Need To Know: Jont� Moaning
By Noah Michelson
If you've ever seen Beyonc''s "Freakum Dress" video and wondered how she came up with those freaky moves -- she didn't. Jont' Moaning did. The triple threat -- musician, dancer, singer -- got his start with Alvin Ailey before booking his first gig with Janet Jackson -- at her infamous 2004 Super Bowl performance. Since then he's been singing, dancing, and choreographing for both himself and some of the biggest names in the industry and this spring he'll release his first album in Japan (and around the rest of the world soon after). We caught up with Moaning to find out why he's so big in Japan (and his favorite part of visiting the country), why he's thankful for Lady Gaga, and why, when it comes to his art, gender ain't nothing but an expression. Plus: Below you can see our video interview with Moaning, and on the second page check out a video of him dancing to his single "Ya! Who?" Details about his upcoming performance at NYC's Santos Party House can be found at the end of the interview.
Out: How did you get started in the industry?
Jont' Moaning: I started off as a dancer first, in Portland, Oregon, training at the Oregon Ballet Theater when I was 13. I graduated from high school and moved to New York City in 2001, August 11th, a month before September 11th. Crazy right? And I started training at the Alvin Ailey. I took classes there for about a year and I kind of got fed up with it because I didn't feel like I was really growing, so I was like, let me go out and audition for a different artist, and see if I could just be in it. And the first gig that I got was Janet Jackson's Super Bowl show. But it took a while -- from 2001 to 2004 -- to get a gig, so, it really shows that you have to work hard if you want to be in the industry.
How would you describe your sound?
I'd say R&B, pop, and '70s? And a little bit of the '90s.
I love the '90s. I think musically they're really underrated.
I feel like it's going to come back. The '90s will be back soon.
Can you name any specific influences? Musicians, or fashion or film --
Music-wise, I love old-school singers like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Leontyne Price, and opera singers -- David Bowie -- they're all amazing. Anybody who's had an impact on this world I'm attracted to. Michael Jackson, of course, he's one of my icons. He can sing, he can dance, and he's just amazing. The whole Jackson family, they kind of inspire me.
I know you're really big in Japan --
[Laughs] Am I?
Yeah, from what I've seen. How did you end up over there?
The first time I went to Japan was in 2004. I started teaching dance in Hiroshima, and no one spoke English so it was like I was forced to learn Japanese. There were about 30 students at the studio, and they were like my family, I was there for almost two months, and I was just teaching them every day, and they had a showcase at the end of the month. I was so inspired to choreograph out of that, that was my first time ever choreographing. That's why I kind of moved to Japan.
What about Japanese culture inspires you?
The food. The food in Japan is amazing. They cook with so much passion. Anywhere you go in Japan you're going to have great food. I've never been to a bad spot.
I love it. I could eat sushi every day and be totally happy.
Right? But you know what's funny? I never eat sushi when I'm there.
No, they have so many different types of food that you just' Even the McDonald's is flawless in Japan -- they have the hottest shrimp burgers ever. To die for.
Sounds amazing. You're a musician, a dancer, a choreographer -- do you consider yourself more one kind of artist than another or do they all sort of interact and bleed into one another?
It all kind of comes together. If you're a singer you should be able to dance, if you dance you should be able to act -- it all goes hand in hand. If you can't do one than you shouldn't do the other. You know what I saying? You have to put all of yourself [out there] so that you're an artist.