Auditioning for Madonna
Jaron talks about the 2 a.m. wake up call.
The agency asked my manager if we could try out for a Madonna audition. Lady Soul called me up and asked me to do an audition for Madonna in L.A. I said “Oh yeah! When is it?” This was 2 a.m. She said we would leave at 7 a.m.that morning. So we met at the airport, two other FootworKINGz, one was King Charles. He had the flu, but still went. T.J. – he’s from the West Side – went also. They had been practicing a routine that I didn’t know, so I was going to freestyle.
We went to Los Angeles. Nobody knew what we were about to do. It was a three-day process.
The first day was specialty dance, where we did our own thing. The second day we had to learn choreography. I always did footwork. Me learning another style of dance was new to me. I never did that before, especially in front of mirrors. Learning how to do hip hop in the mirrors was like third world to me. They saw we were not as good as the others, but they saw it was good enough. We passed the second day.
On the third day, Madonna came to check it out. We did our specialty and the choreography in front of her. Our whole goal was to show her footworking. We did not have any intentions of getting picked. We just wanted to come back home and tell veryone we did footworking in front of Madonna. We wanted her to see it. We wanted to showcase it.
She saw us dance and then told us, “I think you guys have been practicing to my music.”
Me, personally, I told her, ‘but I didn’t know all of your songs.’ For us, footworking was 160 beats per minute. Dancing to her songs was much slower. For us it was dancing in slow motion.
She thought we practiced to every one of her songs, because she told us we were hitting all the notes. When we told her we didn’t practice to her songs, she stood up and told the studio to play an unreleased song at the time.
Madonna said, “This way I’ll know if you guys are telling the truth. I am playing a song nobody has ever heard before. I’m going to see if you guys can dance to every beat on this song. There is no way you guys could have practiced to this one.”
At the time the song was Give It to Me. Madonna then counted us down, told everyone in the studio she did not want to see anyone else but the jukers. That’s what she called us, instead of saying footworkers, she said jukers from Chicago.
She counted us down.
When she was getting the music ready, King Charles reminded me of an old FootworKing routine we did when we first started. We decided to do that. When Madonna counted us down, all three of us did the old routine. It was to every beat. The routine went perfect with her unreleased song. Everybody in the studio was clapping.
Right then she said “I want you guys to perform Give it to Me.”
You could tell she liked it; it wasn’t a definite yes and it wasn’t a definite no. We were put on a waiting list. We went home and told everyone we made it to the last day.
Time went on. Months passed. The next year we were doing a show in New York. After our performance, our manager went onstage and announced to the audience, “I want to take this time out and congratulate King Charles and Prince Jron for making the Madonna tour.”
I was like “what?” I looked at Charles, he was as surprised as I was. Our manager knew but wanted to surprise us at the show.
After the New York show, a few months later the promoters had to get tour dates in order. A few months later we left to go to the rehearsals. It was a month of rehearsals before we did the first show. Madonna wanted to make sure everything was neat, clean and presentable for the show.
It was my first time doing a concert, so we had to get the kinks out. Everyone had to be at the same level, being on the big stage like that. It was only a promo tour; just three shows New York, Paris and Kent. We did those three shows.
The stage was big and so was the crowd. I then imagined what a world tour would be like; three times bigger, the crowd 20 times bigger. I kept thinking I was happy just to make the promo tour.
It was at that moment, where I felt like we did it.
Jaron explains one of the times they were put to “the test.”
The day before the last promo show, we were rehearsing. Madonna came up and said she was giving Chicago dancers a new song. We just rehearsed Give It to Me. Madonna said she wanted us to do another song called Miles Away.
I thought, “The concert is tomorrow!”
We had to make up a routine and stage it within a few hours. Then I heard Madonna tell the crew “I know they can do it. I believe in them.”
Right after she said that it was time for rehearsal to end. What were we going to do? On the car ride from the rehearsal spot to the hotel, me and King Charles decided to practice all night at the hotel.
Once we got back to the hotel, we got a message saying Madonna wants everyone to meet in the lobby in an hour to attend a piano dinner. Oh no! That just took us (from making) up the new routine. We got to the piano dinner not being able to practice. I told King Charles, “We are here. We have to make up this routine.”
Me and King Charles were in the corner at the dinner, talking on the new routine. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was 2:30 a.m. We took one hour to make up something. We had to get some sleep because the concert was later that day. We took to the stage with the new routine.
It came out perfect.
Madonna turned to us and said, “I can count on you for anything. You guys proved to me that I can count on you.”
I told her “I was happy I proved it to you. I also proved it to myself as well.”
After the promo tour, we went back home to Chicago Heights.
Months passed. Then we got the call we were going to be in Madonna’s world tour, Sticky and Sweet in 2008. I would be gone for seven months.
We traveled to Mexico, Brazil, Europe and North America. We even got a chance to do our own segment in Madonna’s show.
In the world tour me, Prince Jron, and King Charles got our own thing for about four minutes, while Madonna changed costumes. For her to trust us to entertain the crowd at that level . . . We did a song called “Die Another Day,” which was a remix of juke music.
In that number, we footworked . . . King Charles and I were boxing each other. Using our lower body and upper body.
I never boxed before. King Charles and I had to learn how to box, to make it look real. We choreographed the footwork dance with the boxing.
It was an amazing experience. Going to each country, I took pictures and video. I wanted to share with my family everything that I saw. I wanted to suck it up like a sponge, the cultures, language and food. When I was on tour, my friends from Chicago Heights kept messaging me (about) how much I am inspiring them to live their dreams and to be better (people). I just want to set a good example for others, to conquer their dreams and live big goals.
King Charles and Prince Jron were called back for part two of the Sticky and Sweet tour, which made a stop in Chicago. Jaron explains his homecoming performance.
We came to Chicago and performed at the United Center. My mom and other family members came to the show. They got a chance to go backstage and meet Madonna.
She told my family, “This is my son. I take care of him.”
I was so happy for them to see me perform on such a big stage. Charles’s mom was there as well. It was an emotional show for us.
At every other show we didn’t know anyone, Chicago was different, we had family out there supporting us. It was so good to be in Chicago. I have to come out (during) the first song to give Madonna her cane. Each show the crowd begins to scream. This show the screams sounded like a monster, so it really pumped me up. I was giving 200 percent the whole night. I wanted to make sure my family was proud, my mom was smiling the whole night.
That was one of the best nights of my life. My highlight night.
thanks To Sylvia!