by David Cohen
photos by Todd Rosenberg
For Jonathan Fredrickson and Kevin Shannon, dancing has a different meaning every day. For them, dance it is the essence of life.
As two of the 18 members of the prestigious company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Jonathan and Kevin have accomplished what most young dancers dream about.
Growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, Jonathan remembers himself dancing and creating new movements every possible moment he could. His love of dance led him to the Munro Ballet Studios in Corpus Christi, where he studied ballet under the direction of teachers Cristina Munro and Kay Boon. In 2006, he received his BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from the California Institute of the Arts.
Jonathan continued his path to success. In 2006, he joined the Limón Dance Company in New York City, where his talent and abilities as a dancer and choreographer were quickly recognized. Jonathan performed lead roles at Limón with some of the world’s greatest choreographers including Jiří Kylián, Lar Lubovitch, Clay Talliaferro, Anna Sokolow, and Colin Connor. Jonathan’s enormous creative passion, along with his non-stop need to choreograph resulted in him obtaining his first commission at the age of 25 for the Limón troupe. The Edge of Some World premiered in Beijing, China in 2009, and performed during the company’s 2009–2010 season in Switzerland, Mexico, and New York City. Jonathan’s second choreographic commission, Chrysalis, premiered at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City in December, 2010.
In 2009, Jonathan won Hubbard Street 2’s National Choreographic Competition, and he joined the main company in February of 2011. Also in 2011, Jonathan was named as an up-and-coming choreographer and one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine.
Kevin, who joined Hubbard Street in November, 2007, also has an impressive list of accomplishments as a professional dancer. Under the guidance and direction of Lester Holmes, Kevin began his formal dance education at his home town Baltimore, Maryland. Later on, he graduated from the Baltimore School of Art. Kevin continued his training under the supervision of the renowned American choreographer Paul Taylor at the Miami City Ballet, the School of American Ballet.
After receiving his BFA in 2007 from the Juilliard School in New York City, Kevin toured the U.S. with the Juilliard School Ensemble. During this time, he appeared in the nationally broadcast television special Live from Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School: Celebrating 100 Years. During this time, Kevin also performed works by choreographers Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, William Forsythe, and Jiří Kylián.
While Jonathan has a constant need to create, Kevin’s passion is turning a choreographer’s vision into reality by delivering each dance step as accurately as possible. “As a dancer, this is the most satisfying moment: when I give life to a piece created by one of the world’s leading choreographers,” he says.
Although their relationship didn’t begin as love at first sight, dancing brought the two closer together. Working closely in the same profession, the couple has had to learn how to separate their personal lives from their professional lives. The process of becoming dance professionals has taught both men how to stay focused and determined. These qualities have helped both Kevin and Jonathan overcome stressful moments. One such moment occurred during the filming of a rehearsal for the annual AIDS Foundation of Chicago benefit, Dance for Life when Kevin’s pants ripped open in the middle of the performance. While the cameras continued to film, Kevin focused on one thing only: the show that must go on. Jonathan believes that the ability to cover up mistakes and make them appear part of the performance can be achieved only “by a true professional dancer.”
“A creative person must push himself beyond normal boundaries to evoke inspiration within. “You must know and believe in yourself, love yourself, and know what makes you a human being,” Jonathan says. “This is what it takes to succeed in the world of dance and in life.”
While climbing the ladder as an up-and-coming choreographer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Jonathan states that he will never give Kevin an advantage over any other dancer. “I will always look for the most talented dancer who is capable of performing what I have envisioned and created,” says Jonathan, with a soft but confident voice.
How does this young couple handle the pressures of their demanding day-to-day work? Kevin loves to cook, while Jonathan loves to dine out. They also enjoy quiet evenings, watching movies like Sophie’s Choice, and cups of coffee at corner cafés, watching the parade of people walking by.
Perhaps the secret to their successful relationship lies in the fact that they don’t live together. Keeping two separate apartments provides the space they need, where each is able to focus on finding his own internal balance.
“Eventually, I can see us moving in together,” says Kevin, who is not opposed to the idea of gay marriage. However, level-headed Jonathan wants the two of them to take their time and not rush into any big decisions. They’re taking one step at a time as they move together into their futures, while continuing to explore their creative sides.
As a form of non-verbal communication between humans, dance is the language Jonathan and Kevin use to express their feelings for one another. They will keep moving forward together with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a most welcoming and accepting company. After all, we have the privilege of choosing the way we want to live and love.