My name is Jenna Gooden, and I am from Houston, Texas. When I was fourteen I moved to Boca Raton, Florida to study with The Harid Conservatory. After three years of training I returned to Houston and joined the Houston Ballets Ben Stevenson Academy, with a full scholarship. The following year I became a member of Houston Ballet II, and then joined the main company in 2015. I am currently in my third season with Houston Ballet.
If you could describe what type of dancer you are with just three words, what would they be?
Motivated, Detail Oriented, and Hard Working.
What has been one of your favourite experiences on stage so far?
Every role and performance is a unique and a different experience. One of my favorite moments was performing for a collaborative charity project called Reach. Reach was founded last year by dancers Connor Walsh, Melody Walsh, and Oliver Halkowich. It combines an opportunity for Houston Ballet dancers to choreograph and perform new works whilst raising funds for youth community arts projects.
What is your personal strength as a dancer?
As a dancer, I’ve always understood the importance of having a strong work ethic.
Is there a specific choreographer that inspires you?
Last season Houston Ballet performed Artifact. We were fortunate enough to work with William Forsythe. He is a fascinating choreographer, and it was an inspiring experience learning from him.
Do you have a favourite theatre to perform in?
I don’t really have a favourite theatre to perform in, however the first time I danced on the Wortham theatre’s stage in Houston, it was incredible. Growing up in Houston I would often go see the ballet and dream of dancing up on that stage, so when I joined the company it was a dream come true.
Photo by Darrin Nguyen
How would you describe the difference between a rehearsal and a show?
In rehearsal I am generally focused on all the details. The choreographic details, spacing, and understanding the style of the piece. This allows me to be confident when I go on stage, and gives me the freedom to really enjoy the moment!
Is being a professional ballet dancer anything like you imagined it to be when you were training?
Being a professional ballet dancer has definitely had its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, I get to do what I love.
Do you focus on specific exercise along side your daily training, rehearsals and performances?
As a dancer, I understand the importance of cross training, and how beneficial it can be. Every morning before class I like to run at least one mile to warm my body up for the day. I also have specific physical therapy exercises I’ve been given for a hip related injury. We are very lucky here at Houston Ballet to have a gym in the ballet building, so I also have an ab series I complete during our lunch break.
Photo by Darrin Nguyen
Are you conscientious about nutrition and how you fuel your body?
My mom is actually passionate about naturopathy and nutrition, so I have grown up being educated and health conscious. I try to eat a plant based diet, with minimal processed foods. However, I do love the occasional splurge!
How do you go about relaxing and taking time away from your active lifestyle?
On a daily basis, I love getting in the kitchen and cooking as a form of relaxation. I enjoy to be creative trying out and expanding on new recipes. However, when we have breaks from the ballet I always love going to the beach. It is the best place for me to clear my head and recharge.
How do you imagine life after dance?
Life after ballet is always a scary thought for me. However I do enjoy planning for the future, so I am currently studying to become certified in Pilates.