JoJo Smith’s representative reported that Smith who was a dance consultant for the smash movie Saturday Night Fever, died Jan. 22, 2019 at the Actors Fund Home in New Jersey from complications from a stroke he suffered in 2018.
She also reported he was cremated in a private ceremony earlier this week, but would not reveal details. He was 80 years old.
Debbie Allen, Smith’s cousin and former student who starred in the film and television productions of “Fame” said Smith was a force on the dance scene with his technique called “The Wave.” We will for eternity be thankful to have known him.
Smith’s career spanned more than sixty years. He played the lead shark in “West Side Story.” In the 60s and 70s, he danced on multiple television variety shows.
During the 70’s he gave private dance lessons to Barbara Walters, Diane von Furstenberg, and Sylvie Vartan He also choreographed dance moves for celebrities shows including Barbra Streisand for “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and shows for Barry Manilow, Shelly Winters, and Melba More. He also helped Joey Heatherton in “Dancin’.”
Smith started with his ex-wife JoJo’s Dance Factory which is known now as Broadway Dance Center, which grew into one of the most esteemed “drop-in” dance training centers. Some of the original teachers from the original studio continue to work at the dance center today.
Smith started out his career dancing in all-black venues. He was a member of the cast and performed in Atlantic City as part of the Lon Fontaine Trio. Smith also choreographed a show from Harry Belafonte’s show which toured around the world.
His son Christopher predeceases Smith in death. He is survived by his children Rocky, Jason Samuels, Elka Samuels, Monica Richard, and Michael.
Written by Barbara Sobel
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Hollywood Reporter: JoJo Smith, Dance Consultant for ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ Dies at 80
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