12-year-old Joey German just started seventh grade at Hunt Middle School, but unlike most kids in his class, he just participated in a national television show with some of the most recognized, famous and talented dancers in the country. This past May, Joey performed on “Dancing With the Stars” in a guest number with Emma York, a talented youth dancer from California, and the regular, well-known competitors, Derek and Julianne Hough. Joey and Emma portrayed the younger versions of the Hough siblings in a special performance, dancing to pop star Sia’s jolting new song “Elastic Heart.” Audiences around the world were completely blown away by the performance!
Before his dancing career began, Joey was engaged competitively in football, basketball and baseball. His parents commented on his competitive spirit, noting that Joey has always been the first in line, set to accomplish the objectives any coaches set in front of him. In a more creative setting, Joey’s abstract mind takes charge. He helped choreograph a theatrical production of “The Little Mermaid” and took theater as an elective at school. Joey is always up for a challenge and has a work ethic far beyond his 12 years.
How did this talented kid end up on “Dancing With the Stars?” It all started when his older sister, Jada, was taking dance lessons next door to where he had karate class. After class, Joey would listen to the music playing through the walls and make up his own dance moves. One of the instructors caught him dancing and thought he had incredible skills, so she invited him to start dance lessons. Today, he dances with Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Plano, which won The Dance Awards 2014 Studio of the Year Award.
Joey credits his instructor, Camille, as being one of his biggest supporters through the entire journey. The first few weeks at the studio were challenging, but having Jada by his side helped. The siblings’ mother commented on their special bond, saying, “The two getting to dance together is a gift. A brother and sister who are spending time together in the arts, they would not have had that opportunity anywhere else.” A trail of connections from Joey’s dance studio to “Dancing With the Stars” led to him guest starring in the routine with the Hough siblings. The phone call came, and within the hour, Joey and his mom had to give an answer. By the next morning, they were on their way to the airport to get started in Los Angeles.
After being on the show, Joey’s schedule has become crazier than ever. He dances from sun up to sun down, perfecting the skills he was born to entertain with. Mrs. German, who danced earlier in her life, dedicates her time to her children, making sure their passions are met with opportunity. While Mr. German stays busy traveling for work, this amazing mother runs her kids all over the country helping them do what they love most.
Joey was born in New York, but moved to Frisco with his family as a baby. He has lived in the same house ever since. His close friend and neighbor, Cathy Nuzum, has been like a guardian angel for the family ever since Joey can remember. He talked about a path that Mrs. Nuzum built between the two houses that they call the “German Walk of Fame.” Here, she writes each of the children’s accomplishments on stones. “Cathy is like a surrogate grandmother who bakes us cookies and gives the kids cards and comes to all their recitals,” Mr. German says. This past March, Mrs. Nuzum’s nephew, Jacob, passed away, and Joey took the loss to heart. Joey decided to engrave an orange LEGO® with Jacob’s name on it. The LEGO brick shows the date of Jacob’s death, so Joey can carry it around and help preserve his memory. “I felt like he did not get to live his life,” Joey says. “He could have done so much more with it. I feel like I have his spirit in that LEGO brick and he gets to live life and have fun with me.” Joey took the LEGO on set at “Dancing With the Stars,” and he carries it with him for all of his biggest moments. About the Nuzums, Joey adds, “If anything went bad, they would be the first ones to be there. They have been watching over our gate the whole time. With the LEGO brick, we felt like we should do something back.”
Why does Joey love living in Frisco? He says, “Everybody here in Frisco, they are not bad people. People walking down the street wave and you talk to them. Everybody has open arms to everything that happens, everywhere you go. It is a warm, welcoming community.”
While most competitive dancers have chosen home schooling or private tutoring, Joey continues to attend traditional school, despite his rigorous dance schedule. When a normal student would do an elective class for an hour at the end of the day, Joey leaves early to make it to rehearsal. Not only does he attend school, he flourishes there. Joey cares about his grades. His mom comments on Joey’s academic success, saying, “Dance has contributed to that. There is a great deal of discipline required to dance in the first place, and that spills into everything else he does.” Joey said that after being on the show, friends have been asking him about his experience and how to dance. His father commented, “It has been fortunate, in an industry that can be tough on boys, that they have really opened their arms.” The support of his friends and teachers has motivated Joey to continue fighting to move in the direction of his dreams.
Joey recently went back to Las Vegas for The Dance Awards, a national competition, with his Prodigy dance company. He also attended DancerPalooza in California. What is next for this talented, optimistic and creative child? Joey will continue competing and performing in individual solos and group dances.
Joey and his family have chosen not to sign with an agent because of his age and the fact that he is focusing on his education. He is putting academics above dancing, but Joey loves the feeling that being on stage gives him. “I love to dance,” he says. “It is a place where you can go where nobody will judge you, where you can let everything free and be with your friends. You really forget what is going on in the real world. Dance is not about what you can do with your legs or your arms, it is about what the music does to you. If the music cannot go through your body, I do not think you really know what dancing is.”
When he is not dancing and performing his favorite contemporary or hip-hop routine, Joey loves making domino videos for his YouTube channel, playing one-on-one basketball with his dad and skateboarding. When it comes to advice for young people wanting to pursue their dreams, he says, “If somebody is telling you that you cannot do it, let it roll off. Focus on your dreams. We are put here to do that. Dancing-wise, I have gotten hard criticism, but you have to forget about that and let the frustrations go into whatever your passion is. Always put 100 percent effort into what you do.”