Joshua L Ishmon, Professional Dancer
What drives your work, what is your why?
Integrity. Regardless of if I’m dancing, teaching and especially choreographing… the first priority is always being at the apex of honesty toward what the work requires, how I connect to said work and feel at the time in general. If I am honest with myself and can connect to every dimension of what I’m doing/pursuing, it’s improbable that others won’t be moved to join me in the experience.
What is the moment/event/situation that inspired you to enter the field you are in now?
There’s two: The first being when I was in the 1st grade and witnessed my peers performed a West African welcome song/dance called “Funga”. I was very enamored and joined the program the following year. The other being the first time I saw Deeply Rooted Dance Theater live. I had seen some other companies but had never been moved to tears by dance before. I didn’t know that was possible and needed to learn how to incite that in others.
What do you believe best prepared you to be successful in your career?
Lupe Fiasco once said [heavily paraphrasing], “Being broke teaches you how to hustle whilst keeping you humble.” Growing up in Gary, IN taught me many things and my arts-based high school nurtured and inspired a deep hunger toward growth. Those plus the jegnaship (‘jegna’: the Nubian equivalent of mentor) of people like Kevin Iega Jeff, Gary Abbott and many other brilliant elders aided in redefining my pursuits of growth and evolution in my adulthood.
Who is the mentor that has made the most impact in your life and why? What was the best advice they gave you, and how has it stuck with you throughout your career?
I can’t give that to a sole individual because there were too many entities that made immeasurable investments in me over the years. Larry Brewer gave me means to constantly create and hone my choreography while Kevin Iega Jeff and Gary Abbott helped to expand my dance & choreographic lens to see, try and explore various corners of my imagination. I don’t have any specific quotes right now but they all helped me to affirm that the way you honor the investments made into you is by relentlessly working to reach the apex you have yet to conceive of and just be a good person along the way.