The smooth chords of “Walah” echo through the Black Box Theater as dancers dressed in dark colors strike their first pose. Their slow, deliberate sequence is interrupted by the abrupt, sweeping movement of their arms and legs.
#iGotSole, a hip-hop dance group, was founded by alumnus Jonathon “J.T.” Thomas in 2012 during his time at UT. The company creates choreography videos to inspire others to be active in the visual and performing arts. In 2014, Thomas graduated and moved to San Antonio, so the group only meets when he can come to town. In the future, Thomas hopes to bring his company with him wherever he goes.
Thomas has had a passion for dance since he could walk. To him, dance is a way to express a particular sound in a physical way.
“I love to tell the art of a story with body movements,” Thomas said. “I want to be able to physically decipher and depict what sound looks like rather than what sound sounds like.”
This love of dance and sound culminated in high school when Thomas became interested in teaching and choreography. He began planning to open his own dance company called #iGotSole, based off an adage from his aunt and inspiration from his community in Greenspoint, Texas.
“My aunt told me, ‘You can’t get anywhere without your feet — the soles of your feet move forward,’” Thomas said. “That’s one area where ‘Sole’ stems from. Another area is the African-American culture. A lot of things we do in life [come] from the soul just because anything that comes from the soul or from the heart is pure and truthful and it’s intentional.”
Though he didn’t know what would come of the idea, he started working on the concept in 2012. The group’s first video, a trailer for the #iGotSole Movement, was made with a few of his fraternity brothers, and immediately took off, reaching 1,407 views on YouTube.
“When we started our first project, it spread like wildfire on the internet,” Thomas said. “People were demanding to come to our next class.”
Journalism and public relations junior Yewande Isola found the group on Facebook in 2014 and decided to join because of the atmosphere Thomas created.
“One thing that kept me going was the family environment,” Isola said. “[Thomas] makes anybody — whether you’re a beginner or expert — feel like they’re welcome.”
The group has created more than 20 videos, ranging from “Maneater” by Nelly Furtado to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, in addition to participating in Texas Revue, an annual student-run talent show.
Since Thomas’ graduation, the group’s activity has declined. They still produce new content, albeit at a slower pace. Isola, now an officer, said she thinks Thomas is the reason the group has survived.
“You don’t normally see that happen, but it [has] kept the organization grounded because we still have the same founder,” Isola said. “It’s a consistent face leading it [with] the same energy, environment and spirit.”
Thomas said it’s difficult to balance #iGotSole and his life in San Antonio, but is committed to helping the group at UT while he still can.
“The reason I always find time [for #iGotSole is] because it’s something I created,” Thomas said. “It’s absolutely my passion. I feel so responsible for it and people keep coming back for more.”