At one point or another in your childhood (or maybe even adulthood), you probably wished you could fly. You may have even pretended like you actually could as you jumped on a trampoline, on a bed, or simply leapt throughout your home.
But 16-year-old Jaxon Willard doesn’t have to pretend— he really can fly.NBC
Willard is a contemporary dance solo contestant on the reality show World of Dance. He grew up in American Fork, Utah and was raised by his all-white adoptive family. He grew up struggling with his identity as an African American, and turned to dance to help him process and express his complex feelings.
Willard has been dancing since he was 11-years-old and is trained in ballroom, hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary dance.
His experience in dance is worth noting, because he truly is phenomenal, but his performance on August 8, 2018, somehow encompassed more than just technique. Willard’s choreography combined with Jack Garratt’s song, “Surprise Yourself” brought the audience to tears. The performance was moving, to say the least.
When the judges asked him what that dance was about, Willard tugged at the heartstrings even more when he held back his own tears and explained the dance was meant to represent his feelings of abandonment toward his birth mom.
“I didn’t know how to share these feelings with the mom I have now, because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, and so, I’d suppress all these feelings. But then throughout my journey and growing I would just learn that I can’t just be mad at my birth mom because I don’t know the full story, and so I just have to be grateful that I have the family I have now, and I’m just so thankful for that.”
Willard’s adoptive mom was sitting front and center, smiling as he spoke.Facebook
It came as no shock when all three judges praised Willard, his performance, and his perseverance through the difficulties he’s faced. Ne-Yo, at one point, looked over at Willard’s mom and told her she should be so proud of her son. Lopez, after wiping away tears (us too, J-Lo!), told Willard that he was an honor to watch.
On Willard’s public Facebook page, fans posted comments echoing the judges praise.Facebook
Willard moved on to the next round in the competition. There’s no telling what other emotions he will make the audience feel – but we are going to need to stock up on tissues before the next performance.