Jumatatu Poe

I am a choreographer and performer based between Philadelphia and New York City who grew up dancing around the living room and at parties with my siblings and cousins. My early exposure to concert dance was through African dance and capoeira performances on California college campuses where my Pan-Africanist parents studied and worked, but I did not start formal dance training until college with Umfundalai, Kariamu Welsh’s contemporary African dance technique. My work continues to be influenced by various sources, including my foundations in those living rooms and parties, my early technical training in contemporary African dance, my continued study of contemporary dance and performance, my movement trainings with dancer and anatomist Irene Dowd around anatomy and proprioception, my sociological research of and technical training in J-sette performance with Donte Beacham. Through my artistic work, I strive to engage in and further dialogues with Black queer folks, create lovingly agitating performance work that recognizes history as only one option for the contextualization of the present, and continue to imagine options for artists’ economic and emotional sustainability.

I produce dance and performance work independently, as well as in collaboration with idiosynCrazy productions, a company I founded in 2008 and now co-direct with Shannon Murphy. Most recently, the company serves as a resource to produce public dialogues around the integrations of art into society, and the social responsibility of the artist. Collaboration is often essential for my work, and I have recently co-created performance work with choreographers Jermone Donte Beacham, Jesse Zaritt, and Shannon Murphy.  Previously, I have danced with Marianela Boán, Silvana Cardell, Emmanuelle Hunyh, Tania Isaac, Kun- Yang Lin, C. Kemal Nance, Marissa Perel, Leah Stein, Keith Thompson, Kate Watson-Wallace, Reggie Wilson, Jesse Zaritt, and Kariamu Welsh (as a member of Kariamu & Company). As a performer, I also collaborate with Merián Soto. I am an Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College.

I have performed my work in various cities around the US and in Europe and South America, and I have received various awards including: a 2010-2011 Live Arts Brewery Fellowship (Philadelphia),  2010-2012 annual Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Performance Grants, a 2011-2013 Community Education Center Residency Fellowship (Philadelphia), a 2012 Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Fellowship (Philadelphia), a 2013 NRW Tanzrecherche Fellowship (Germany), a 2013 New York Live Arts Studio Series residency with Jesse Zaritt (NYC), a 2016 Independence Fellowship (Philadelphia), a 2016 18th Street Arts Center creative residency (Santa Monica), a 2017 Rocky Dance Award (Philadelphia), a 2017 Sacatar Residency Fellowship (Bahia, Brazil), a 2017 MAP Fund Grant, a 2017 NEFA NDP Production Grant, three Swarthmore College Cooper Foundation grants for presenting other artists (Swarthmore, PA).

My middle name is Mtafuta-Ukweli, which means “one who searches for the truth”.

Visiting Artist | Site Visit October 13 - 15, 2017 / March 4 - 17, 2018

Let ‘im Move You: This Is a Formation

Jumatatu Poe and his entire creative team came to MANCC to continue to develop Poe’s Let ‘im Move You series. This set of works draws from J-Sette, a dance form with origins in southern drill teams and made popular on majorette lines at historically Black universities and on independent squads in the gay African American club scene.

In collaboration with J-Sette performer Jermone “Donte” Beacham, Poe is developing and directing a series of performances informed by J-Sette to examine the idea of “team” in performance. Let ‘im Move You is staging iterations in black box theaters and white box gallery spaces, as well as intervention-style performances in historically and/or predominantly Black neighborhoods, testing the boundaries of propriety and belonging, and confronting the historic imaginations and limitations of these spaces.

Poe’s two-week residency followed a three-day site visit to MANCC last fall, in which Poe met with members of the FAMU Diamond Dance team, which practices J-Sette, and attended their Homecoming Weekend performances.

For the residency, Poe and Beacham conducted a series of workshops with the FAMU Diamonds to further explore J-Sette culture and history. They also explored how and where to stage outdoor guerilla-style versions of the performance, especially in cities like Tallahassee that are governed by car culture. This was a continuation of their research on how to move into new environments and communities with varying laws of governance (stated or assumed).

In MANCC’s black box theater, the artists tested integrations of live DJed sound and manipulated media design. The performance cast consists of two groups of dancers - one from Dallas trained in club aesthetics, and one from Philadelphia trained in contemporary Africanist dance forms. Both groups perform at an intersection of masculine and feminine embodiments. In addition to the project’s DJ and video designer, the group was joined by Shani Akilah, an anti-oppression/pro-liberation organizer and member of Philadelphia’s blaQollective, as an ethical artistry guide.

In the second week of the residency Poe and his collaborators held two informal work-in-progress showings. The first showing focused on audience interaction, and explored ways of interactively engaging audience members in the same space as the performers. The second showing was a more formal version of the work for a proscenium stage space.

As a part of MANCC’s Embedded Writers Initiative, Poe and his collaborators were also joined by two scholars, Dr. Jasmine Johnson, Assistant Professor of Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University, and noted cultural theorist Dr. Thomas DeFrantz, who, in addition to his work as a choreographer and performer, is a faculty member in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. This initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is designed to support the re-imagining of dance writing conventions in order to better respond to and engage with a wider range of ever-evolving contemporary forms.

The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia will produce the premiere of Let ‘im Move You: This is a Formation in February 2019.

  • Jermone Beacham
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • Zen Jefferson
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • Jumatatu Poe
  • Jasmine Johnson
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Rehearsal
  • Jumatatu Poe and Jermone Beacham in J-Sette workshop with the FAMU Diamonds
  • Beacham and the FAMU Diamonds
  • FAMU Diamonds performing for Homecoming football game in 2017
  • Jumatatu Poe and writer Jasmine Johnson attending FAMU Homecoming game
  • Poe rehearsing outdoor section of <i>Let ‘im Move You: This Is a Formation</i>
  • Davis, Beacham and Poe in downtown Tallahassee
  • Jermone Beacham and Jumatatu Poe
  • Zen Jefferson and Beacham
  • Jermone Beacham dancing in front of FAMU campus
  • Jumatatu Poe
  • Juan Rodriguez and Maria Bauman
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
  • <i>Let ‘im Move You</i> Informal Showing
Collaborators in Residence: Shani Akilah [Ethical Artistry Guide], Maria Bauman [Dancer], Jermone "Donte" Beacham [Dancer], Wendell Cooper [Video Design], LaKendrick Davis [Dancer], Thomas DeFrantz [Writer], Zen Jefferson [DJ], Jasmine Johnson [Writer], William Robinson [Dancer], Juan “Coel” Rodriguez [Lighting Designer/Stage Manager/Technical Director]

World Premiere

Rosie Herrera

Make Believe
July 6 - 7
American Dance
Festival, (NC)

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