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Jamaica Craft

Jamaica Craft

Mom On The Move is a weekly profile of a mom mover and shaker. Women we admire, who inspire us and who have amazing stories to share, oh and they happen to have kids, too! While we love to talk about celebrity moms and their fabulous lives, we also love (and need) to know about real moms who are out here doing it all, just as fabulously. This week we’re profiling choreographer and creative director Jamaica Craft.

You’ve seen her moves for years through mega-artists like Ciara, Usher and the cast of Empire. Jamaica Craft has been dancing since she can remember, so it’s only natural that she lives her life doing that daily. But when this mom decided she wanted to do more than dance–because she knew she had the talents–her career began to skyrocket with the swagger and grace that’s all Jamaica.

Mommynoire: Nice to meet you… I was just going through your Instagram, first let me say the pics of your son are adorable…

Jamaica Craft: Thank you, that’s the highlight of my Instagram, all of the other stuff doesn’t matter (laughs)

Are you having fun with him?

He’s about to be a year old on May 4th. I’m having so much with him, especially with the clothes…he’s like my alter ego. People hit me up all the time like, “I haven’t seen his face, but I love what you’re doing clothes-wise and do you do styling for kids.” It’s hilarious.

Let’s rewind and talk about you and your career as a choreographer. How did your love of dancing begin?

My love for dancing began by watching all my favorite artists on TV. Back then when Arsenio Hall’s show was first on and MTV Jams had just started, there was Michael Jackson and Hammer and Janet Jackson and TLC and Aaliyah, that was like, whoa, why is this making me feel some kind of way? I just wanted to sit in front of the TV and I would tape the videos and learn all the routines. My mom would tell me to go to bed and I’d have to watch it one more time. For some reason, the dances never felt old to me. I never felt like, ok I’m over this, and that feeling—still to this day—hasn’t happened, so I know this is meant to be.

How old were you at the time…and you’re self-taught?

Yep, I’m a street dancing kid. Any dance classes I took were free dance classes. They’d tell my mom, “She’s a natural.” And my mom would say, “Yeah, she’ll be a natural until she’s done with this free class.” (laughs) This was all through elementary and middle school. Plus my older sister has good taste, so I was always intrigued with what she was into, that kinda played a big part too.

Jamaica Craft

Jamaica Craft

So then you’re a teen and you continue dancing?

I started my own dance troupe called The Trendsetters, and it was me and one other girl who had that tomboy swagger like me, and then two guys. I loved it. Of course I love dancing, but I really love the whole idea of being in charge and creating something—What are we going to wear? How will the stage be set up? How are we going to make a name for ourselves? —that whole journey was exciting to me. So our goal was to follow in the legacy of other hip-hop dancing troupes that produced well-known dancers that go on to dance for artists.

After that I went to college, and it was that whole thing of not really knowing how to make good money and be able to have a career as a dancer, so I wanted to get a good education and a degree. I went to college in St. Louis. One weekend, me and my friend went to Atlanta for fun. We went to an audition and it was bogus, but we also heard on the radio that TLC had auditions for their FanMail tour. My mom paid for one night at a hotel and she said I better get that gig. Out of over 100 dancers that day I was the only one chosen and I haven’t left Atlanta since… I was on the FanMail tour. I never even auditioned before, ever, I didn’t even know the process.

After the tour, did you start being a choreographer?

After that tour, TLC’s road manager was then Kandi Burruss’ manager. After the tour, I did her video for the song, “Don’t Think I’m Not.” From there, I was dancing and choreographing Kandi and this group called 3LW saw me and they hired me to dance and choreograph. God put me in all the right places.

Then I started assisting a well-known choreographer by the name of Devyne Stephens and he was working with amazing artists like Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani and Akon. He asked me to start grooming this young artist he was working with. He told me she was 15 going on 16 but she’s good. I was like, cool, this is exactly the stuff I want to do…that artist was Ciara and I’ve been her choreographer ever since.


In the meantime, I was still juggling my other work. I worked with Usher during his Confessions album and I went out on tour with him. After that tour I definitely knew I was done with just dancing. I left his tour and became full-time with Ciara.

Were you nervous about taking that leap?

Sure, it was a financial change and then there was the thing about people taking me seriously as a choreographer, as a boss. There’s something about change that people don’t like. I got a lot of comments like, Don’t you dance for Usher? Don’t you dance for Ciara? I had to say, no no no, I’m Ciara’s choreographer this is what we’re doing today. But this was also good because it taught me that I had to focus on being a choreographer and stop dancing.

And even now, the journey from choreographer to creative director is the same, it’s a financial change and it’s a mental change for the people I work with. So now what I’m saying on set is  “I can hire you some amazing choreographers, but now I’m going to tell you what the stage is going to look like, how the lighting is going to be, what the image is for the clothing. Plus I’m going to put the people of movement around you…”

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