Fiery. Magnetic. Spirited. Rare.
That’s how I would describe the subject of my most recent interview. She is a choreographer, dancer, b-girl, and shining light. She’s hard to miss and impossible to ignore. A legend.
She’s like Dance Dance Revolution supersized, only more cool and less structured. In one word, she is magic, oozing passion and grit all over the dance floor. The evenly worn tread on her broken-in Nikes reflects the balance and fluid percolation that is her trademark. Putting her heart into every plie, jack, and toprock, she bleeds vulnerability into the fabric of her oversized basketball shorts.
Naturally, you are drawn to her. She is mesmerizing, dancing with the sincerity of a mother’s last wish. Your awe toggles between jealously and admiration, but you keep the green-eyed monster in check because you know that’s how she’d want it. Any compliment you serve will never go to her head. Instead, it will take the HOV lane straight to her heart. She will dance the love right back to you, for it is her thank you.
I introduce you to the one and only: Miss Jojo Diggs.
Describe yourself in five words.
Funny, smart, artistic, spiritual, free
You lived an ordinary life in D.C. Now you are living your dream in L.A. How’d it happen?
I started drinking when I was 13 years old. When I was 18, I started drinking every day. Four years later, I found dance and quit drinking cold turkey. Dancing saved my life! In 2006, I decided it was time for a change so I moved to Phoenix. I didn’t leave D.C. to follow my dreams because I didn’t know what they were. I left to find me. In 2008, I decided to take a journey from Phoenix to Seattle, driving in my car and writing a documentary about how dance affects people. I slept in my car a lot and ate peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. After two months, I ended up in L.A. That’s when I realized, “Wow, I’m going for it!” I just kept following my gut instincts and trusting God. And now I’m here, living a dream. It’s amazing!
What is your favorite dance accomplishment?
It would be teaching at Debbie Reynolds and Edge Performing Arts Center in L.A. I’ve traveled many places but the excitement and challenge that comes from those two schools creates a feeling that I haven’t had before. I’m honored to teach among the best choreographers in the world.
Let’s talk choreography. What’s your process, genius?
I hear the music first before I choreograph. I start with a base of choreography, the most natural one that comes and then I add on and build from there, trying to add more musicality and more ‘me’. Bruce Lee said to be like water. If there is a cup, it becomes a cup. If it’s placed into a bottle, it becomes a bottle. I attempt to be like water. I attempt to become the music. Not only am I choreographing to the lyrics and the beat, but I try to capture the inflections of the artists’ voice, the emotion behind the drums, the pattern of clicks. I feel blessed to have this gift.
How important is physical strength in dance? Can you be out of shape and a great dancer?
You can be out of shape and still be a great dancer, but I feel your expression will be limited. A lot of the dance world is getting more into isolation movement, which won’t generally break a sweat in a class but I prefer massive and strong movements. It doesn’t make me more of a dancer, I just love the feeling of using and challenging my body physically. I want to leave a class feeling exhausted and happy.
Are there good and bad dancers? Is it possible to have no rhythm and still be “dancing”?
Dance should feel good more than look good. Some of my favorite dancers to watch are the new ones. It’s easy for an experienced dancer to get in the middle of a crowd and dance. But there’s something to be said for a brand new dancer who stands up in that same crowd and dances. It requires so much courage and freedom. If they are smiling and having fun, heck yes I think they’re dancing. If you are not waiting for anyone’s approval, simply dancing for your own satisfaction, you are a dancer!
Dance is your heart and soul. If you became physically limited, what would you do?
Whatever God hands me, I will do my best to continue to share what I love. If I was suddenly handicapped, say in a wheelchair I would still dance. I would open a class for other people in wheelchairs to come dance. If I was paralyzed from head to toe, I would start up a meeting in the hospital where we all lie around listening to music and imagine ourselves dancing. I love dancing, every part of it.
When you are tired, bloated, and your allergies are raging, how do you stay motivated?
This is a difficult question for me because dancing is a dream to me, so it’s rare that I’m not motivated to do it. I could be dead tired with the flu and if I hear music it’s over; I’m dancing! I would encourage people to write down the feelings they have when they achieve their goals. Whatever your feelings of satisfaction and success would be, write them down on a piece of paper and keep it posted on your wall or something. Read them often and focus on how great you’ll feel afterwards.
What is the dream for your life?
My dream is to be happy and help others feel confident. I honor Mia Micheals because she is able to inspire and touch lives. I honor Angie Bunch, founder of Culture Shock because she created an opportunity for dancers to come together and celebrate life and dance. I hope to be able to have a similar impact. I want to travel the world teaching. I want to be recognized globally for having an impact on the direction of dance by encouraging others to live and be free. I want to make my parents proud, and I want to succeed so that others can see that when you believe in yourself anything can be accomplished.
Jojo epitomizes physical strength, mental clarity, and passion for life. In case you need more proof, here’s just one of many videos where Jojo’s light shines.