Spotlight On: Teaching Artist Jason Bams

"It’s the relationships — that’s how it starts. Smile, be positive, and never be afraid to make someone else smile. It’s all about connecting and being positive."

In the lead up to the holidays, we are thankful to have such a remarkable young man, Jason Bams, on our team and chose to reflect on the meaning of gratitude by spotlighting his experience and the journey that led him to The Meeting House.  Although only 22 years old, he provides a wealth of experience and wisdom for the benefit of his students.

For Jason, dance, travel, a network of family members, and teachers who supported him, and his own unique vision, guided him out of a challenging period in his adolescent years. Through all his experiences, Jason has learned the value of inspiration, kindness, ambition, and positivity — some of which only hit home after joining the Meeting House.


Growing Up

Growing up in the city with young parents wasn’t so easy. My dad was working a lot to support us, and I needed to learn from everything that was happening to me. I’m the oldest, and I have three siblings.

I used to get bullied at school, and then I used to get attacked on my block because I was Spanish and Black. I couldn’t have my parents help me. The schools weren’t helping me at all. Security guards used to laugh at me if the kids picked on me. I had to find my own way. Then I realized, I don’t want this life. I don’t want to be a statistic.

Things turned around for me when I started dancing. I went on a six-month tour around the state. When I came back, I saw all my friends hanging out in the same spot, wearing the same clothes — everything was the same. I started to think about myself hard and long. One thing I really believe is that you become what you surround yourself with, and I didn’t want to become what they were.

After high school, I decided to train in Denmark for dance and teaching, while I was still seventeen. First I looked it up, I saved up, and then I just went. It was worth it, just to get out of my comfort zone and I did that for a year.

When I came back [to New York], I started to share my work here, and I started to meet a lot of people who wanted me to start working with kids. I was working in a bunch of community centers and teen centers, working with kids from the area.

Living in Denmark

 I felt like I understood people a little more after Denmark. Bringing the calm feeling that I had there, back with me, I realized that things weren’t affecting me as much — there was a bigger picture. It was more relaxed there where people don’t walk fast and rush to the train. We should slow down here too just a little bit — to take in all the art that’s around.

It’s like those small moments at the Meeting House, catching those organic moments with the kids. That’s what I brought back and ended up learning from. You never know what you can create yourself just by being inspired. Creativity is really important to me, as well as being happy and positive. In this world, there are a lot of things going wrong, but if you just keep those three things — creativity, positivity, and happiness — there’s not much that can really hurt you.

The Role of Dance

 I used to look at lots of music videos, because my dad was a professional break-dancer and he used to be in a lot of those videos. From eleven years old on, I started taking everything a lot more seriously. After finishing high school, I went straight on to do what I wanted to do, which was dance. I chose Denmark to get me out of my comfort zone. Since then, I’ve been teaching around the city — adults and kids — teaching dance and gymnastics; choreographing; doing showcases; building my name up, while giving back.

It wasn’t until last year that a friend referred me to the Meeting House, and the person who interviewed me was really interested because I had worked with kids before. And it’s been awesome.

My first few weeks, I was a little lost and confused. But at my halfway mark, it just hit me. I started to realize how close the program was to me. I know a lot of people — adults and teenagers — who remind me of some of these kids, except they never had the Meeting House. They didn’t have that support. That’s when I really started getting into what the Meeting House was about.

I would say dance sort of saved me — It always gave me something to shoot for, look at, and go for. It was an outlet for everything, for all types of feelings — anxiety, depression, anger, and happiness.

What He’s Learned at the Meeting House

 It’s not always about yourself — it’s always about what can you give back, what can you show, what can you teach, what can you learn! I’ve learned all of the clinical stuff as well, but it’s more about creating a better community, and working with each other, instead of judging each other. It’s the relationships — that’s how it starts.

On Inspiration and the People That Inspire Us

 I would honestly say, traveling and dance were my big inspirations. In middle school, for seventh and eighth grade, I had the same teacher. She witnessed everything that was happening to me, and she still gave me a lot of positivity back. She helped make me more okay with myself. It gave me a boost; she believed in me.

Advice on Making the World Kinder

Be more understanding, try to hear a child out, just listen. You never know what that conversation — you checking up on them and seeing if they’re ok, if they need anything — you never know what that could change for the rest of their day.

If you are open enough to understand what a child is talking about that should just be enough because they feel like someone hears them. When someone hears you, you don’t have to be stuck in your head. Be more open, try to listen more and understand.

On Gratitude and Positivity

 I’m thankful for that one person who gave me that ear, Ms. McKennon, my teacher. That little boost of confidence made me do better and be more mindful. I’m thankful for everyone who came into my life, because I’ve learned from everything, even the negative.

 Smile, be positive, and never be afraid to make someone else smile. It’s all about connecting and being positive. Negativity is toxic, for everyone and anyone that’s around it. Once you put that aside, and just connect as a human, there’s nothing else there but love and positivity