Student Spotlight: Jasmine Forrest
What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. This week, get to know Jasmine Forrest, a seventh-semester B.F.A. in contemporary dance student and Black Scholars Initiative (BSI) ambassador from Redmond, Washington.
Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?
Growing up in a predominantly white area and feeling extremely isolated at both school and at my dance studio, I knew that I needed to gain some perspective and move as far away as I could. Initially, I had my heart set on NYU Tisch School of the Arts and applied to Boston Conservatory, USC Glorya Kaufman, Arizona State, and Cornish School of the Arts as backups in case things didn't go to plan. I saw myself living in the big city, weaving in and out of the nooks and crannies of the bustling trains…. I longed for loudness, yearning for the messiness and chaotic world that starkly contrasted the one I had lived in, and most of all I wanted to escape. It wasn't until I realized my name wasn’t called to move into the next round of the audition at Tisch that I experienced heartbreak for the first time. The cramped bathroom stalls barely covered my tears as I asked myself, “Why wasn’t I what they were looking for?,” feeling betrayed by the professor's judgment and seemingly impressing demeanors. Later my mom chalked it up to a quota, saying, “They just met their max for Black dancers for the year.” More rejection followed, and by April I had only received one acceptance letter, from Cornish. I was debating whether or not a college education would be beneficial for me and that maybe I should just make the move to L.A. and tough it out as a dancer there. Sheepishly, I made the trip to Boston to audition for the Conservatory. This was my last chance to secure my escape plan and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by. James Blake and Bon Iver's melodies flowed through me as I prepared myself for an opportunity of a lifetime. In high school, I had spent a month over the summer at the Conservatory’s Summer Dance Intensive and felt comforted by that sense of familiarity. When it was my turn, I walked in and performed my senior solo, answered questions about my goals and intentions moving forward, and left smiling. Somehow I knew that I was going to get in, and once I received the acceptance letter it felt like I was given permission to spread my wings. I was set free. Coming to Berklee was an opportunity for me to figure out who I am as a Black woman confidently. I finally saw myself represented in positions of authority in higher education and as leaders within the dance community. When it felt like all I was getting was a “No, you can’t,” the Conservatory welcomed me in with a “Yes, you can.”
What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?
My favorite class so far has to be Heels, taught by Tara Brown. It’s a new class that has been added as a part of the development of the commercial dance program this year. Throughout my time at Berklee, I performed in the Rihanna Ensemble music video project and in Berklee’s Beyonce Ensemble as a way to get more commercial dance experience to counter my classical ballet and modern dance training at the Conservatory, so when this class was offered I had to do anything to be in it. Tara has taught me how to shift from my divine feminine to the divine masculine, to trust myself, and to push my boundaries in movement. Her class is a highlight in my week and is always a source of inspiration for me. If it wasn't for her class, I wouldn't have felt so compelled to come out as nonbinary. Her love for teaching is infectious, and I’m looking forward to seeing how her lessons manifest in my career after graduation.
Watch Jasmine perform in the Berklee Rihanna Ensemble:
What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?
Currently, I am working my first residency as a professional choreographer at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, and it has been such a blessing. It’s helped me to solidify my identity as a choreographer and showed me what I am capable of. The show is premiering in January, and I couldn't be more excited to see the dancers make my vision come to life. Thank you to Mila Thigpen and Brenda Divelbliss for facilitating this; I am so grateful for you both.
How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?
Lately, Trident [Booksellers and Cafe] has been a place of refuge for me, whether it's finding a good book or drinking their hot apple cider. I always feel refreshed after spending time there. I also enjoy spending time with my friends, who are all outside of the dance department and go to Berklee or are voice principals at the Conservatory. Listening to artists like Doechii, Bree Runaway, chlothegod, Flo Milli, and FKA Twigs always gives me ideas for choreography or show concepts.
When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?
I inspire myself. The person I am in the future inspires me and pushes me to keep going. They tell me that I can do it and that it will all be worth it in the end as long as I keep asking for help, staying true to myself in the moment, and listening to understand.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?
They were very stubborn so I don’t think I could get through to them. I would probably just reassure myself that I am in the right place.
Jasmine’s Favorite Songs Right Now
We asked Jasmine to share some music that they’ve recently been into. Here's their list of five artists and song selections.
1. “damn Right,” Audrey Nuna
It’s just fun and playful—a great way to start my morning.
2. “Almeda,” Solange
It reminds me of the beauty of my Blackness and the uniqueness of my experience as a Black nonbinary woman.
3. “Freedom,” Nicki Minaj
I use the lyrics as a part of my mirror work and to manifest a long-lasting positive self-image. It’s very confidence-building and reminds me that no one can take away from my gift and talent.
4. “2 You,” Mariah the Scientist
The melody is very hypnotic and her voice is like a lullaby. I tend to gravitate towards music that has a very catchy and soothing melody and—I kid you not—I have this song on repeat daily.
5. “Break from Toronto,” PARTYNEXTDOOR
I mean, does this really need an explanation?