An Interview with Jami Josephson, Ballroom and Salsa Competitor, Choreographer, and Coach

My first recollection of Jami, was in Rome Italy, during Team Salsaweb?s Euro-Tour ?98. The team was staying with world famous European Dance Instructor, Pedro Gomez, just outside of Rome. We were watching various instructional dance videos. He popped one in, and there she was. Jami was demonstrating the basic step, and more complex moves with her partner, Jose Decamps. I was wondering who she was, as I had not seen her anywhere before.

Jami Josephson is one of the top dance instructors in the United States. She was ranked second in the nation for American Rhythm style in 1997. She is the Choreographer and Instructor of Club Style Videos by, and Videos By Prodance. She has been teaching and performing Ballroom and Latin Dance for the past 15 years in New York City.

Dancing since the age of nine, Jami has credits in off-Broadway, as well as television. Recently she choreographed ?Valentino, The Musical? in NYC. She?s been on various shows like Christina, Sabado Gigante, Walt Disney?s World Latin Festival, and the PBS Heritage Classic in 1996.

Jami has over 21 instructional videos, has competed in over 100 competitions and has won countless titles. She now resides in Hollywood, Florida.

Some of her dance titles include:

  • Gold Medallist in the World Disco Classic in Salsa

  • Winner of the Sabado Gigante Latin Competition

  • Silver Medallist in the I.D.O. World Salsa Championships

  • Silver Medallist in the I.D.O. World Merenque Championships

  • Silver Medallist in the International Salsaweb Championships

  • Silver Medallist at U.S. Open Pro American Rhythm Championship1997

  • Eastern U.S. Champion

  • Fred Astiare Champion

  • United States Rising Star Champion (1996)

  • Jami teaches Mambo, Salsa, Cha-Cha, Swing, Tango, Rumba, Merengue, Samba, Waltz, Paso Doble, Quickstep, Bolero, Foxtrot, Slow Dancing, Hustle, and many more! We?re truly looking forward to having her teach at the Convention this year.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very proud to introduce to you Jami Josephson!

    Where are you originally from? Born in Florida but raised in NJ.

    Where did you move from there? At the age of 17 I moved to NYC for a career in dance.

    How long have you lived in Miami?I moved to Miami a year ago.

    Do you do anything else besides teach dance for a living? (Hobbies,
    website, etc?)
    Well I do compete as a hobby and a career but at the moment I pretty much teach here in Florida as well as travel all over the country on weekends to coach other studios. I also love rehearsing with my 2 partners and occasionally if I still feel like dancing at the end of the day I?ll go out dancing.

    How old were you when you became interested in dance? Well I?ve been dancing since I was very young. I was in Show Biz as a little girl.

    Who were your mentors when you first started dancing? Bob Fosse !

    What got you interested in teaching? Who encouraged you? Well, there was a time when I was and Actress/Dancer and needed work, so I started working for a Fred Astaire Studio. It was my boss Jennifer McCalla who got me interested in teaching and put me through many teachers? exams and got
    me into competing in the ballroom scene.

    What other forms of dance or types of dances do you teach? I do a lot? Tap was my forte`, I also do jazz, and of course all ballroom and country dances. Pretty much all partner dancing.

    Tell us a little bit about your style and methods of teaching. My style is a little bit of everybody? I have trained with so many top instructors and have learned that to create your own style you need to know as much as you possibly can about other people?s styles so that you can find out what?s good for you. As far as teaching goes I believe in positive critique and good service! I love to teach and I think that helps me to be a better teacher.

    Who was your favorite and most competitive dance partner? Jose!

    How did you place at the World Salsa Competition in Miami? I danced with a friend, Billy Fajardo, we placed second in Salsa which I thought was not bad since we only had a month to rehearse.

    What does your schedule look like for the year 2000? Very Busy? I travel pretty much every weekend to different studios throughout the country and have recently been asked to perform in Singapore this coming June which I am looking forward to do!

    Do you currently perform or compete now? Yes, besides competing in Salsa, I am starting to get involved with country dancing and competing in Country Western Events? It?s a lot of Fun!!!

    What do you find most satisfying about teaching? Watching a gentleman with no dance or social skills, learn to become a great dancer and make new friends. I feel like I gave him the best gift someone could give. ?Dancing is great for the soul?- I always say!

    One thing that impresses me about you is your ballroom competition experience and background. Do you ever plan on getting back into the Ballroom world, and competing again? Well, I would like to, however it is very hard to find someone who is willing to put in the time and discipline that competing requires. And of course he would need to live near by to rehearse. I tried competing with someone who lives in California and it was impossible to maintain a proper rehearsal schedule so far away.

    What are the advantages of having Ballroom training? It?s a great Advantage! What makes someone a good dancer is not only the showmanship and personality but also the technique, which is what ballroom training offers you. Connection, footwork, speed and balance are just a few things that Ballroom training gives you. A lot of people look down on Ballroom Dancing, they think it?s stuffy or looks silly but the truth is it?s the highest level of partner dancing that Dancesport has to offer. If you saw the World Mambo Championships last year you would see that the Ballroom dancers look cleaner, have better speed and better footwork than most social dancers.

    Can you think of any disadvantages? Well, yes, one? Last year at the Salsaweb Convention when I competed in the Pro Division, we placed second? I think that the judges were not able to relate to the high level that we danced, I was told we would have won if we had done just the social style that we did in the first round. The disadvantage was that we danced an old style of Salsa called Mambo. And used different movements that the social scene has not seen so we were then marked down. Regardless I was glad to have performed something that could show Salsa in a different level of dance.

