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Step Up: High Water star Jade Chynoweth reveals how she got those sick dance moves

Jade Chynoweth always stands out in Step Up: High Water’s dance scenes. Courtesy of YouTube

Season 2 of Step Up: High Water is now available on YouTube Premium. High Water Academy is home to many talented dancers, but one of the standouts is Odelie (Jade Chynoweth). Al (Faizon Love) even refers to her as “the good one.”

Odelie just got a job on Sage Odom (Ne-Yo)’s dance crew, but her boyfriend Davis (Carlito Olivero) has to stay in Atlanta to take care of his brother. There’s a whole lot more drama in store for Odelie this season including some of the toughest dances of her life.

Jade Chynoweth spoke with Monsters and Critics by phone about her impressive dance moves on display in Step Up: High Water. Watch all of Chynoweth’s dances in Step Up: High Water on YouTube Premium and see more of her dancing on Instagram.

Monsters & Critics: You can do a handstand and then do a split or bicycle upside down. Are those moves you work on for a long time?

Jade Chynoweth: Yeah, I’ve been dancing ever since I was two and I kind of started doing more the athletic and adding the gymnastics to it around about [age] six or seven, just trying things and really going for it.

M&C: And the headstand where you bend backwards?

JC: Oh yeah, the head hollow. I actually had one of my mentors, Gev Manoukian, he was one of the first people I ever saw do that move. He was on So You Think [You Can Dance] and so he taught it to me. That was one of the hardest ones to master for sure.

For Jade Chynoweth, this is a Tuesday. Courtesy of YouTube

M&C: You really turn on the intensity when you dance. Is it like a switch that flips in you?

JC: Oh, for sure. I always say that I have an alter ego when I dance because I’m a total goofball and always smiling, but when I dance I’m so serious and intense. I definitely have a whole different character that comes out when I dance. I think I just feel really powerful and I can embrace the fact that I can do and be anything.

M&C: Is that common of lots of dancers, that they maybe have a true persona when they start moving?

JC: I do think that because I think the reason why we chose dance and why we love dance is because it’s the way that we express ourselves instead of talking or singing or something else.

We express ourselves through movement so I think that’s where we’re our most comfortable self. It’s basically when we can really be ourselves and it’s definitely a good way to release emotion or things you’re going through without having to ay anything and that’s why I think dance is so powerful.

You can speak without words and be whoever you want to be and really be comfortable with it, especially when it’s your passion and what you love. You need to be yourself more so in the dance than it is in real life.

M&C: Did your physique come from dance alone or other workouts too?

JC: Well, I definitely do other workouts. I’ve always had an athletic body type just from being so active as a kid because my brothers were always into sports and I was either dancing or trying to do flips by myself.

When I hit about 15, fitness was a big part of my life and I actually have a fitness brand called Fit 2 Be It. We provide transformations and information about what is healthy.

If you have different goals, like to gain muscle or gain weight or losing fat or toning or maintaining, we just give you meal plans and workouts to help you do that and actually conjure that because I think being healthy and fit, in my perspective, just allows me to be at my best all the time.

I’m never worried about not being able to do something. Especially with Step Up, it’s a very taxing, physical job because if we’re not acting, we’re in rehearsals dancing all day. I just like to be prepared for anything. Dance has definitely helped it but I think the added workouts add to it.

M&C: How tall are you?

JC: I am 5’4”.

M&C: Does your height inform your moves?

JC: I think being short has always helped me with dancing because it allows me to get places quicker and I just know it’s harder to dance the more body you have to move, especially when you have fast dances or up tempo dances and flipping and doing all of that.

I definitely think it helps but people always do think I’m taller when they don’t know me, so that’s also interesting. It’s always, “Oh, you’re so much shorter than I thought.” I’m like, “Yeah, I know.” I dance big.

M&C: What is your preferred dance gear?

JC: Always sweats and a crop top. I like really baggy sweat pants and then some sort of crop top. I try to dance in sweatshirts like everybody else but I get too sweaty and too hot so I have to have a happy medium.

M&C: The show puts you in shorts or sweats and different combinations.

