persevere.”

Joel

“I don’t really have a worst thing. The best thing was that Jesse always had my back at school. If I got picked on by the school bully for dancing, Jesse would come at them like a spider monkey and save me.”

Jesse and Joel Rasmussen.
Jesse and Joel Rasmussen.

Did your parents or friends ever have to choose between which of your performances to attend? 

Jesse

“Very rarely actually. When we were kids, we were always performing in troupe numbers and duos together. When we started dancing professionally, we were lucky to book Grease: The Arena Spectacular together, and it continued from there. I made Top 20 SYTYCD Season 3, and Joel made Top 20 SYTYCD Season 4. Joel booked musicals that I didn’t and vice versa. If anything, that meant more trips for our parents to come to visit us down in Sydney from the Gold Coast.”

Did you/do you ever give each other help with corrections or choreography? 

Jesse

“Absolutely. That was never-ending; this still happens today. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse at the same time.”

Joel

“We would collaborate a lot with choreography. We choreographed a few seasons of The X Factor, SYTYCD, Dancing with the Stars and music videos.” 

What are you doing now, dance-wise? 

Jesse

“Currently, I’m on The Tap Pack USA Tour. I’m one of four company directors who created and choreographed The Tap Pack in 2013, which has led us to London’s West End, Berlin, China, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Sydney Opera House and many more countries over the past couple of years. The Tap Pack is doing a Queensland Tour in June and July, and a two-month European tour. For Queensland tickets and tour dates, jump on the website, www.thetappack.com, and come say hi to all the boys as we travel through your town in QLD.”

Joel

“I run a business with my wife, Rowena, called JTown Creative. We choreograph TVCs for some of Australia’s biggest production houses. We also create entertainment for The Star Casino. We’re filmmakers, and make short films showcasing some of the best dancers and choreographers this country has to offer!”

By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.

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