Jumatatu Poe '04
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 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, and my recent sociological research of and technical training in J-setting with Donte Beacham. I produce dance and performance work with idiosynCrazy productions, a company I founded in 2008 and now co-direct with Shannon Murphy. Since 2012, I have been engaged in a shared, multi-tiered performance practice with NYC-based dance artist Jesse Zaritt. 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, 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.
My middle name is Mtafuta-Ukweli, which means “one who searches for the truth”.
As I teach, whether in institutions of academia, studio settings for professional artists, or community centers with folks of various ages and relationships to performance, I commit to discovering ways that our class/workshop/practice experiences can invite students/participants/practitioners to bring their full selves, full bodies into the space. Each setting, each place of practice has its own history, as does each student, as does each form of practice, as does each teacher. My role as a dance teacher can function most appropriately when I am paying attention to how various places, people, histories can meet one another in respectful and empowered ways. I like to imagine the dance class as a space of negotiations (I borrow this term from scholar/artist Thomas F. DeFrantz). In these negotiations, we will be honest about the divergent ways that we experience and imagine time, space, energy, motivation, intention, relationship, and propriety. We will share, we will be together, will make mistakes and offenses, we will apologize earnestly, we will check ourselves, we will keep going. As elusive as the concept is, I imagine the dance class as a place in which we can practice embodiment together from a place of love, and let that generate a beauty that we may not understand right away, and that we will consistently need to reevaluate.
I encourage and create space for all bodies and gender expressions.