JoJo Smith, known as "The King of New York" for his extensive contributions to Broadway and the dance industry, has died. He was 80.
Smith, who died from complications resulting from a major stroke suffered late last year, had been credited with giving some of Hollywood's most notable dancers their rhythm.
With a career spanning over six decades, Smith's credits include eight Broadway shows, hit TV shows, feature films and major domestic and international tours (including West Side Story). He was a trendsetter and socialite whose students included Debbie Allen, John Travolta and Barbra Streisand.
"JoJo Smith was a giant on the international dance scene. His technique defined The Wave. He staged the biggest musical acts and TV specials that gained him national prominence. I was so lucky to train with him and be nurtured by him. We will ever be grateful to have known his genius and generosity," says Debbie Allen, a former student.
Even with high-profile friends like Eartha Kitt and students like Barbra Streisand, Sylvie Vartan, Barbara Walters and Diane Von Furstenburg, Smith was best known as dance consultant for box office smash hit musical Saturday Night Fever (John Travolta). He will also be remembered as the founder of Jo Jo's Dance Factory (currently Broadway Dance Center) with then-wife Sue Samuels. Broadway Dance Center is one of the largest "drop-in" dance training centers in the world.
Smith's unique style has influenced generations of greatest dancers and entertainers all over the world, including the late great Michael Jackson.
"My father was an exceptional dancer, musician that created a new style of jazz dancing. His unique personality and musicality are the fabric of his choreography and his contagious energy. A true classic and a legend. I will miss our hangs, but I am forever inspired by the man that brought me here," says tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, an Emmy Award winner.
Born July 20, 1938 to dancers Anna Margaret Grayson and Joseph Benjamin Smith (influential to the careers of the famous Nicholas Brothers), Smith is survived by children Michael Smith, Monica Richard Smith, Elka Samuels Smith, Jason Samuels Smith and Rocky Smith.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB
We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.
Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.
We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.
A previous lab cycle. Photo by Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade, Courtesy RRR Creative
Choreographic incubator Broadway Dance Lab has recently been rechristened Dance Lab New York. "I found the nomenclature of 'Broadway' was actually a type of glass ceiling to the organization," says choreographer Josh Prince, who founded the nonprofit in 2012.