2020 Solo Artist: jumatatu m. poe

jumatatu m. poe is a choreographer and performer based between Philadelphia and New York City who grew up dancing around the living room and at parties with his siblings and cousins. Poe's early exposure to concert dance was through African dance and capoeira performances on California college campuses where his Pan-Africanist parents studied and worked, but he did not start “formal” dance training until college with Umfundalai, Kariamu Welsh’s contemporary African dance technique. Poe's work continues to be influenced by various sources, including his foundations in those living rooms and parties, his early technical training in contemporary African dance, his continued study of contemporary dance and performance, his movement trainings with dancer and anatomist Irene Dowd around anatomy and proprioception, his sociological research of and technical training in J-sette performance with Donte Beacham. Through his artistic work, he strives 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.

Poe produces dance and performance work independently, as well as in collaboration with idiosynCrazy productions, a company he 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 his work, and for the past several years he has worked collaboratively with J-Sette artist Jermone Donte Beacham on a series of visual and performance works called Let ‘im Move You.  Previously, he has danced with Marianela Boán, Silvana Cardell, devynn emory, 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, he also collaborated with Merián Soto. From 2009-2018, he was an Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College.

Poe has performed his work in various cities around the US and in Europe, and he has received various awards including: a 2010-2011 Live Arts Brewery Fellowship (Philadelphia), 2010-2012 and 2017 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 award with Jermone Donte Beacham, a 2017 NEFA National Dance Project Production Grant with Jermone Donte Beacham, a 2018 MANCC residency, a 2019 Queer|Art Prize for Let ‘im Move You: This Is a Formation (with Jermone Donte Beacham), three Swarthmore College Cooper Foundation grants for presenting other artists (Swarthmore, PA).

Incidentally, his middle name is Mtafuta-Ukweli, which means “one who searches for the truth” in Kiswahili.

Creation and performance by jumatatu m. poe
Metronome designed by EUMLab
Plastic by RiteAid HOME

I see this work as a lil’ cousin to my solo, Android Tears, which I was working on at one of the more difficult creative moments of my artistic life. Through these two works, I have been interested in the expansiveness of finite spaces. Subversion and signifying have both been necessary tools for creation, hopefully an absurd humor through imagery that paves the way for the freedom of confusion.  I like puzzles, in their celebration of both confusion and order. This performance is a puzzle - finding my infinity by way of rigidity.  

Photo credit: Tayarisha Poe