Legendary Dancer and Choreographer Jimmy Locust on IRMIX Radio
Original interview from Friday, March 1, 2013.
Martone: Welcome back to the hottest radio show in the world. We are Industry Revue in the mix on IRMIXRadio.net. Oh, man, don’t tell me that God isn’t good. I have proof of it right here. This man worked with the industry elite in movies and music. I have Jimmy Locust on the line and he’s here to tell us all about it. Jimmy, welcome to the show.
Jimmy Locust: Thank you. What’s up?
Martone: I am so happy to have you here. As I was saying earlier, you are such an inspiration to young people that want to get involved in the entertainment industry. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got your start?
Jimmy Locust: Dance is and was always a part of me, it was always in my blood but my family, especially my mother really nurtured it, and if I didn’t have that nurturing from her, I don’t know if I would be the type of artist I am today, so I owe a lot to her.
Martone: Let me ask you about working with Janet. Did she pick you, herself, saying I want him? How was that relationship between the two of you because we’re looking at the beginning of Miss You Music and let me tell you- you very well have the most memorable scene in the (Miss You Music) music video. What was it like working with her?
Jimmy Locust: Working with Janet, to me she was just amazing the whole audition process was brutal. It was about three or four days, the first call I think there were about 3,000 people there. It was crazy. But, I know, I got there early, and I thought, I would probably be maybe the 400th or 500th person in line or something like that, there were a lot of people. Then there was the callback process, and we did not see Janet until the second callback.
So, at that callback, we had to do the choreography that we were taught, and then they said, we want you to freestyle. And I knew that was going to be the part that was going to get me the job or not. So, that is where being a technician dancer came in handy. Because I worked with Gus Girodano, a jazz icon, and I was in his company in the early 80s and that experience taught me a lot. So, I did a couple of pirouettes, a couple of jumps, and turns, a triple turn, more jumps, and leaps, and you know, in L.A. that is how dancers got their gigs.
So, Janet smiled, and then I found out that I did get the job. Once I got the job, she was just so cool to work with. She really wanted your input on certain things, and she treated you with respect. There are other artists who would treat a kind of different, and Janet didn’t do that. Janet treated us like we were equal with her, and that’s what she wanted to portray in the Rhythm Nation, that we were all a crew. That we were a part of the crew.
Working with Janet was amazing, and it actually helped me when it came to choreographing for recording artists. Learning from her helped me to communicate with other artists I am working with today. Recently, I was working with Arika Kane, during her tour. She is an incredible, independent RnB artist, and she has got the chops. Vocally, she is wonderful. At the present moment, I am in the process of casting her dancers, and so I’m choreographing and I’m developing.
So, I really have to thank Janet, and the other icons that I worked under, that helped me get to the point where I could visualize what a show should actually be. Janet was amazing to work with.
Later on, I worked with her brother, Michael, and we were doing the MTV Music Awards, but then I saw Janet in the audience, I was like, Janet! What I was thinking is that she would just wave at me, but she got up out of her chair, came over and hugs me, and said, how are you doing? It really made me feel so good that she acknowledged me that way. Because she did not have to do that. That is why her fanbase is so crazy — because she is such a beautiful person inside.
Martone: Now, tell us your biggest professional moment where you felt that you have arrived?
Jimmy Locust: Hands down, Michael Jackson at 1995, MTV Music Awards. If you have worked with Michael in your career in this lifetime, you have made it. I so was blessed to have been able to do it before he passed away. And you know, I was devastated when he passed away. I was devastated. I think for me, what was the sweetest point, when I got the job I did not have to audition. At that time Lavelle Smith was choreographing and I was in Atlanta at that time Lavelle called me, and said, I would like to book you for Michael Jackson, at the MTV Awards. I was so appreciative of him that he offered me that opportunity. To be in the same room with Michael, as I studied this man’s every move because watching him, made me better.
I can now say that I am a better dancer-choreographer just by watching the way Michael worked. I watched the way he examined every minuscule dance move, and it helped me to become more conscious of what the body can do. When you witness something like that right in the same room, it made me feel good that I was different. And on our first day of rehearsal some would say, don’t look at him, don’t say anything just focus on the choreography. And he came over to me, and I was so terrified — you just never know. He said, “You worked with my sister, didn’t you?” I was like yeah, “You were really good!” I was in shock, I said, thank you! — I cannot believe Michael Jackson is talking to me (laughter) I was so nervous.
