Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interview with Jumatatu Poe, dancer-collaborator for SoMoS

SoMoS is a Branch Dance performance spectacle bridging nature and the urban landscape, to be presented in a parking lot in the North Philadelphia barrio on October 12, 2012, at 8pm, as part of Taller Puertorriqueño’s performance series, Café Under the Stars: Spotlighting the Arts in El Barrio. In contrast to the urban landscape, the parking lot at 5th and Huntingdon Streets will be transformed into a quiet carnival of nature images, sounds, and movement invoking the four seasons. This is a free event.  See links on right for more information.

Interview with Jumatatu Poe, dancer-collaborator for SoMoS.

Q: Please describe your role in SoMoS. What was the process of creating this show?

OYWPP Photo: Gabriel Osorio-Soto
Jumatatu Poe: I am participating in SoMoS as a collaborating performer. I have been doing branch work with Merián now for the past six years, and feel a significant sense of ownership of the practice of branch dancing. It is something that you can only really feel over a significant amount of time. I do not think there will ever be a time when I am not practicing slowing down as part of the work. Even after so much time, I am learning about the range of possibility within slow. Slow is a really huge landscape, and so much can happen there.

There are different modes that Merián has encouraged each individual collaborator to create for themselves. One of mine that I most enjoy is Vining. In short, it's a way to use the shape of the branch and its (usually) vertical interaction with the ground to find and accentuate curves in your movement. I always feel like I can open different parts of my body up when practicing Vining. I feel like I am exposing different parts of my body to the surrounding air, being touched by the air. It's sensual. It's precious.

Q: Does the scale of SoMoS affect your approach?

SoMoS; Photo Lindsay Browning
Jumatatu Poe: The scale definitely affects the work—there are no environmental elements that are ignored in this work (at least not intentionally). It creates a magnitude of information to which we must pay attention, even as we go to very internal places for performance. Also, the vastness of the space means that we have plenty of room to travel, and we use that. This also creates opportunity for momentum.

Q: As you said, you've been working on branch dances for six years. What was the practice like to develop and at what point did you feel you got it?

Jumatatu and Noemí Segarra Photo: Alan Kolc
Jumatatu Poe: I felt connected to the work pretty early, actually. Noemi Segarra and I performed a duet, States of Gravity and Light #2. We rehearsed intensively for this work. That intensity, the connection between Noemi and I, and the brilliant musicians with whom we were working allowed me to receive Merián's direction trustingly and critically.

We spent maybe a year and a half performing that work in different iterations. Every return to it felt like a deepening of my understanding of the work, since, as I mentioned before, it really takes time to be able to understand it. I was always interested in it, felt connected very early, but I feel like I really understand the work now. My sense is that so much of it is really about temporary-ness—and you may get a different perspective from Merián—and aging. Beauty and decay.

Q: Merián has talked how SoMoS is the culmination of her branch dance work. How do you see this evolution?

Jumatatu Poe: Many of the branch pieces over the years are being referenced in this particular work and taking this work into an urban setting is something that we have been supposed to do for a long time. I think that is really critical here.

Interview by Josh McIlvain

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