Flint native and dancer Anthony “JFreeze” Naylor Jr. is following in his mother’s footsteps with his dancing career, but he’s moving a bit faster: At 4 years old, he has already landed in a pair of commercials, and tonight, he appears on national TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
FLINT, MI — Flint native and dancer Anthony “JFreeze” Naylor
Jr. is following in his mother’s footsteps with his dancing career, but he’s
moving a lot faster: At 4 years old, he has already landed in a pair of
commercials, and Tuesday, May 21, he appears on Fox TV’s “So You Think You Can
“I just love to dance, and I love to be myself,” he said.
Anthony Naylor Jr. was born to Anthony and Kayla Naylor in
Flint. The family moved to San Antonio, Texas, when he was nine months old,
when Anthony Naylor got a job at a dental office.
Kayla Naylor said that her son has always been into music, but that
he found his new hobby last year after seeing Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer on an
episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“Even though he was only 3, he was like, ‘I want to do
that,’” she remembers. “He’s been dancing ever since.”
Anthony Jr. adopted the moniker JFreeze and began to dance
on his own. He asks his parents to look up dance videos on YouTube, and practices
in their kitchen. He specializes in a robotic, slow type of dance
that is similar to “popping and locking.”
Kayla Naylor started dancing when she was 10 years old, growing up under
the direction of Creative Expressions Dance Studio on North Saginaw St. in Flint. She teaches dance
classes every summer. Still, she said, her son has something she doesn’t: the
ability to freestyle dance.
“I dance, but I don’t dance like him,” she said. “For a
trained dancer, you’re so used to doing what you’re taught, so freestyling is
so difficult. … Freestyling is all he does, because he’s never been trained.
“I don’t teach him. He won’t let me,” she says. “I really
take a back seat.”
His parents helped him launch a web site and a YouTube
channel, which has gotten thousands of views. The most notable, which features
him dancing for several minutes straight, is closing in on 5,000 views. Another
video was picked up by probiotic supplement company Culturelle to use as part of a commercial.
But JFreeze seems to be most comfortable around an audience.
Production assistants of “So You Think You Can Dance” initially told his
parents that he was too young when they brought him to audition, but changed their
minds after seeing him dance for a crowd while waiting in line.
Producers brought him into audition, and told him that he had
to dance to whatever music they provided for him — a walk in the park for the 4-year-old.
“He’s ready, and prepared, because he does what the music
tells him to do,” Kayla said. “But for a trained dancer, you’re so used to
doing what you’re taught. … Some of the most talented dancers ever come on the
show, and when they’re told to turn on the music and dance, they don’t know
what to do.”
Usually, a satisfactory performance convinces judges to send
dancers to Las Vegas for further competition, but Naylor is too young to
advance. Instead, judge Nigel Lythgowe offered an alternative prize.
“Nigel says, ‘You know you’re not supposed to be here,’”
Kayla remembers. “‘You’re not 18, so we can’t send you to Vegas. But we’re
going to send you to Disneyland.’”
The show featured Anthony Jr. in a new commercial, and he
will appear on the episode that airs at 8 p.m. Kayla Naylor said her son is excited to
be on a show he loves so much, but like many other stars, he rarely watches
himself on screen.
“He doesn’t watch any of his own videos. He doesn’t like to
watch himself,” she said. “He’s excited to see the actual show, and he was
excited to see the commercial. But he’s all about performing. He just wants to
be on stage.”