Jared Giles, the operations manager at local tech startup Interapt, is kind, charming and funny. He spends his days working with other technology-minded individuals on Interaptâ€™s myriad of projects, most of which specialize in healthcare related apps. But at night, Jaredâ€™s true passion emerges: hip-hop dancing.
Giles was born and raised in Louisville and attended duPont Manual High School before matriculating to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He first went in for business but switched to information science and graduated with a B.S. in 2014. But while he was working on his degree, he was also working on his dancing, which he first began studying in high school.
â€œIn high school, I was a math/science/technology major, so I was doing all the tech and computer stuff,â€ he relates. â€œI was good at all those things and I could do them, but I didnâ€™t really love doing any of them. Then one day â€“ Iâ€™ll never forget â€“ I was sitting on my couch watching â€˜So You Think You Can Dance.â€™ I saw it and I said, â€˜I really want to try that. I think I can do that.â€™â€
Giles started looking up videos on YouTube and teaching himself the choreography. He then got a couple of his friends together and formed a dance troupe that would perform at events around town. By the time he got to college, he was good enough to make one of the two dance groups he auditioned for, and by his second semester, he was good enough to get into both.
He kept dancing throughout his college career, and whenever he traveled, he always made a point to take local hip-hop classes. When he moved back to Louisville, though, he had to focus on getting a job. â€œI wanted to move to New York right after I graduated, but I kind of realized that I didnâ€™t have my life together and didnâ€™t really know what I wanted to do,â€ Giles admits of the time. â€œSo I took some time to get a job here and figure things out.â€
His job came in the form of an internship at Interapt, which he began on December 1, 2014. Just 23 days later, he was hired as a full-time employee, and for the last year, he has walked the difficult line of balancing obligation and passion. â€œI canâ€™t really listen to music at work because I want to get up and move, so itâ€™s hard for me to focus on whatever my job is whenever Iâ€™m listening to music or thinking about dancing,â€ he describes. â€œSo I kind of need to separate the two worlds. But it works out because Iâ€™m able to focus on my job, and then when my job is done, I can go to rehearsal or go into the studio and take a class.â€
Heâ€™s very much enjoyed taking classes and occasionally teaching at Safiyyah Dance Studio here in town, and as of this month, Giles has even more robustly developed his love for dancing by performing in his first ever musical: Green Dayâ€™s â€œAmerican Idiotâ€ with the company Acting Against Cancer. The show opened last weekend and runs through this Sunday, February 7. Giles was encouraged by his coworker to audition and is so glad he did.
â€œItâ€™s mostly been a lot of fun because the cast is great and I love everyone Iâ€™m working with,â€ he exudes. â€œI like the dancing and being a part of it, but itâ€™s not the dancing Iâ€™m used to. Iâ€™ve really enjoyed singing and figuring out what I can do with that because itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve never explored or tried before. So doing that while dancing and performing and doing the set changes and quick changes â€“ itâ€™s really fun.â€
And although he was cast as an ensemble member, he was bumped up to a featured part with a song of his own â€“ certainly a challenge for someone with absolutely zero vocal training. â€œI went in as an ensemble member, and then I was asked to be the Favorite Son and have my own song. And I had to practice a lot for that as far as getting the notes, getting the choreography, moving onstage, changing onstage and also being comfortable in my underwear onstage with everyone looking at me!â€ Giles recounts. â€œBut knowing that Iâ€™ve been able to do that has been my proudest achievement.â€
Looking ahead, Giles says he would do another musical if it was equally dance-intensive but also has his sights set higher on working as a choreographer and creative director, possibly in New York City. Wherever he is though, he will always be an advocate for the arts as they have tremendously shaped who he is today.
â€œI think thereâ€™s a lot of power in art â€“ whether itâ€™s in education, in therapy or art just for artâ€™s sake,â€ he muses. â€œAnd thatâ€™s kind of the direction I want to go in also in working with arts organizations or in making my own. Iâ€™d really like to advocate for the arts within education and make sure education programs include the arts because I think a lot of my education has been built on art, and I wouldnâ€™t be who I am now without that.â€ VT