JoJo Smith, a dance consultant for the classic film Saturday Night Fever, died of stroke complications at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey, on Jan. 22.
According to Smith’s rep, he was cremated at a private ceremony earlier this week. In the wake of his death, the 80-year-old’s family started the JoJo Smith Legacy Project, a GoFundMe campaign to raise donations to produce a multimedia documentary on the dancer’s life and a future memorial.
“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 forever be grateful to have known his genius and generosity,” said Debbie Allen, Smith’s former student and cousin, who is also a dance legend and starred in both the television and film productions of Fame.
Smith became known as “the Choreographer to the Stars” and had a career that spanned more than six decades, which included dancing credits in the films West Side Story, Something More and Joyful Noise. In the ’60s and ’70s, he performed on several television variety shows. He also founded JoJo Smith and Company, a dance group that performed and taught classes internationally with residencies in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Japan.
During the disco craze of the ’70s, he was one of New York’s most coveted dance teachers after meeting with John Travolta for Saturday Night Fever. His list of famous students included Sylvie Vartan, Barbara Walters, Barry Manilow
Before his rise to fame, Smith danced at all-Black venues and productions. His unique style has influenced generations of dancers and entertainers all over the world, including Michael Jackson.
What's Your Reaction?
Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.