Jo Hoffberg is arguably one of the modern legends of modern Lindy Hop. She’s got more championship titles than you can count, and an unforgettable personality to boot. Not only is she technically formidable, but she’s teeming with creativity that captivates anyone watching. Jo really is a woman to watch in the swing dance world, and a source of inspiration for many. In the wake of International Women’s Day, Jo was kind enough to share some of her experiences and dance wisdom with us.
Where did you first come into contact with the Lindy Hop?
Do you remember the GAP khaki commercial with all the crazy aerials? It was that – I saw it and knew I was destined to jump off and over other humans. I started to learn aerials, and quickly realised I should learn how to swing dance as well. After a few classes, I attended my first social dance where there were other teens – from that moment, I was hooked.
From that advert to more award titles than anyone could count is quite a journey. When did you know it was going to be a career for you?
About five years into my time dancing Lindy, I was talking with my mum and she asked me: ‘OK, so you’re doing this thing… you’re a dance teacher, right?’. Until that point, I’d been struggling with my future and where life would take me. I’d always assumed I’d be getting a ‘real job’ in a few years. It wasn’t until the moment that I started to recognise my accomplishments, I started to feel like I had ‘made it’. It prompted a change in my mind that allowed growth beyond the role of ‘dance teacher’ and into a mentor.
(Photo by Kwctas Giokas)
How do you keep yourself focused and deal with the frustrations and set-backs that come with being a professional dancer?
I currently have a coach who helps me work through professional and personal challenges. She helps me manage my expectations, work through the “should have” and “could have” feelings of doubt, and create clear steps to reach my goals. This allows me to keep myself on track to becoming the person I’d like to be: someone who can deal with anything thrown their way with aplomb.
Who keeps you inspired?
I appreciate all of the people playing a part in keeping the scene alive and growing, but it’s the ones that practice that really inspire me.
To be great at a skill takes practice and dedication. The people who choose to better themselves, regardless of whether they have access to a partner or not, keep me inspired to do the same.
And what advice would you give to new dancers?
It really depends on how they’re feeling and what they want to achieve.
If they’re a committed new dancer: Take the time to really learn the fundamentals, even if they seem boring; they are critical to your success if you intend on being one of the better dancers.
To the dancer who wants to be ‘amazing’ by next week: Take solo classes along with partner classes if you want to advance your skills faster. I’d recommend ballet for strength, balance, precision and fluidity, but if that’s not necessarily your thing, hip-hop, house, popping or tap are also really helpful. Said another way: If you’re a human that wants to become a dancer, strengthen your body and take the time to learn how to move your body independent of a partner (a.k.a solo dancing).
To the general new dancer: There are so many reasons to spend time in the Lindy Hop community: exercise, meeting new friends, being part of something bigger than yourself, travel, music, and love for the dance. You might start for one reason and keep going because of another – whatever that reason, just remember there’s no ‘correct way’, so just enjoy the journey instead of trying to focus solely on getting to an end point.
And any wisdom for everyone, no matter on the dance level?
Be courteous and thoughtful to your fellow dancers, use your words to ask for permission, don’t take ‘no thanks’ too personally, and apologise when you kick or swing into someone. Travel as much as you can, enjoy meeting new people, and remember you’ll get out what you put in.
Thank you Jo!
Banner Photo Credit: Winter Jump Festival, Oslo