At the age of 24, Jacob Boehme, a descendant of the Narangga and Kaurna nations of South Australia, was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. As a Blak, gay and poz person, a sense of community and belonging can be difficult to attain. Through his own journey to find his identity, as an individual and a collective, Boehme, along with ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, devised the dance performance piece, Blood on the Dance Floor.
The overall focus with this show
is Boehme's anxiety in letting potential partners know of his HIV status, and
while his bloodline with his father and ancestors has the power to unite and
bond, this same blood has the potential to divide and alienate him from being
loved. One of the most powerful moments of Blood on the Dance Floor
occurs with Boehme standing on stage staring into the audience as audio
recordings are played of mens' various responses to his HIV status. It is confronting
Blood on the Dance Floor begins loud and boisterous with Boehme wearing make-up in a silk gown and welcoming the audience. His drag persona recalls the friends who have died from HIV and the anger felt upon discovering their planned funeral song had been stolen by another. However, as the show progresses, Boehme becomes completely open and vulnerable to the audience, to a point I have not witnessed on stage before. Regardless of the fact that this is a partly autobiographical account, the concluding moments are incredibly powerful despite the simplicity of the situation.
The dance sections are well timed
in helping break the tension and drama, allowing the audience to reflect on
what has transpired and to look deeper into themselves to understand Boehme’s
own personal struggle. Mariaa Randall’s choreography creates a visual
representation of Boehme’s emotions and when combined with video artist Keith
Deverell’s projections and Nik Pajanti’s lighting design, creates some truly
memorable visual moments on stage.
There is so much to take in with Blood on the Dance Floor but it is all
done thoughtfully and with such heart that it comes together in a
beautiful, fluid way. The show wants us to not only remember who we are and
where we came from, but also to remember those that have come before us; we are
all connected. Blood on the Dance Floor is a story that needs to be told
and I don't think it could have been told any better than by Ilbijerri Theatre
and Jacob Boehme.
Queensberry St, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: Until 5 June | Thurs – Sat 7pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc
Bookings: Arts House