Deavondre Jones just wants to do two things: Dance and inspire others. With DanceSpire, the 23-year-old is doing just that, combining motivational speaking and dance routines to reach high-school and college students around the state.
When it comes to inspiring others, Jones has no shortage of life experience to pull from. He grew up in Benton Harbor and, due to his pride in the lakeside city, opted to stay behind when his mom moved to Grand Rapids. He wanted to be “the guy who would make it out and do something extraordinary for the community,” but that initially proved to be more difficult than he thought. Jones moved a total of eight times in two years, making for a turbulent high-school journey.
Now, after attending Grand Rapids Community College and Columbia College in Chicago, Jones is on a path to make his younger self proud with DanceSpire. We talked with Jones about where it all started and how he got to where he is today.
When did you start dancing?
My first memory of dance was being at my auntie’s wedding and the music came on and I remember just kind of dancing around, and the next thing I knew I had this whole circle around me and they’re cheering me on. So I’m dancing, and then I stop, and she makes all the groomsmen give me money, and I was like, ‘I can totally do this.’
What is the mission of DanceSpire?
We mix performance art and public speaking to deliver inspirational messages. That’s what we do. … When I was younger, I met people that would come to speak to us (in school), but there was such a huge difference in where they were and where I was that they didn’t keep me engaged. They weren’t entertaining, and they may have been inspiring but they definitely weren’t relatable. I decided that I was going to be that guy who would use all the struggles and the testimonies I have and use that as a way to speak to students.
You had some rough years in high-school. When you graduated, what was the next step?
I was still 17 at the time. When (me and my friends) first moved here (for GRCC), we were living at York Creek Apartments, and it was just all new to us. I became super involved; a brand ambassador, I would do visits around the school. I sat on the student conduct hearing committee at GRCC and I was a part of Black Student Union. I performed a lot, joining any talent show I could — GR’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance — in those two years.
How did DanceSpire get started?
I knew I wanted to go to Chicago soon. I’m a marketing guy, so I was like, ‘I need to be able go to Chicago with a new bang.’ Like a new, shiny toy, something that’s awesome. I pick up this book called Where Will You Be 5 Years From Today? (by Dan Zadra) and it challenges you on what you think your limitations are in life and where do you want to be in the future. And I wasn’t an avid reader at all, but I read that, and it got my mind going about some of the stuff I actually want to be in life and become, and one of those ideas was starting a business.
So you just decided to do it?
It was kind of one of those things where you jump off the cliff. I decided was going to do that. I was going to mix two skills I had, which were speaking and dancing. For the next two years, I did everything via DanceSpire with no computer. Michigan State was my first client, University of Michigan was my second, and GRCC started to work with me. All of these different events, I was doing no car, no computer, no smartphone.
How is DanceSpire doing now?
I have really high expectations and goals for DanceSpire. Last year we pulled a certain number, this year we’ve already doubled that in five months. … It’s gaining a lot of traction.
Who inspires you as an artist?
As an artist, I’m not the flashiest guy in the room. I’m not the best dancer in the room — that’s never going to be my goal in life, to be the best dancer. You’re going to see me around other guys and they’re going to be killing it, but when I step on stage it’s about a message. And so anybody else, artists who contribute messages to the world and who have their own unique story, I really resonate with. So Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Macklemore, Chance the Rapper, these are artists that I frequently go to when it comes to a DanceSpire performance.
Goals for the future?
The future of DanceSpire is expanding on the business model of speaking and performing. The goal is: How do I create a new artistic generation who are holding themselves responsible for the messages that they send to people when they’re on stage?