Former student dances his way to Disney


Ariana Beedie

Jade Perry, a former USI student, received a position to work at Disney World – something he’s only dreamed about. The 24-year-old gave himself three tries to achieve his lifelong goal and made it on the second try.

“I first auditioned four years ago in Chicago when I was a freshman at USI,” Perry said. “I auditioned with my best friend, and we both made it to the finals. I waited but never got an email back.”

The lack of response from Disney left Perry feeling discouraged. Despite having to focus on tragic events after his father passed away three years ago, Perry kept dancing.

“My dad was the biggest cheerleader in my life,” Perry said.

Even though Perry experienced hard times, it led him to continue to pursue his dream of auditioning for Disney.

“Four years later, I auditioned again in Louisville, Ky., which is only an hour and a half away,” Perry said. “At the dance audition, you’re in a group of 65 to 70 people and half are cut within the first 60 minutes.”

Dancers learn the routine, then cuts are made. After that, the remaining dancers learn a longer routine, he said.

Perry auditioned with a fractured foot because he felt this was his chance to make it to Disney.

“I thought after 16 years of dancing, ‘I’ve got this’,” Perry said. “It’s kind of fun, but you still have to pay attention not to be overconfident.”

During his time at USI, Perry was also the first male to join to dance team. The skills learned while on the dance team helped him learn quick dance routines during his audition in Louisville.

“After all the dancers were narrowed down, I was asked to stay longer because they wanted to video tape me dancing,” Perry said. “I’m just a small-town Indiana boy, and they asked me to stay specifically.”

After almost two months of waiting for a response, Perry had a phone interview and was offered the job.

“It was so weird. It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Perry said. “I’m going to be a parade performer and a character.”

Perry moved to Florida to prepare for his position at Disney. His first day on the job was Jan. 4, and his first performance will be later this month in the Animal Kingdom parade.

“I’ll be doing half this and half that another day, and I’ll still be dancing,” Perry said. “I’m going to be rehearsing my butt off.”

It’s neat getting a second chance, he said.

Perry began his dancing career at eight years old, with his first show as one of the Lolly Pop Guild in the Wizard of Oz. He attended many dance workshops around the Midwest, which led him to be a competitive dancer and to go for scholarships.

Perry also taught young adolescents hip-hop and tap dance in Evansville and Newburgh, which happens to be his favorite types of dance.

“(On) my last day of teaching, my students and staff gave me gift cards, cupcakes and posted a huge sign in the studio,” he said.

Perry appreciates how supportive people have been, he said.

“Just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean you can’t branch out,” Perry said. “Whatever the risk, sometimes the reward is bigger than the risk.”

If you can dream it, you can do it, he said.

“You have to take chances or you will be stuck,” Perry said. “I only had to drive an hour and a half away to make my dreams come true.”

Friends, like Brianna Beck, and family have known for years that Perry would make it to something this big.

Beck and Perry have been best friends since kindergarten. As far as she can remember, he’s wanted to be a dancer.

“I always knew somehow he’d end up entertaining,” Beck said. “When he finally told me he was auditioning, I had a really good feeling about it.”

Everybody’s always loved Perry, she said.

Perry’s focusing on his present success but brainstorming on his future endeavors.

“I’m hoping within a year to transfer to the Disney in Paris,” Perry said. “I don’t know where it’s going, but this can open so many doors.”

This is the ultimate accomplishment in life and everything happens for a reason, he said.