Martone: Now, on the other side, what was your biggest let-down professionally?
Jimmy Locust: Let-down? I think once my career started in just industry accepted me as a different type of artist, the only real downside I had was in being in between jobs. As an artist, that is one of the hardest things, you have to keep working. Do you know what I mean? You have got to continuously try to set up your next gig, which brings on some anxiety. So, for myself being in between jobs was my lowest time. But, you know, I was so blessed you know, with every job that I got. There were people making jobs for me. So, I got to work with the greats, all the greats from Debbie Allen to Quincy Jones. I worked with some of the most top charted artists of all time, you know, I was blessed to at least work on one job or another.
Martone: So, let me ask you, too, because of the downtimes. Were there times in between jobs, where you felt like giving up?
Jimmy Locust: I did, and that is when I just would look at myself and say, what am I doing? You know, and I wanted to give up. But that is when, if you are smart in this industry. You will always have to have gigs lined up, and my big gig was teaching.
So, whenever I would get depressed and not feel good like I did not get a job because it was because of my height and not my talent. You need to understand how unfair the industry can be at times. I would go towards teaching. So, I always kept a studio where I could teach like 3rd Street Dance Studio in Los Angeles, they welcomed me for years. When I was not working I would get a call asking, Jimmy you can come back and teach? So that is what I would do in between dancing gigs. There were times when I would feel down or think about going home. But the Lord gave me a lot of — don’t give up spirit. Like he just said to me, don’t give up, and I would just fall into teaching. Being able to teach really helped me to stay in dance — because there a lot of people who did give up, they couldn’t handle it. So, I was blessed.
Martone: That’s awesome and it sounds really like faith is a big part of your life.
Jimmy Locust: Yes, it is. It really is. I just feel like people, you know, especially now everyone is trying to push their issue, with certain things, but it is pretty much how you treat one another, and how you carry yourself, your outlook on life, also with how you want to be treated. I just find my strength in Christ and I really try to work with that. When I look at someone, I do not judge and say, that because you are not like me, I do not want to be bothered with you. Because He did not do that.
So, I just try to keep myself together, rather than be worried about anybody else. But, by doing that, I am being blessed because people can speak to me and they know that they are not going to be judged. Then, I speak positivity and positive affirmations into people’s lives.
So, faith has gotten me through and continues to get me through this game. For me there is longevity, and I am still working as a working choreographer, I am still gigging. A lot of people my age who have done what I have done, are out of the game. They are either injured and not doing dancing and they have dropped out. I am still performing, I am still, doing artist development with artists. I am so blessed to be able to have all these opportunities to help people. So, it is really, really wonderful.
Martone: Let me ask you, too, because you brought up Michael earlier, and you said that you were devastated at the time that he passed away. How did you find out that had died?
Jimmy Locust: I own a studio, that I am 50% owner of, Stamford Performing Arts Center, and I was getting ready to teach my 5:00 p.m. class, and one of my friends, who is a makeup artist, and a stylist, she called me up and she says, “Jimmy, Michael’s dead.” And I am like, “you are trippin’” And I was just stunned, I went to go teach my class, and it did not hit me until I got right into the studio. And immediately I had to extract myself from everywhere because I just could not believe it. And it was a shame that someone who was just incredible had passed-away.
I still feel, for me, to have been able to have that time with him and to have been on stage with him, and to been on camera with him in front of 10 million people, dancing right next to him and he looked at me. I am so blessed, to have this memory, and so happy to have proof that I danced with him.
Martone: That was one of the greatest all-time television performances that I’ve ever seen him do.
Jimmy Locust: It was. It was so good that Michael said, “I want to go to Europe.” The next thing I know is that my agent calls and says, “Jimmy, Michael wants to go to Europe.” We got on a plane and we went to like Zurich, all these places we did TV shows in all of Europe. It was such a great time. Once we got to Europe his whole demeanor changed. He was very different in Europe. He was very different in Europe like he was much more relaxed in Europe. But yeah, it was amazing. It was. I am just so proud I got a chance to do it. I was just really, really excited.
Note: This was one of the most pleasant and most interesting interviews that I have ever done. I could just talk to Jimmy forever on the phone. Just like talking to a friend. This is not the last time that we will talk to Jimmy. Stay tuned.
Originally published at https://irmixradio.net.