TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A University of Arizona graduate is defying the odds--from growing up in poverty, being surrounded by gang violence, to dancing alongside 'The Weeknd' for the big game Feb. 7.
JaVonte’ Marquez says growing up in Black America was hard.
Kids his age in Nashville, Tennessee were dying around him, but dance inspired him to achieve his dreams.
“Different things could have just took me off of my track, but it was dance...it was always dance that kept me focused to where I didn’t even see the dangers behind me,” Marquez told KGUN9.
So he kept dancing.
“Oh what’s going on over there? I don’t know. Dancing. I’m dancing. And then you know, graduated high school."
Eventually, Marquez started his college journey in Barcelona.
“That was the first moment where I was like wow, I could do something really incredible with dancing. Just with dancing.” he added.
Marquez eventually transferred over to Troy University in Alabama, and then came to the University of Arizona.
“And that’s when everything started to change at an accelerated rate. Being in a program that’s so elevated, I got to experience the professional life without having to be in it yet,” Marquez told KGUN9.
After graduating college, he worked for a dance studio in Vail before deciding to go back to his hometown in Tennessee.
“I had to leave that place because they wouldn’t stand up for me and they didn’t make me feel safe as a gay, Black man in general,” he said.
Soon after, he got the call of his lifetime asking him to be a performer for the halftime show.
Before he knew it he was on a plane going to Tampa, Florida.
“It was like, you’re in this elevated place where you’re here to work. Not just here to be distracted and you know, fangirl...but you know we want to be focused, get the job done, and work together as two artists,” said Marquez.
So he learned the choreography inside his hotel room, through Zoom, in six hours. Total practice time was 42 hours.
“Super Bowl usually takes three months and we did it all in one week,” he added.
That’s because of coronavirus restrictions.
“They casted all Black men. I think the reason why The Weekend did that was show everyone, show America, show the world that Black men are peaceful, we unify together, and we make great change, and we lead into greatness,” Marquez told KGUN9.
Here’s his message to dancers:
“If it’s your thing, stick to it and you’re going to be happy and that’s exactly how I feel. That’s my story," Marquez said with a smile on his face.
Marquez just started a company with his sister called Javoti, where he plans on honing his craft as a creative director and choreographer.