Jumatatu Poe '04 hails from California, by way of Philadelphia, PA. He is an alum of Swarthmore College and a graduate of the MFA program at Temple University. His first dance training was in contemporary African dance (the Umfindalai technique) at Swarthmore College. Jumatatu has also trained at Philadanco, in the Jacob's Pillow and Illadelph Legends
Festivals, and in Amsterdam with Anouk van Dijk. As a performer, Jumatatu has performed for several Philadelphian choreographers, including Charles Anderson, Myra Bazell, Marianela Boan, Tania Isaac, Kun-Yang Lin, Merián Soto, Leah Stein, Keith Thompson, Kate Watson-Wallace, and Kariamu Welsh (as a member of Kariamu & Company: Traditions). In 2008, Jumatatu was a resident choreographer of Susan Hess Modern Dance's Choreographers' Project (Philadelphia). His choreography has been featured at Swarthmore College, Temple University, as well as the Philadelphia Live Arts and New Edge Mix festival series. His choreography has also been commissioned by Danse4Nia, Prince Music Theater, and New Jersey Governor's School. Jumatatu is the artistic director of idiosynCrazy Productions. Jumatatu's areas of interest include contemporary dance technique and contemporary choreography and performance. Currently, Jumatatu serves on faculty at Swarthmore College and the Univeristy of the Arts. He teaches Modern classes for the Program.
Identifying myself as a dancer, as an artist, and as an instructor of dance is not so separate from identifying myself as a human. My artistry fortifies my humanity and seeks to make me more a part of this world. In essence, that is what I aim to do with my instruction of dance: situate the learning experience within the world. There is beauty in the abstraction of the arts, in the abstraction of dance; however, students need to have the option to place art in very realistic places for themselves, to see its functional purpose in their world. I am interested in cross-disciplinary applications of dance: how I, as a dance educator, can address dance historically, socially, scientifically, and artistically. The prominence of dance in popular culture is especially noteworthy, now, and dance educators are in the esteemed position of being able to frame this for students, contextualize it, deconstruct it, learn from it, and move forward from it, while also giving credence and agency to dance that exists outside of the realm of popular culture. Each moving body, each moving story is draped in layers of history and meaning. Together, with my students, I aim to disrobe these mysterious moving stories, trying on layers that fit, while appreciating those that may be too tight, or too loose, too big or too small.
As a teacher of dance, it is important to me to give a historical and social context to whatever it is I am teaching, whatever it is I am learning. Perhaps this urge belongs to my fervent affection for and devotion to that undying and widely applicable question: Why? Why dance? Why do we dance? Why do I? So, I feel the need to connect dance to the world, realizing that even when it exists on its own and "for its own sake," each creator of dance carries her or his own agency into the decision-making process by which dance is made. Thus, dance becomes something that is for his or her sake, as well as standing on its own accord.
I have found it important to study, extensively, a wide variety of dance genres. My training and performance repertoire cover diverse styles of movement including modern/postmodern dance (Graham, Limon, Horton, release technique, and other stylized idioms within), contemporary African dance, improvisation, contact improvisation, Hip-Hop/Dancehall, and Salsa. My exposure to a wide range of styles and approaches to the body has emphasized the importance of grounded centeredness in my own body. I believe in a grounded, dynamic, shifting center that can facilitate entry of a body into an exploration of a variety of dance techniques, or separate styles within one technique. Each dance technique situates the body within its own particular somatic paradigm. Having a stable understanding of the mechanics of one's own particular body is primary to being able to shift the body into different modes of moving, and, essentially, of being.
I believe in risk-taking and encourage students to push themselves beyond their specific comfort zones to new edges. From working for choreographer Merián Soto, I have developed an appreciation for development of art from the edge: the edge of comfort, the edge of physical ability, the edge of reason and believability. My biggest satisfaction in teaching, and especially in teaching dance, comes with the look of astounded accomplishment on a student's face at the realization that s/he has just done something that s/he never believed was possible: physically, emotionally, compositionally. I facilitate the trip to the edge, and also the safe return. The arts demand vulnerability of the artist, and the art teacher is responsible for riding the line between audacious agitation and sensitive support. I believe students should be encouraged, maybe sometimes compelled, to explore fully, extremely, and with conviction. How do we find artistic clarity through our navigation of these extremes? That is the question...
My own choreographic work journeys into territory that thins the (imaginary) line between art and popular culture. It is territory relevant to me and to a generation that I represent, who I want to make come alive through my work. This is a generation with short attention spans and intense stimulatory demands. I am a part of this; I am this, as much as I resist being this. We, this Millenial generation, have deep refusals of ourselves, refusals to be where we are, to live in the moment in which we live. We are forever in pursuit of an escape to no place in particular; but, we want to get there quickly. We are a predominately otherized generation: our deconstruction of classifications and categories of race, gender, sexuality, class, relationships, etc. has left many of us on the outskirts of the status quo. I enjoy exploring the struggling creatures that we create as we try to ensnare ourselves within these bounds, and as we wrestle to escape from them.
My process is about the visceral discovery of identity. By exploring the body beyond the restrictions of the "dance" paradigm, I implore dancers/performers to seek to understand themselves in connection to their bodies. How does the body relate to grander notions of the self and how does the self show up in the body? For me, this understanding is the true path to virtuosity. Flexibility, strength, and control are important, and are very useful to any dancer. However, I believe that the keys to authentic and personal virtuosity are a true understanding of the body, how the body relates to the self, and the alignment of the physical, mental, and spiritual.
In 2008, I founded Idiosyncrazy Productions, a physical theater company producing work that synthesizes vivid narrative imagery with bold physicality in the creation of contemporary, psychological urban fables. With a home-base in Philadelphia, our work involves and informs the idea of "urban" and metaphorically addresses issues that surface in fast-paced, diverse communities. These allegoric works create fabled characters from caricatured images: metropolitan figures often struggling with labels and constrictive categories (as pertains to race, class, gender, etc.). All company works are generated/choreographed collaboratively.