Growing up in a Jamaican household, Joseph (Joe) Nugent always felt the natural rhythm of his island's music within him. It wasn't until his mother began playing classical films of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, though, that a dream was ignited in 7-year-old Joe, "once I saw Fred Astaire, I knew I wanted to be the romantic hero that danced in my own life." Before long, Joe was signed up for the pre-teen youth Ballroom Team at BYU, where he quickly picked up those classy moves and, a dance partner.
As Joe continued his dance journey, he was inspired by the dancing characters he saw in the cinema, until one day when he saw Travis and Jamie Tuft competing professional American Smooth, "they truly inspired me to want to dance professionally one day," explained Joe.
That dream didn't feel too far away after Joe and his partner Kyla won the US Amateur Smooth Championships in 2016. Joe and his partner Kyla have danced together for over 7 years being, coached by Michael Johnson and Curt Holman, two of Joe's prominent coaches and influences. They now compete professionally and continue to pursue their passion for ballroom dancing in Richmond, VA.
Was there a performance, piece of choreography or costume that you felt represented you as a dancer the most? If so, what was it?
I loved dancing my professional showpiece number to Men in Black. I’m a huge fan of Will Smith and I love Hip Hop. I wanted to bring something urban into the Ballroom dance community... what better way than good music, a classy suit and tie, and an amazing partner?
Have you infused your culture and background into your dance journey? If so, how?
I’ve tried to incorporate the soul and rhythm of my Jamaican American upbringing into the movement of my dancing. I also strive to keep the integrity of the dance, while infusing the joy I feel from the steps and music. At the end of the day, I dance with the intention to be myself, have fun, and express what I feel inside.What do diversity, equality, and inclusion mean to you and why do you believe they're important values in the ballroom dance industry?
Diversity, equality, and inclusion are important because it enhances and progresses dancing. Creativity seldom happens in a vacuum. When diverse people, with diverse talents bring what they have to the dance floor, something special and new occurs. Something magical happens for the audience, judges, and most importantly, the dancer who gets a chance to experience what it’s like to be out there.
Describe a time where a project or decision you made was enhanced by including your unique lens.
I’ve created several film projects with ballroom from a multicultural background and perspective. It helps me create content that a diverse range of viewers will like and can relate to. It also helps me engage people from all walks of life.
If you could leave a message for the younger generation of dancers, what would it be?
When it comes to ballroom dance, put your spin on it. Learn and find inspiration from others but remember to be yourself. Love what’s different about you and dance it on the floor.
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