As part of the XTRAX Artist Spotlight with Birmingham International Dance Festival this month we spoke to Leeds based Choreographer Jamaal Burkmar who told us about his latest project Jukebox and why he loves working outdoors.
So… I’m Jamaal Burkmar and I work with a small group of dancers under the banner Extended Play (referring of course to the smaller records that used to fit 3 to 4 tracks on). I’ve been creating work since I was a student in Leeds at the Northern School for contemporary dance where I first started playing around with choreography.
Music is almost always at the centre of how and why we work and I’ve always utilised the innate relationship it has with dance. Music was a big part of my life growing up and it heavily influenced not only myself, but both of my siblings who are now musicians and performers themselves. For the first few years of my career I tested and experimented with my process a lot but always found that I would come back to initial inspiration.
One of the things that I am currently interrogating with all my work is how to play with music not traditionally used in contemporary dance works, particularly the music that grew up listening to. So of late, me and my dancers have been playing around with how we create our composition and movement language so that it can fit alongside genres such as R&B, hip-hop, neo-soul and funk.
Our latest work Jukebox is an engaging and participatory work where the audience gets to decide which of the works they get to see and in what order. Our Jukebox has on it a selection of different well-known mainstream songs, all from different eras and different genres. This level of engagement is not only influenced the performance, but it also guided our process, with all of the song choices decided on and voted by our online audience.
It was created with the intention of finding new ways to ‘meet’ new audiences, to take the short successful works we were making for Instagram and other social media channels and bring them into a live setting. We would love to take the works into all kinds of spaces and places and meet as many different communities as possible.
There is so much to appreciate in getting to work outdoors, but the biggest thing of all is the relationship to the audience. I definitely feel more at home outdoor and it’s great to see new and familiar people in the audience. To be able to create a piece that somebody can discover on a lunch break from work or from a passerby doing their shopping, alongside the audience that’s turned out for it is really inspiring.
I got lucky with dance, it was something my mum loved and she introduced it to me and my siblings, not everybody has that, for us to bring this artform that I love onto the doorstep of different communities has been a blessing.
Click here to check out Jamaal’s previous work on the XTRAX Directory and follow on social media: