Dance Like You Mean It: Jacob Boehme in Blood on the Dance Floor

Image by Bryony Jackson

By Rachel Rosenberg

Jacob Boehme is an innovative artist whose work delves into the difficult intersections of his cultural experience. He is the creator and performer of Blood on the Dance Floor, a mixed-medium piece that uses dance, theatre, text and photography to tackle the identity politics around being Aboriginal, gay and HIV+. 

Descended from the Narangga and Kaurna nations of South Australia, Boehme uses his training in Aboriginal dance to tell an honest, insightful story that begins with a “gay elder” and eventually incorporates a conversation between Jacob and his father. Alongside the ILBIJERRI theatre company, known for producing inventive shows by Australian First Nations artists, he mixes personal memoir with cultural and generational histories.

What inspired you to create Blood on the Dance Floor?

“I made the decision to write Blood in 2013, based on a few important numbers: it was the 30th anniversary of the first HIV diagnosis in Australia, it was my 15-year anniversary of being HIV+ and my 40th birthday was looming.”

Did you always love to dance?

“Absolutely. I come from a family of dancers. It’s in the blood.”

Blood on the Dance Floor is about identity; delving into some of your experiences as an HIV+ Aboriginal gay man. Previously, you said that you did not find much relatable representation in media or theatre. Has that changed at all?

“Unfortunately, not that much. If we want to see ourselves on stage, in film, on TV, we’re going to have to write it, make it and produce it ourselves it seems.”

Image by Dorine Blaise

What is the most challenging aspect of the show for you?

“As a performer, the most challenging part of the show is delivering the story about [my] old friend Anthony. It was shocking and harrowing then and it still takes everything in me to deliver that yarn without completely losing it.”

I read an interview with you from 2016 wherein you described yourself as an “outsider[s] to the Melbourne dance scene”. Do you still feel that way or have things changed within the community there?

“Yes, to some degree I do. I come from a generation of dancer/choreographers trained at NAISDA [NAISDA Dance College] where story forms the foundation of your dance practice. You dance for a reason. And if you don’t have your story, you don’t have your dance.”

What would you most like people to take away from the performance?

“Hope. If there was one thing I would like for audiences to feel at the end of the show, it would be hope.”

Catch Jacob Boehme’s hopeful and innovative performance before it leaves Vancouver. Blood on the Dance Floor runs February 6-9 at SFU Goldcorp Centre of the Arts (149 West Hastings Street). Visit DanceHouse for tickets.

Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Instagram @penandmitten 

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