He dances out in the open, for everyone to see. The 18-year-old Arlington resident has become locally famous for his head-banging, fist-bumping moves on Cooper Street.
Ford has recently accrued a large following on Instagram, and folks on social media often shout him out by posting selfies with him or videos of his dance moves.
Ford’s mother, Alena Moore, learned of his public dance hobby when she saw a viral video of him posted on social media. She says she wasn’t mad, but definitely surprised, just as many others react when they see him dancing in the street.
That’s right, Ford dances in the streets. Usually, he's dancing by the Parks Mall, but he’s also been seen on Arkansas Lane.
Ford dances “just about every day,” even in the summer. The heat doesn’t bother him; he enjoys it.
“I grew up in this heat,” he says. “At 6 years old, I was always outside. I was always out, no matter if it’s cold, raining. I played in the rain, and I still play in the rain.”
On a normal day, Ford says he wakes up at about 8 a.m. and leaves the house right away to get out and dance. He doesn’t come home until 10 or 11 p.m.
He takes only his headphones and cell phone when he dances, taking breaks at gas stations or restaurants when he needs to hydrate.
You might be wondering why Ford dances so much. And the answer is “because it’s fun.” Ford says that’s the only reason he dances — because it’s fun, and it makes him feel good.
Ford began dancing when he was 14 years old, starting out in Forest Hill in Fort Worth, where he attended high school. The summer before his junior year, he began dancing publicly.
“I just started just dancing everywhere, it was fun,” he says.
Ford’s love of dancing popped up out of nowhere, Moore says. As a child with autism, he was quiet and never danced. Moore doesn’t know what caused the change in her son, but she wholeheartedly supports it.
“Whatever he wants to do, I’m behind him,” she says.
Ford has never taken dance classes, preferring to move his body as he feels, naturally. One random day during November last year, he decided to use Cooper Street as his stage.
His dancing is entertaining much of the Arlington community. When others roll down their car windows and dance with him or honk their horns at him as they drive by, Ford says it makes him feel even better.
Jasmine Ja’nay Blinks is one of those drivers. The Grand Prairie resident says she often goes shopping in Arlington with her husband and enjoys seeing Ford having a good time.
“It makes my heart smile to see him dancing and enjoying himself,” she says.
Arlington resident Lauren Hudnall says she and her four children look forward to getting to see Ford when they drive down Cooper.
The first time she saw Ford, Hudnall says he caught her eye because of his head banging and fist pounding, which reminded her of her own autistic child. At first, she was concerned to see him out alone but quickly grew accustomed to seeing him doing his thing.
Hudnall says it makes her happy to see that Ford has found his place in the world doing something that makes him happy and inspires others.
“That’s kind of what we all want for our kids,” she says.
Moore says that’s all she wants for her son but, she adds, she does worry for his safety on such a busy street like Cooper.
Ford, though, isn’t worried at all, brushing off safety concerns and saying he knows what he’s doing.
“If I keep hesitating and worrying about it, that’s just gonna make me stay in the house,” he says.
Sometimes, he receives gifts for his Cooper Street performances. He says he’s gotten a variety of items, from water and T-shirts to gift cards and milkshakes.
Although he’s grown his own mini fandom, not everyone appreciates Ford’s dance moves. When he first started dancing publicly, some people told him he looked stupid or retarded.
“There’s a lot of people just talking,” he says, brushing off the insults. They didn’t stop him from doing what he loves.
“It makes my heart smile to see him dancing and enjoying himself." – Grand Prairie resident Jasmine Ja’nay Blinks on Jaylan Ford
Seeing the outpouring of support and applause from those who appreciate him reassured Ford that he needed to keep going.
Some people ask Ford how he maintains his charismatic energy throughout the day. He really doesn't know, he says. He doesn’t drink energy drinks, only water and electrolytes.
Music also fuels him.
Although he listens to “basically everything,” he primarily listens to rap music while dancing. Some of his favorite artists are G Eazy and Lil Wayne.
One myth that has spread about him is that he dances to Taylor Swift. He said he doesn’t know how that idea spread, but he only listens to Taylor Swift when he’s walking home or maybe when grocery shopping. Although he loves the pop artist, and the header image on his Facebook profile is an image of her, he finds her music is just too slow for his style of dancing.
When he’s not on Cooper dancing, he’s technically still dancing. For work, he spins signs for various businesses, including McDonald’s and Applebee’s.
Ford has no plans to stop dancing anytime soon, although he jokingly says he might not be able to move by the time he’s 50.
In the meantime, he plans to keep on dancing as long as he can.