He needed a few seconds to catch his breath. His heart was beating fast. His routine was finally over, but now he needed to face the judges. There’s no way he could’ve predicted their reaction. He’d given it his all with the choreography he developed, and now, he was about to find out if it had paid off. Finally, he looked up and stared at the judges. Right at that moment, he felt like fainting on the floor.
But to Jaxon Wilard, this routine meant the world and more. He had been fighting tooth and nail until this very moment. When he was a little kid, he was adopted by a Caucasian family who opened their home to little Jaxon. He spent his childhood in American Fork, Utah, which only had a 0.4% African-American population. And despite his family loving him to bits, it was still not easy for Jaxon to grow up being so different.
Being the only African-American kid at school and on the block wasn’t easy for Jaxon. Eventually, he became a target for bullies at school who made fun of him. Even well-intentioned folks didn’t know how to treat him, which made him feel lonely and misunderstood. In a way, he felt like he just didn’t belong there. Thankfully, his adoptive family had his back, particularly one person who always allowed him to express himself.
His sister enrolled Jaxon in an after-school ballroom dancing program when he was just 11. He could’ve never imagined just how much fun dancing could be, until one day, he got to witness his sister dance. She became Jaxon’s inspiration, as she was the one who encouraged him to try and do his best. Jaxon quickly realized he was really good at dancing, and a whole new world suddenly opened up for the little boy. Finally, he discovered his passion, and this was only the beginning.
Once Jaxon was done with ballroom dancing, he quickly moved to other types of dance, such as jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary. He was able to blast some incredible moves, and his ability to choreograph his own routines came natural to him. But dancing was also his outlet. He was able to let out his frustrations, fears, and heartache, and turned all that inner turmoil into perfectly choreographed routines. He had finally found his calling, and he now wanted the whole world to watch him dance his heart out. But the road would prove to be full of obstacles.
Back in 2017, Jaxon found out that NBC was holding auditions for “World Of Dance,” a new competition show that could potentially help him get the recognition he deserved. Jaxon was part of a dance troupe at the moment, so they all decided to give it a shot. They made it through the first round, the qualifiers, but their performance was 0.3 short of what they needed to get, so sadly, they didn’t make it to the next round. But Jaxon wasn’t about to quit trying anytime soon.
Jaxon told The Daily Herald, “It was an amazing experience, but I also felt a little held back because I wanted to be able to share my experiences and stories, and hopefully inspire other people who are like me and who love dancing and just are trying to get through life like everyone else.” The second he realized there was going to be a second season, he quickly showed up to auditions, this time, as a solo artist in the junior division. Finally, he’d get a chance to show the world what he was made of.
Everyone was taken by Jaxon’s talents, and that included the audience and the judges. The entire auditorium was in awe when Jaxon performed a breathtaking contemporary dance routine to Kygo’s “Fragile.” But now it was time for the contestants to compete in pairs against one another for the second round, called “The Duels.” Whoever got the highest score, would make it to the next round. Jaxon was paired up with Lucas Marinetto, an incredible tap dancer. But Jaxon wasn’t concentrating on his opponent at all.
Marinetto went first, and got an impressive 88 score, which was even higher than previous dancers who’d actually won their “Duels” round. Now, Jaxon was up next, and he needed to prove he meant business. He crafted an immaculate contemporary routine to Jack Garratt’s “Surprise Yourself,” and it truly made the entire auditorium hold on to their seats. They were simply dumbfounded with Jaxon.
His routine was perfectly executed, but the passion and emotions behind his moves is what captured the audience, who were moved to tears. Once Jaxon was done, everybody stood up and gave him a standing ovation. He quickly run to his mother, to hold her hands in an emotional state. Then, it was time to face the judges. “I’m looking around at the crowd, you got people in here crying, brother,” said Ne-Yo, one of the judges. Now Jaxon would finally be able to explain his motivations.
“It’s about my feelings towards my birth mom, and how I was angry and I felt abandoned by her,” said Jaxon, moments before pausing to catch his breath as he was holding back tears. He went on to talk about how he had to hide his emotions all these years, as the last thing he wanted to do was hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings. He finally realized that there was nothing to be angry at, and that he had a beautiful and supportive family by his side. The judges were visibly emotional by his story.
Judge Jennifer Lopez told Jaxon, “God gives us a set of circumstances in life. Everybody has their story.“ She continued, “He gave you wings on your back by giving you your mom, by giving you your family, by giving you this talent. And without your story, you wouldn’t be able to be the artist that you are today.” Following Lopez’ kind-hearted comments, judges Ne-Yo and Derek Hough congratulated Jaxon’s moving performance, which they considered to be magical and powerful too. Now it was time to find out if Jaxon’s efforts had paid off.
Not only were the judges moves by Jaxon’s very-emotional performance, but they also gave him a pretty impressive score. He got a whopping score of 96, which was what he needed to go into the next round. “I’ve been holding in those feelings for such a long time, and so it was just so good to just let it out and to not be worried about it anymore,” Jaxon stated. He’s still got a long road ahead before potentially winning the competition, but he’s already mentoring other young kids who want to follow in his footsteps.
Jaxon has signed up to be a part of the education team for “World of Dance DX,” an event where former or current participants get to train and mentor young kids who want to learn the secrets of the trade, and aspire to be on TV. “What I’m most excited about, is to be able to share my experience of turning challenges & self-doubt into creative energy & inspiration,” Jaxon commented. So what’s going on with the competition?
Winning the “Duels” round helped Jaxon move on to the next round, “The Cut,” where they get assigned a mentor that will coach each contestant in the hopes of making it to the next round. The top 3 performances from each division will go to the “Division Finals,” but only one contest from every division will be able to face the other winners from each division in the World Finals. So what do they get asides from the pleasure of sharing your passion with the world? The chance to get a $1 Million prize. Not too shabby!