I know, it's been a minute.
I haven't written a blog on my website since 2020!
Ufft. That's so bad. Shame on me! I blame the pandemic!
So, since I usually write about the process of each of my performance works.
I thought it would be good to do one for JUMBIE. Just a reminder, the Jumbie dance, in short, is a dance for the ancestors, as well as a bunch of other cool things, such as healing. And ‘Jumbie’ is a Caribbean word which means spirit of the dead.
The creation period hasn't officially started, but it will soon. Currently, trying to stay calm before the craziness starts, but that's not been easy. I’m going to talk about things I’m keeping in mind for the process in 3 strands. Oh no - it sounds like an Arts Council bid, haha.
NOT AN IDOL 2.0
I want to make something entirely different from Idol. I know that may sound obvious. But I'm being deadly serious. This will be a reinvention of my practice. Although, I feel like many people who have seen Idol will want to see an Idol 2.0. Just to let you know, that is not happening.
I'm not going to critique white supremacy.
I'm not going to share any Black trauma.
I'm not going to pour my heart out on stage.
But it's refreshing that I don't have to do it this time around.
Shit, I'm not even going to sit down and tell you a story.
Yes, you read correctly. Jamal Gerald is making a work where he isn't sitting down and telling you an autobiographical story. He’s levelling up! Yasss! Am I talking about myself in the third person? Yes! I know, I’m such a dick.
I'm thinking of JUMBIE more as a ritual than a performance.
This will help me not limit myself and make the process much easier.
It will display Black queer joy, sexual liberation and much more.
Idol gave a lot of context, which was great. It suited the work. But the thought of educating everyone on the Jumbie dance is boring to me. I'm not an academic. And I could inform people about it, but what would they do with that information? Hmm. Nothing?
One element of the Jumbie dance is divination. The dancers would tun. This is when a Jumbie would take over a dancer. Spirit possession, but I don’t like the word possession. And through this, the identities of guilty parties would be revealed at ceremonies. I was intrigued by the stories of people sleeping with people they shouldn't have been sleeping with, which led to some running out of Jumbie dances horrified. Some were punished right there and then. And the thought of something I did in secret being revealed in public is so scary to me. Even though I'm a very open person. But if your ancestors disapprove, they will punish you by letting everyone know ya business. Ahhh!
So, I came up with the idea of adding in a kink perspective. Because not everyone is open about naughty things they’ve done, their desires and kinks, and that's mostly because they are afraid of being judged. And there is a lot of kink-shaming out there.
Our ancestors are always watching us, so we can keep secrets from everyone else but not them. During the Transform 21-22 launch, I got people to write down their kinks, desires and naughty things they’ve done anonymously. I’ll be doing something with them later. Just wait and see. But I might change my mind, haha.
PUSHING AWAY FROM THE WEST
Yes, I know I'm in the West.
I recently came up with a rough structure for my team to understand my ideas.
But I planned to push away from creating a conventional structure. I find it fascinating that even though I intend to move away from traditional ways of making work, I had to do it just so my team could get it.
I created three sections party, ritual and sex dungeon, each having an intention, a feeling and an answer to why we’re doing it. But instead of each being sectioned, they should be thought of as moods, with moments and movements coming under each one. And they could happen at any point within the work. It isn't an order of how things will happen; it's just about giving my team purpose and clarity.
I feel this shows how a lot of people are used to Western narrative frameworks. And that's not a bad thing, I love storytelling, but this work isn't suitable for it. Since the Jumbie dance isn’t Western, it's essential to keep that in mind when making a work resurrecting it.
I want audience members to leave thinking what the fuck just happened, and that's it.
Why? Because the Jumbie dance was a chaotic thing, the chaos was normalised, and I want to embrace that. I don’t think audiences in the UK will find JUMBIE normal in any way, which is fine! Here's a quote from The Jombee Dance of Montserrat, the only book on the dance.
“Right now, the combination of her screaming in that high shrill voice, the bearded man shouting, and Ben singing “Saltwater”, in addition to the noise of the band and other people dancing about - all give me the impression of chaos. But the guests here do not react as though the whole dance were disintegrating. They act as though nothing is out of the ordinary; they are neither frightened nor mystified that a variety of sounds and activities are taking place at the same time.” (Dobbin, 1986, p. 80)
This is a quote I’ll be keeping in mind whilst making the work. I will also keep in mind the stories I was told about the Jumbie dance. The stories were chaotic and left me with a WTF type of thinking. Like wow, someone was disabled, they couldn't walk, got whipped and then thrown out the window? And then walked back in the house as if they were never disabled? Damn. What the fuck? I'm interested in that instead of people leaving thinking that JUMBIE was a lovely piece of ‘theatre’. Yuck!
I just realised I just gave a lot of context.
Don't expect anymore, though. Ha!
17th-19th March 2022
23rd-26th March 2022