JC: Yes. They definitely asked me what I liked in the beginning of the show but Odelie is definitely a lot girlier than I am. She likes the whole shorts and almost more jazzy type of outfits.

Especially if we wanted to make the show a little more diverse, and we have Poppy and all these other people that bring more of the street aspect to it, we didn’t want to make Odelie too much that.

We wanted to have her be a little bit more girly and a little bit more put together at all times. That’s why we went with that but in real life, I’m not much of a shorts wearer.

The cast of Step Up: High Water with executive producer and original Step Up star Jenna Dewan Tatum, Courtesy of YouTube

M&C: Do you prefer dancing in shoes or barefoot?

JC: I love to dance barefoot. It makes me feel more grounded and I just feel like I’m able to do things more. Sometimes shoes, because I learned all my flips and stuff at a football field when I was younger, so I always prefer to be barefoot.

Because in real life, my style is a hip-hop contemporary fusion, I’m not doing a bunch of legs and turns and leaps but I still like the whole aspect of being grounded and being able to feel my feet on the ground.

M&C: Could you relate to Collette’s lesson that sexiness is in the eyes?

JC: It’s definitely something I agree with and something that I do know. That actually was one of the hardest things for me to play because my real life ego was coming into play. I’m like I know how to dance sexy! That’s what I do! This is offensive!

But Odelie can’t be that, so I had to take a step back and really break it down what it means to have more of that classy sexy that’s not too much in your face, that draws the audience in. I’ve always said dancing’s all about the eyes.

Especially with this whole Instagram craze right now with dancing, I think that’s why I’ve been able to connect with people is because I look directly in the camera and it almost makes people feel like I’m looking at them. So it’s always been something I’ve definitely agreed with. Everything in general, sexiness or any type of story, is always in the eyes.

M&C: Like I said, that look that comes over you.

JC: Yes, it is. You always know. Even when it’s something emotional, you can tell if it’s real enough by looking in their eyes as well.

M&C: Was it nice when Faizon called you “the good one?”

JC: Oh my gosh, he is the nicest. He’s so funny and the funny thing was, the first season I had only met him once because none of my scenes were with him. Our characters didn’t interact at all.

I just met him when we went to one of his comedy shows while we were out in Atlanta. That’s the first time I met him so I guess he watched the show which is good.

M&C: So there’s 20 episodes of Step Up: High Water on YouTube Premium and your Instagram. Where else can we see you dance?

JC: With dancing, I really wanted to let it be a passion because that’s when I think it affects people the most, when it’s real emotion. I didn’t want to make it a job that I had to fight money for because dancers don’t get paid as much as they deserve.

They probably get paid the least out of all the arts, so with acting, that’s where I’m really setting my mind and all my drive to. I’m really trying to book some sort of feature film or something where I can really further and learn more, further my talent and my passion for it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to be.

The ultimate dream is to be one of the Marvel superheroes because I want to be a kickass heroine type of character. I love dancing and I love the physical aspect of dancing so if I could bring that to acting and do my own stunts and do something like that, it would be a dream.

Jade Chynoweth is focusing on her acting along with her dancing. Courtesy of YouTube

For now, I’m auditioning. I have new management so I feel like I’m finally headed in the right direction in that sense. With dancing, I plan on still taking class and potentially teaching. I get flown around a lot to teach outside the country because I just like to connect with people.

I think that’s the main thing I love about dancing. It’s like a separate language so for anyone who dances, we can literally speak no matter where we’re from. It doesn’t matter if there’s a language barrier. We have dance in common which I think is really cool. I’m just grinding and I have my fitness website.

I’m really trying to be a young 20-year-old who’s doing multiple things right now. I don’t want my life to be all in one basket. I’m trying to really further myself on the business side of things as well as the art side of things as well as just being a better person. I’m just trying to really create a well-balanced life right now.

M&C: Are there any other dance styles you want to add to your repertoire?

JC: I really need to get into salsa, especially Bachata. I want to learn it so bad. I watch all the videos all the time so it’s definitely something I’m interested in.

Fred Topel has been a journalist since 1999. Over the decades he’s written for About.com, Hollywood.com, CraveOnline, Rotten Tomatoes and Slashfilm. Fred brings Monsters and... read more

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