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MANCC Artist, Jumatatu Poe explores J-Sette with FAMU’s Diamond Dance Team

Published February 28, 2018

FAMU’s Diamond Dancers perform in the stands at the Annual Homecoming Football Game in Bragg Memorial Stadium. Photo by Chris Cameron.



Jumatatu Poe, courtesy of the artist

The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography is pleased to welcome Jumatatu Poe and his entire creative team to campus for a two week residency in support of his performance series Let ‘im Move You. This set of works draws from J-Sette, a dance form with origins in southern drill teams, made popular on majorette lines at historically Black universities and on independent squads in the gay African American club scene.

In collaboration with J-Sette performer Jermone “Donte” Beacham, Poe will develop and direct a series of performances informed by J-Sette to examine the idea of “team” in performance. Let ‘im Move You will have staged iterations in black box theaters and white box gallery spaces, as well as intervention-style performances in historically and/or predominantly Black neighborhoods, testing the boundaries of propriety and belonging, and confronting the historic imaginations and limitations of these spaces.

This residency comes after a three day site visit to MANCC last fall, in which Poe met with members of the FAMU Diamond Dance team, which practices J-Sette, and attended their Homecoming Weekend performances.

This time, Poe and Beacham will conduct a series of workshops with the FAMU Diamonds to further explore J-Sette culture and history. They will also explore how and where to stage outdoor guerilla-style versions of the performance, especially in cities like Tallahassee that are governed by car culture. This will be a continuation of their work researching how to move into new environments and communities with varying laws of governance (stated or assumed).

In MANCC’s black box theater, the artists will test integrations of live DJed sound and manipulated media design. The performance cast consists of two groups of dancers – one from Dallas trained in club aesthetics, and one from Philadelphia trained in contemporary Africanist dance forms. Both groups perform at an intersection of masculine and feminine embodiments. In addition to the project’s DJ and video designer, the group will also be joined by Shani Akilah, an anti-oppression/pro-liberation organizer and member of Philadelphia’s blaQollective, as an ethical artistry guide.

As a part of MANCC’s Embedded Writers Initiative, Poe and his collaborators will also be joined by two scholars, Dr. Jasmine Johnson, Assistant Professor of Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University, and noted cultural theorist Dr. Thomas DeFranz, who, in addition to his work as a choreographer and performer is a faculty member in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. This initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is designed to support the re-imagining of dance writing conventions in order to better respond to and engage with a wider range of ever-evolving contemporary forms.

The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia will produce the premiere of Let ‘im Move You in February 2019.

The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC), at the FSU School of Dance, is a choreographic research and development center whose mission is to raise the value of the creative process in dance.