From Philly to NYC, a shy little girl to a powerhouse dancer, JoVonna Parks sits down to talk about her dance career so far. And don't forget the coffee!
MA: What is your first dance memory?
JP: I feel that I have a few "first" dance memories, but I'll just choose one and keep it short hahaha....
It was one of my first dance recitals ever. I was chosen to recite a poem or monologue. I was 5years old and I remember thinking why did you choose me....I'm so shy. Immediately I said no, but I had no choice. My mom helped me memorize it and we worked on it for a month. Finally the day came, I knew my lines, but I was terrified. I cried, I'm sure of it. My mom kissed me and pushed me on the stage. I walked out to centerstage and looked out at the audience and froze. All of a sudden I hear my cousin shout " Go Jo Jo!!" So I went and said my lines and passed with flying colors! I went after to my mom and she gave me the biggest hug ever!!!!
MA: Was there a specific moment when you realized "A-Ha!" I'm going to be a dancer? Or did you realize more gradually?
JP: Hmmmm... Once I was a teenager dance was such a large part of my life that it only seemed natural to go all the way with it. It felt like right the thing to do, I wanted to follow my dream and that's exactly what I'm doing. It's pretty awesome. Hard, but awesome! This is also not to say that I don't have other interests that I'd like to pursue. I wanted to go to school for physical therapy or something that has to do with working with the body. The human body is pretty cool in my opinion. All in all I just knew I had to dance.
MA: You grew up in Philadelphia. What was the dance scene like there growing up?
JP: Philadelphia has a large dance scene. In the past I don't think people realized all that Philadelphia has to offer including myself -aside from the big name companies- mostly because I was still very young and didn't really delve out too much into the Philadelphia dance scene. I will say that you can receive really great training in Philadelphia and the greater Philadelphia area! I had such great training back home; I don't know where I'd be with out it. It's also pretty diverse as well! You have classical ballet companies, contemporary ballet and modern companies, tap companies( amazing!), post modern. There are also modern companies that still focus on doing the great works of Mary Anthony, Martha Graham and Jose Limon; they keep tradition alive which is hard to do so props to them! A lot of really great companies tour through Philly too. Philly artists definitely work hard to keep the arts in all disciplines alive and vibrant through out of city! It's worth checking out! A bit rough around the edges but Philly has its charm and is worth exploring.
MA: Has there been a person or moment that has greatly impacted who you are today?
JP: Tough one! Aside from my parents, in this moment I would have to say..... Gwendoyln Bye. She is my Graham teacher from back home. She is a wonderful woman who gave me so much knowledge of the dance world and the real world. She is one of the most creative human beings I've ever met and I admire that. She exposed me to what the dance world could offer and always pushed me to be better. So, thank you Gwen.
MA: When it came time to choosing colleges, what drew you to the Ailey/Fordham BFA program?
JP: Mostly because it program is in New York! I've always wanted to live here. I don't really know why I just had to. In my mind every thing happened here and I was not about to miss out! If I was going to step away from the nest, New York for me was the place to do it. Super cliche but I'm ok with that. HA! But more seriously, I knew the program would fit me and give me necessary tools to make me a professional dancer. Also I liked that you could receive a great liberal arts education as well as pursue your artistic calling. It added up to me to be path for me for success.
MA: Since you've been in New York City for a while now, what do you usually do or where do you like to go when you need a break?
JP: There are a couple of places...
- My bed to sleep to escape the over stimulation of daily life
- A coffeehouse to have one of my favorite things coffee and do a crossword or just space out
- The park near my apartment....there's a great view of the sunset
- My friend Anthony's apartment. It depends on my mood.
MA: Do you have any pre and/or post performance rituals to share? Warm-ups, meals, drinks etc...
JP: Working with Elisa we have a set warm up with pilates/yoga combo which is so hard, but so hard in a good way! Then one of the company members teaches a ballet Barre before the show. However after that:
- Make-up (no lipstick)
- See the stage- ritual: slide the soles of my feet on the stage to make sure I'm connected to it before the curtain goes up
- Lose the gum
- Plank/ stretch my calves
That takes about 35 mins
MA: Describe your perfect day off.
JP: The perfect day off: Sleep in, make a breakfast of Pancakes, eggs and bacon and of course coffee. Then watch tv, nap for a few hours and then go for a walk in the park
MA: A little bird told me you love to read. What was the last book you read? Did you like it?
JP: Yes, I do like to read! The last book I read was Frankenstein.... but I couldn't finish it...it just wasn't my cup of tea. Now I'm reading Vanishing Languages by Jodi Picoult. So far I'm into it.
MA: If a young dancer came up to you and said he/she wanted to pursue a career in dance, what's one piece of advice you'd share?
JP: I would tell her or him if this is what you want, to be a dancer, you have to fight for it. It's going to be fun but it will be hard. Stay confident and be a good person.
MA: If you could perform any piece of choreography (besides Elisa's and Tiffany's) anywhere in the universe, what would you choose?
JP: I would choose "Arenal" by Nacho Duauto. I would love to do any of his repertoire. I am LITERALLY OBSESSED with this dance. I performed part of it for my senior solo in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. I love his choreography; especially how he uses the music. No beat is left untouched by movement. It's amazing.
MA: What has been the most memorable experience dancing with Elisa Monte Dance so far?
JP: I have had such a wonderful experience thus far working with the company!! Honestly the most memorable moments are the times we spend in the airport when we're on tour. We really just don't have the best travel luck. I don't understand it. In those moments we bond and stick together plus we get a good story out it. I'm laughing out loud right now at all the funny airport moments we have had even though we definitely had some not so funny moments as well. Also, one big memory that stands out is when I performed Pigs and Fishes for the first full time. I survived; it's a tough dance and it makes me anxious, but I trusted myself and all went well. I was really happy with myself.
MA: My favorite question. You're hosting a dinner party and can invite 3 guests, dead or alive. Who would invite?
- Obama : he really seems like a cool dude
- My best friend
MA: And finally, what's your motto JoVonna?
JP: Have a coffee and take a nap