San Diego Native Stars in 'Newsies'
May 31–June 5
San Diego native Nico DeJesus began his dance career in a Chula Vista studio before taking his talents to the Big Apple and Europe. This month, the 26-year-old appears in the national tour of Newsies, the Tony Award–winning musical based on the real-life newsboy strike of 1899. We chatted with DeJesus about growing up in Encanto and picking hip-hop dance over hockey.
When did you start dancing?
I was a really hyper 4-year-old and my parents put me in everything! I was doing roller hockey when they took me to a free hip-hop class. I was good at it and started taking hip-hop classes at Neisha’s Dance & Music Academy in Chula Vista. Eventually I had to choose between dance and hockey. It was difficult, but I knew dance would lead to more. I studied dance at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and then at UCLA.
Newsies aside, what are some other career highlights?
In high school, I was in Jay Z’s “Izzo” video and two Barbie commercials. Later I played Henry on MTV’s Awkward and was a dancer on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up.
What’s exciting about bringing Newsies to your home city?
If kids can see someone who grew up with their same lifestyle and trained at the same studios, they can be confident enough in themselves to follow in my footsteps and have a career that’s just as successful, if not better than what I’ve had.
The tour closes in October. What’s next?
I plan on moving to New York to continue auditioning and working, but my heart will always be in San Diego and I will be back home in the future. I’d love to open a local arts conservatory where kids can go after school. Encanto wasn’t the best, but if you give kids in neighborhoods like that a space to create, you’d be surprised what they accomplish. They could learn and become something. That would be so fulfilling.