Each week, Jason Mraz proves that not only does he deserve a top spot on the leaderboard on Dancing with the Stars but also that he’s a great showman, something everyone in metro Richmond knows. The Mechanicsville native was thrilled to dance his first number on the show to I Feel Like Dancing, one of the songs off of his latest album Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride.
“If I could dance to my songs every week, that would be the greatest gift,” he says with a laugh. “I put a lot of time and energy into my songs, and I would love for them to be heard. What better way for them to be heard than to dance to the song on national television. It’s such a cool experience.”
A performer — actor, singer, songwriter — for most of his life, Mraz, a two-time Grammy Award winner and Songwriters Hall of Fame Honoree, was looking for new experiences when the opportunity to be on the show presented itself.
“I have always wanted to learn how to pull dancing together. I have spent my life jokingly dancing. I might learn a quick dance routine but still don’t really know what I am doing,” he says. “I never partner danced because I was always freestyling and improvising. I thought this process would help me learn how to be more intentional for my dancing and just broaden my skills in general.”
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As a kid, Mraz performed in a number of musicals and his mom was a fan of his work. “She always wanted me to be a song and dance man,” he says. “She loves song and dance movies and the leading characters — the Gene Kelly kind of thing.”
His desire to step out of his norm was also behind his new pop-styled album, a definite departure from previous acoustic albums. Again, his mom was a big influence.
“She said ‘you are still doing the same thing. You should go pop and do something that people can dance to,’” he says. “It really fits some of the ideas that we were already working on, and it also helped us engage with our audience because they always love to be on their feet and have a good time. Now that advice to pursue pop and dance not only impacted the album but it has now catapulted me into other dance experiences especially this show, which is crazy.”
One of his favorite songs off of his new album is Pancakes & Butter, what he calls the perfect marriage between his music and the music of his longtime collaborator, the group Raining Jane.
“That is the sound we make when the five of us are together. The groove, the optimism, the joy,” he says. “If I could dance to that song in this show, it would be amazing.”
The opening of the song has the lyric “If you want to be a dancer, just start dancing.” It relates to optimism and self-assurance. “Whatever you say after I am, you will become. It’s about living your dream,” he says.
Mraz’s mom, June Powell Tomes, believes that Dancing with the Stars will open up some doors for him that he can use in the future.
“It’s been fun because so many people in the community have reached out to me that are supporting him on the show,” says Tomes who knew her son wouldn’t shy away from the challenge.
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For Mraz, learning a different dance each week along with the show’s rigorous schedule can be daunting.
“It’s an everyday show. We rehearse Wednesday through Sunday and then Monday with camera blocking and Tuesday is dress rehearsal and taping. Then you start all over again,” he says. “That has not been my schedule in a very long time. To commit myself to something so fully was really hard to get started. Now I am accepting it and leaning into it. It’s like I am in the Olympics of dance.”
He does everything his dance partner, Daniella Karagach, tells him to do, he adds. “If I just follow her instructions, I should come out with a lot of new skills and hopefully some high scores.”
As far as which dance scares him the most, he answers: all of them. “I like to be comfortable and this show is about being outside of my comfort zone every day. I’m not looking forward to any of the dances,” he says.
A resident of California, Mraz has a variety of interests. He farms avocados, passion fruit and coffee beans through Mraz Family Farms and heads his own Jason Mraz Foundation, which advocates inclusive arts education, food security and the advancement of equality.
He also works with Shine in San Diego, which features local inclusive arts organizations who were foundation grant recipients. The event the group holds is similar to the Live Art shows that Mraz appeared in for SPARC in Richmond.
What does he hope kids now in SPARC will take away from his time on DWTS? “I would like for them to see that you don’t have to grow up,” he says. “If you are an artist, you will always be an artist and find so many different stages to perform on. There is no limit to where we can go and what we can do. There is no age to stop learning something. No age to stop being humble or humbled by a new experience.”
Jason Mraz on Richmond, Family, and the Arts
Looking back at his time with SPARC, Mraz says he wants to give a shout out to Pam Turner, director of Richmond Dance Center.
“I don’t think I would be doing so well already in this competition had I not had some guidance from Pam during my years at SPARC and my senior year in high school when I would go to her dance school and stand in the back and pick up some jazz and tap and ballet pointers which have always benefitted me in anything I have done in movement,” he says. “They are certainly helping me now. Thank you Pam Turner.”
He’s also grateful for the support he’s gotten from his family, including his mom, sister, Candace, and his dad and step-mom, Diane. “Diane has been saying I should do Dancing with the Stars for about fifteen years,” he says. “I told her I am never going to do that and she said yes you are. She was right, so thank you Diane.”
His mom, June, is extremely proud of him “for working so hard at this,” she says. “It’s a win for him no matter the outcome.”
Dancing with the Stars airs on Tuesday nights on ABC.