Jojo Alfonso, who hails from the Philippines, started to love dancing at an early age. He used to do hip-hop dances and has travelled to other places for competitions. But he tells Eileen McCormick his love for music and movement brought him to a type of dance he never thought he would be known for.
Good Times2: When did you start dancing?
Jojo Alfonso: I started with hip-hop dance because it was something that was offered in my school in the Philippines. We didn’t have enough money for formal dance trainings back then. I used to have a hip-hop group and we would join competitions. I started taking dancing as a potential career even when I was young.
Good Times2: What did you learn first, ballroom or Latin dance?
Jojo Alfonso: At first, I wasn’t interested in ballroom dancing. I was used to being a street dancer. Ballroom felt like a whole new world to me. From the dressing and timing, I really thought this kind of dance is just for the elite. My brother was the one who convinced me to try. That was when I realized that it has greater potential for a life-long career.
Like many traditional arts, you must first learn the rules before you can break them. So, I spent much time learning standard ballroom dancing and then slowly incorporating Latin dance. Latin dancing is not exactly like Salsa. It is the Rumba and Cha-Cha form of ballroom dancing. There is a third type of ballroom dance, Kizomba – an up and coming dance form from Angola.
Good Times2: Is ballroom dancing popular in the Philippines?
Jojo Alfonso: The Spaniards colonized the Philippines so for Filipinos, dance, music and arts are already in our blood. We are very much influenced by the Spanish culture. We consider art as a highly prized career and lifestyle. All forms of dances, including ballroom, are celebrated and practiced.
Good Times2: How do you join competitions?
Jojo Alfonso: We have what we call ‘dance ports’ located in Thailand, Singapore and other Asian countries. This allows us to stay connected to the community. This is how we get information about dance events. We have to pay to join. But since not all of us can easily pay for the registration, we find sponsors. In my case, the Big Buzz Company supports my career. The company is paying me to be here in Cambodia.
Good Times2: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Jojo Alfonso: I am able to teach and share my knowledge in dancing. Before, I only saw myself as a dancer. I never imagined I would go around Asia to teach. I am even asked to judge competitions and I really feel honored and touched. This has opened more doors for me and this year, the Big Buzz will have an event. The dance teachers will come from America and other parts of Europe and my goal is to learn from them.
Good Times2: Do you have any plans to get on a show like ‘Dancing with the Stars’?
Jojo Alfonso: Yes, we have something similar in the Philippines and in Asia. These shows are quite popular. Honestly, I’ve been asked to judge competitions. But I turned down the offers because it would force me to stay in one place. My profession requires me to move around. I like this nomadic way of living. It’s the best journey I could ever take and I am not ready to stop just yet.
Good Times2: How is it being a man in the industry? Do you get questioned about your masculinity?
Jojo Alfonso: Being a man is tough. You have to deal with different dynamics and many people get the wrong idea. I have to dance close to gorgeous women, play with the sensual energy that emanates from dancing. My wife used to get jealous and angry with me. Non-dancers see this as sensual but for me, it’s different. It’s actually like driving a car. You have to be in control. You set your focus on the road. In dancing, you have to take the lead and focus on that. Ironically, I also often get asked if I am gay because of my profession.
Good Times2: How do you decide on clothes to wear for competitions?
Jojo Alfonso: It all depends on what type of competition, which form of dance you want to perform. It is important not to confuse Kizomba with the fitness craze Zumba. I did Kizomba in my latest performances. It’s fresh and challenging. In Kizomba, you wear more relaxed clothes unlike in ballroom where you wear tight dresses and suits.
Good Times2: What does dancing mean to you?
Jojo Alfonso: It’s a big part of my life and of who I am. I haven’t finished university so there is nothing else I would be able to do. I find comfort in dancing. It’s like my safe place that whenever I feel down, I just go to the dance floor and release all the negativity.
Good Times2: What are your plans for your career?
Jojo Alfonso: I am looking to go beyond Asia or train in America. I have so much more to learn and I can see that there are always ways to improve. I join festivals and competitions with the hopes of meeting some American dancers. I also watch Youtube, but it’s a different thing to be in the same room with great artists. For ballroom dancing, I follow a Russian couple but for Kizomba, I follow Jojo and Mickaela from France.
Good Times2: What is the best part of becoming a dance instructor?
Jojo Alfonso: There is nothing else I would rather be doing. Sometimes people ask me what I would be doing if I was not teaching and dancing. Honestly, I think I would be sitting on the streets begging. I have the opportunity not only to share my knowledge but also to learn more. The way organizations work in the ballroom dance community is that we go around to teach. That way, we continuously evolve because we are exposed to so many places and types of people. It’s truly amazing.
Good Times2: What advice can you give to those who aspire to become professional dancers?
Jojo Alfonso: If they like dancing and want to get to a professional level, they should learn about their body. Kinesiology (the study of body movements) plays a major role in my teaching and performance. It helps me understand how my body moves. When you understand your body, you feel more relaxed. I practice both yoga and pilates to help me listen to what my body needs.