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The One and Only Damita Jo Freeman
October 3, 2013 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Damita Jo Freeman is awesome. In more ways than one. Her appearance with Joe Tex would have gotten her fired had it not boosted Soul Train's ratings. As one of the more successful of many Soul Train Dancers, Damita Jo was instrumental in standing up for better working conditions for the dancers. Also, she is is partially responsible for teaching Michael Jackson how to moonwalk. Read all about this amazing woman here.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (16 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Imagine how much confidence you'd have to have in your dancing ability to accept an invitation to dance with James-fucking-Brown on national television.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:25 PM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


She really had rhythm...or whatever the correct term for "it" is nowadays.

That impromptu with Joe Tex is amazing....
posted by CrowGoat at 3:41 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the Jacksons, Damita Jo is also coincidentally Janet's middle name and the album she was promoting when the Super Bowl hoo-ha happened.
posted by psoas at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know, Card Cheat! I saw her performance on public TV here in Chicago and her enthusiasm is just infectious. I knew I just had to know who this person was.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2013


She has no bones! My gods, that kind of flexibility!
posted by MissySedai at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2013


The Card Cheat: "Imagine how much confidence you'd have to have in your dancing ability to accept an invitation to dance with James-fucking-Brown on national television."

And then she nearly steals the spotlight from James-fucking-Brown, which I'm not sure many/anyone else could say.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And Mr. James Brown was enjoying the view too!

As did I.
posted by Archer25 at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then she nearly steals the spotlight from James-fucking-Brown, which I'm not sure many/anyone else could say.

I don't know what that "nearly" is doing there.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:00 PM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Soultrain.com: One of your greatest honors, and there were so many, had to have been choreographing the 1984 Olympics Closing Ceremonies.

Damita: It was quite an honor. I choregraphed 500 street dancers, 100 regular dancers and 25 children. We all were one. Although the producers gave me no credit, I choreographed the entire closing ceremonies that year.

Wow.
posted by marienbad at 5:08 PM on October 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Fascinating post, thank you very much.

I like the bit in the interview where she talking about seeing a proto-moonwalk dance featuring Marcel Marceau on TV, which inspired a similar dance (the Backslide) that she performed in Vegas. Michael Jackson saw her dance, and a backstage conversation they had afterwards set the stage (in part, as OP mentions) for Michael's moonwalk routine.

All of this is a wonderful enough anecdote to add to the "where did the moonwalk come from?" conversation. (searchng yootoob/past posts here on MeFi show how broad a conversation that might be). Icing on the cake, to me, is how she specifically mentions -- recounting after how many years? -- that she saw the Marceau dance on PBS.

PBS ---> moonwalk is a path for cultural diffusion that I certainly wouldn't have guessed 30 minutes ago.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 5:21 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Loved it, thanks for the post. Amazing woman, so many stores. Fantastic moonwalking story.
posted by greenhornet at 6:29 PM on October 3, 2013


1984 Olympic Closing Ceremony (Watch for the red dress.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:05 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The interview is full of amazing anecdotes. Her *first weekend* as a Soul Train dancer, and her mom called the cops on Don Cornelius!
posted by helpthebear at 7:09 PM on October 3, 2013


Thank you so much for this! I can't believe I've never heard of her before. Sooo fun to watch!
posted by kinnakeet at 6:52 AM on October 4, 2013


I heard her recording of "If You Go Away" in 1966, and it knocked my socks off.
posted by mule98J at 11:12 AM on October 4, 2013


I heard her recording of "If You Go Away" in 1966, and it knocked my socks off.

That's Damita Jo DeBlanc. Totally different Damita Jo.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2013


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