His passion is dancing. Now this local celebrity returns to jamming along a busy Arlington street

Jaylan Ford, an Arlington resident who gained local fame for dancing along Cooper Street, has returned to his spot after a short break.

By Kailey Broussard, KERA NewsFebruary 7, 2023 10:00 am, ,

From KERA News:

Right off Interstate 20 and large retail attractions, the roadway is normally busy.

But Jaylan Ford made getting stuck in traffic less bleak.

Ford had spent two years dancing near the Parks Mall at Arlington. The long, cement median became his impromptu stage. It didn’t take long for spectators to notice Ford’s head bobbing and fist pumping.

He moved to Houston last fall to live with his father, establish new routines and take some time off. When Ford left Arlington, people sent him photos of South Cooper Street and Pleasant Place.

Ford told his 15,000 Instagram followers he would not dance in public in Houston but would return to his spot in Arlington during the holidays.

Besides, Ford has been dancing since he was 14: First in the hallways in his Forest Hill high school before moving to Arlington.

“It’s not that I’m tired. it’s not that anything … I just wanted to take a break from it,” he said in an Instagram Reel.

That didn’t last long.

“As I was waking up every single day, I was like, ‘Dang, I wonder how the street is. I wonder if somebody’s in my street. I wonder if somebody’s holding signs in my street. I wonder what they’re doing,'” Ford said.

Ford announced in late December he would return for good to what he loves—making people’s days with his streetside struts.

“This here is something good that everybody likes to see every single day. Not too many people are positive just like me. I mean, I can do this every single day and just be happy and smile, you know?” Ford said.

Christopher Beary, a realtor who became friends with Ford, said he’s happy to have Ford where he seems to feel more at home.

“I hope … he continues to follow his desires and continues to do the things that make him happy. Even if that means we lose Jaylan jamming in the streets here in Arlington, I mean, I’m content so long as he’s happy and he’s healthy and he’s safe,” Beary said in a phone interview.

Jaylan’s jam

By the time the workday starts, Ford is out at his intersection, after hitting the gym and grabbing breakfast. Ford averages at least 20 miles per day, with a personal best of 48 miles. He starts at 9 a.m., dances through 5:30 p.m., with the occasional break for water, meals and passersby who recognize him.

Making people happy is his passion, but he’s also been able to make it a job.

On a cold January day, Ford wears two T-shirts, a polo shirt advertising The Halal Guys restaurant nearby and workout shorts. He promotes a handful of nearby stores and has sold his own T-shirts with his handle: “Jaylan wanna jam.”

In 2021, he danced at Mayor Jim Ross’ runoff election night watch party.

Jaylan Ford dances most of the day, every day, along of South Cooper Street Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Arlington. Ford promotes local shops while he dances.

“People started to give me other stuff to do, like, people were telling me to hold up their signs for Applebee’s and McDonald’s,” Ford said.

Before finding his space, Ford started dancing further down Cooper Street, near a Kroger and QuikTrip. He didn’t have as much space to dance, and he had fewer food options in walking distance.

Beary said Ford isn’t the first person to take advantage of the large median. Beary recalled seeing a man holding a Jamaican flag in what’s now Ford’s spot, and the community similarly being curious about him.

Asked why he thinks Ford has attracted much attention, Beary said the 20-year-old’s positivity and authenticity makes him a mainstay.

“He’s been just totally OK being out there in the open, and everyone just seems to kind of accept him for who he is,” Beary said. “That’s pretty cool.”

Ford also doesn’t let the weather hold him back. He’s danced uninterrupted in the rain, and during the February 2021 winter storm, Ford posted videos of himself dancing in the snow. He was outside Monday, as sleet iced over North Texas roads. But Ford said on Facebook and Instagram updates that he would spend Tuesday in bed playing games.

“I’ll go when it’s snowing, but like, if we’ve got ice coming out of the sky, your boy Jaylan’s not helping y’all with that one,” Ford said in a Facebook video.

Jaylan Ford dances along to music in his earbuds while promoting local shops on South Cooper Street Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Arlington.

Mark Tremayne, a UT Arlington associate professor, said Ford is an example of positivity from social media.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the negative things, which there are, but at least there are examples where something positive can come from it,” he said.

Ford said he wants to keep dancing and promoting other people and businesses, both in person and online. He’s also trying to get tickets for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour stop at AT&T Stadium.

“I’m just going to keep going along with it, you know, because everybody needs somebody to motivate (them) and also to look up to, too,” he said.

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