    Why is rare to see trained professional ballroom dancers in Salsa
    I don?t really know? I love to go out to clubs but most of the time I find it boring when you don?t have someone at your level to dance with. It can sometimes feel like your working instead of having fun.

    How is the Ballroom world so different from the Salsa/Mambo world?
    Very different! Politics is one aspect and another is the closed circuit that the Ballroom Community keeps. I feel that both industries could benefit if they were somehow brought together. Plus the Ballroom world has been around forever and the Salsa World is just still beginning. It?s only been in the past few years that Salsa conventions and such have been popping up around the world. Same for Hustle Events. There are several industries out there? Country Western, the Swing Industry, Ballroom, Hustle and now also Salsa/Mambo. Wouldn?t it be great to unite all of them? They all have that one thing in common and that?s partner dancing. I will also say one other difference that ballroom has over all the other industries is that they unfortunately can be very snobby.

    Tell us a little about your videos. I have two different companies that have produced my tapes. One is the Dancevision collection, which was designed for social dancers of all levels and a club style as opposed to ballroom style. There are 6 different tapes ? 3 are of Salsa in 3 different levels and the others consist of Cha-Cha, Merenque and Slow Dancing. The Salsa and merenque were also done in Spanish. Then there?s Prodance. These tapes are of seminars that I have taught with Jose. They are mainly for high-level instruction and competitive styling. Some are really great information to the student who wants to be better than average. My favorite is the Thinking, Sensing, Doing Latin dancing? It talks about movements and how to create believability in your dancing. I find that you can teach a student steps, technique, etc. but there comes a time to feel your dancing or feel like your dancing and we talk about how to create that. It?s almost like an acting class.

    What impresses you about the Salsa scene in Miami? That everyone dances the same.

    What do you teach in Miami that is different from any other school?
    Well most Salsa schools here teach the rueda (casino style) and I believe it was Rene from Salsa Lovers who started this. It seems that a lot of teachers who started with him have broke out on there own and now have there own schools but have never come up with there own style. And I guess that would be hard considering that in order to participate in casino you must know the names of the patterns which are called out like square dancing. This is unfortunate for the out-of-towner since there is not a standard syllabus that is universally being used. Also if you do not know the patterns it is very hard to even dance one-on-one with a casino dancer because they are never taught to lead the ladies and the ladies are never taught to follow. I have seen many Miami gals have a hard time dancing with anyone from out of town. It?s a situation I deal with daily. For my classes- I call it NY Style so that everyone here will know I don?t teach casino and everyone is taught lead and follow patterns so that you can dance with who ever you want. I also teach Salsa timing differently for I believe that breaking on 3 is easier than breaking on 1. It synchronizes and flows better with the music that Salsa offers today. However if I had a choice on what timing to dance, I would pick mambo ?on 2? for that?s what I grew up with. I teach a lot of mambo but only in private lessons and I am currently looking to run a mambo class down here soon.

    What is your future plans for dancing and teaching? Well I would like to someday be the World Champion (I was second last year so hopefully this year?) and teach all I know to anyone who wants to learn. I love traveling and learning different styles from different countries and hope to continue till I can?t dance anymore!

    Do you think the Los Angeles style of dancing has affected Miami
    style, and visa versa?
    Well, LA style has seemed to be influenced more by Ballroom and NY Style than Miami Style. It seems that each city has its own style but I find the one that sticks out the most is Miami. Miami- due to the strong interest of casino here is all that most Miami dancers know. If you go to LA or NYC or Detroit, you?ll find similar styles and one can follow or lead each other. As for Miami that?s not true. Again casino dancers can only dance among themselves unless someone revises the syllabus to lend itself toward more of a lead and follow style. And it would be great if that was done for being the girl and a follower, I find that casino is boring for the lady. We never get to separate from our guy and DANCE plus a lot of the patterns were obviously designed by a guy without much thought of what the lady should or can be doing. But with the Salsa becoming so popular and Conventions being thrown (like the International Hustle and Salsa Convention here in Miami) for people to unite in the Salsa world, this will eventually influence Miami and different styles are now starting to be seen. Thank Goodness!

    If you had to choose anywhere in the United States you?d
    like to live other than Miami, where would that be, and why?
    NYC and I do still have my apartment there? It?s where I go to have my downtime to go play at the Copa and get my fix of Salsa/Mambo dancing. I don?t know what I would do without it?

    What do you plan on teaching at this year?s Convention in
    I hope to show some of my favorite moves to everyone and also talk a little
    about rhythm and music, I teach a different break action which is similar to breaking on one.

    So explain how you dance your timing? OK ... the reason we start on slow with mans right foot is to create the break (rock) on 3,4. I find that breaking on one is not the most comfortable to dance in the kind of music that Salsa offers today. Most Salsa music (not all) has more of a bolero timing feel of slow, quick, quick, as opposed to Q,Q,S. If you think about it most Salsa has an accent on 1, that being the loudest beat
    and the longest should represent a slow or 2 beats to hold, then into a Q,Q, break rock action. If you ever go out dancing you'll see that 1 and 3 are similar but most people break on three naturally cause that's what's heard comfortably to the ear. Also similar to Cha when we step side to prepare, in the Salsa we use the right foot for slow as a transfer of weight to get into the rock. It is a way to get into the music and prepare the lady for the rock action instead of just going right into a rock action, most women don't feel it until after the man has stepped forward. Thus then the lady can have a hard time catching up in the basic. Using the prep step as slow it allows the lady to feel the man begin and join him in the rock action. OK ... so in all, my Salsa style is to break on 3... not one like in LA or Miami for that matter, this is a NY style to break on three ... its what I was taught by those who danced at the Copa. Try it ... you'll see what I mean!

    If you had to live your life all over again, what would you have
    done differently?
    Nothing! I love my life!