Jonayah M. Jackson, "Jo"
Director of development and special programs
“I dance not to entertain, but to help people to better understand each other.” Pearl Primus said these wise words, and it was these words of wisdom that would inspire Jo. As a dancer and anthropologist, Primus has been Jo’s motivation and model in seeking meaning and enlightenment in dance and music. Training under the tutelage of Sandra Burton (Chuck Davis Dance Company) and Bashir Shakur (Urban Bush Women), Jo specializes in traditional West African and diaspora pieces and techniques. She has taught and performed traditional and contemporary repertoire pieces, her own choreography, spoken word and musical theater, and cultural songs in English, Spanish, and various African languages for over five years and on many stages with the dance company Kusika, NBC, the Zambezi Marimba Band, the Stalwart Originality Tour, and many others.
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Africana Studies, Jo’s field of passion is the study of culture and symbolism of ethnic dance. She hopes, much like Pearl Primus, to validate the credible study of dance as an intelligent art form, worthy of scholarly analysis. Through her research, she has choreographed dance pieces, conducted interviews, and written papers on topics such as men in the dance world, religious symbolism in Afro-Caribbean dance, as well as migrations and cultural syncretism of Black Americans during the 1930s. Jo is a strong supporter of studies showing the cognitive merits of physical and creative activities in children. Dance gives the person and/or people involved a safe and creative outlet for self-expression, critical thinking, and interpersonal communication, all of which are fundamental to a student’s growth and development. It is Jo’s aim to create artistic programs and increase community engagement with the arts in an effort to help people to better understand each other.