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In Memory of Dexter Jones

(September 7th, 1964 – December 19th, 2022)

By Shireen Dickson, Managing Director, SLIPPAGE Lab

If you would like to contribute to Dexter’s memorial honoring his “final curtain call,” there is a GoFundMe page where you can donate: https://www.gofundme.com/f/final-curtain-call?qid=f4b883c199085f4ca8b033f261f7771b

Dexter’s body lived in and through rhythms.

Musicality thrived in the lyrical ways his voice engaged others with his poetic way of storytelling. His fingers created melodies in the kitchen when he “cheffed it up”, and our bellies sang when we shared those meals with him. And of course, his feet honored the legacy of all the legendary dancers and musicians that he worked with – on Broadway, international tours, television, film and music videos) – with an intimate and embodied knowledge of Black artistic excellence and joy.

Dexter was the definition of collaboration. All of his masterful ways of improvising – in performance, in conversation, in teaching – reflected his unwavering attention to his stagemates, and his penultimate awareness and respect of any audience.  This ability to offer himself so fully to an environment made me a much better performer when working with him.  In our various performances with Jazz Power artists, I was continually inspired to imagine and express musicality that other partners have not brought out of me, embrace both playfulness and subtlety in performance, and more deeply respect the energies of the audiences that made it possible for us to be our most authentic and creative selves.

Dexter was a doer.  For most of the time that I knew him, his creative dedication to a moment was so intense, and his talent so immense, that he didn’t need to look beyond the moment that he was present to.  I believe that after he attended Jazz Power Institute in 2018, he began to understand the magnitude of the sum of his experiences, and configure how he could translate them for a whole new generation.  By the end of 2022, he was curating talks on social dance for Camille A. Brown and advising Michelle Dorrance on swing dance, mentoring young (and old) dancers at the American Tap Dance Foundation, and presenting on revisionist jazz curricula at the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance at Duke University.

There are so many of us that have been moved to movement by being in Dexter’s presence. He can rest, assured that the rhythm of his life was expressed fully, and those harmonies will continue to be honored by us all.

photos by Kerry Kehoe for JPI