Jamila Johnson-Small is an artist and dancer born and based in London. Last Yearz Interesting Negro (LYIN) is a five year performance project. (LYIN) – the project creates work that exists in-between. Jamila’s solo performance piece i ride in colour and soft focus, no longer anywhere – opens at Stratford Circus on November 8th.
Through small dances, video and a big sound system, LYIN moves with, against and around responsibilities of blackness and queerness, the pressure to ‘take space’ and the feeling of being possessed by other people’s fantasies.
The work features original compositions by Josh Anio Grigg, Junior XL, Nkisi, Shelley Parker and Young Nettle.
ALT: Tell us about the inspiration for i ride in colour?
I wanted to see if I could make an evening-length performance for a stage with me as the solo performer. I had no idea what that would look like or how it would feel or if I could do it!
ALT: How did the project come to Stratford Circus Arts Centre?
I was keen to present this work at home, in London, but didn’t know where and no invitations were coming into my inbox for London shows and I mentioned this to Daniel Pitt at Chisenhale who suggested that they could support the work to be presented at a local venue and approached Stratford Circus.
ALT: What was your route into dance?
I used to dance a lot at home with my Aunty to videos of Tina Turner live and soca records.
ALT: How do you see the importance of dance to tell stories?
I don’t want to tell stories. I am maybe more interested in the fact that stories are there and unfold without any ‘telling’, that we all contribute to any story with our own impressions, experiences, understandings, projections…
ALT: In i ride in colour what are some of themes and how and what forms of dance is used to tell the story?
I like to think about form as the visible part of something that emerges between a constellation of elements (things, people, architectures, sounds, ideas, moments in time), so I couldn’t break this down in terms of genre or predetermined form…
ALT: When you started out in dance did you have a career plan?
When I started professional training I think I casually wanted to be in musicals, Fosse musicals specifically, but this quickly faded (I mean, Fosse is definitely an inspiration) and when I graduated, I had no plan other than that there was lots I didn’t want to do, lots I wanted to avoid and lots I wanted to change or to do different. I knew that I wanted to continue thinking through dancing, to find a way to work that could support letting those embodied knowledge guide me and my decisions.
ALT: Queerness, Blackness how is that conveyed in this piece?
One of the ideas central to this work is that bodies are an archive, that everything they might be formed from and through, informs and constructs that person, and as such, any work that I make will be ‘Black’ work, will be ‘Queer’ work but these are not the names, boxes or boundaries that I have chosen for myself. I am not working through any identity distinction or label, this is about what is embodied, how we hold ideology and are formed by our environment and asking whether there is any choice, making or taking the space for that choice, that agency, the power that is within the reality that we are not reducible to any of the words put on or around us, that we are both bold and subtle magic.
ALT: What can the audience expect ?
This is a solo performance, but I wouldn’t want to say any more about what the audience can expect. It’s important to me that people come to move with me, to be in something with me without having decided or been told where we will be going or what will happen when (if) we get there. I think it’s important and revealing to be with the unknown, as with that comes what is known for each of us already.
Price: £13 – £15
Duration: 75 mins