Monique Grbec on Jacob Boehme’s brave, funny and beautiful multidisciplinary work, Blood on the Dance Floor
The magic of Blood On The Dance Floor at Arts Centre Melbourne Fairfax Studio begins before we even enter the theatre. With a larger-than-life exuberance, Jacob Boehme, as drag queen Percy, bursts through the theatre doors and into the foyer to welcome us.
His bald head is tossed back, his pursed lips shimmering with coral pink lipstick. Dangle earrings glitter with pink princess-cut gemstones. Wearing a pale pink and blue satin kimono, he sissy-walks with arms winged outward to display the furisode sleeves of a young maiden. Inside the theatre, his hands dance with game-show flourish as we’re seated.
Innuendo in many guises is personified by Boehme’s remarkable ability to embody a diverse range of dynamic characters. From the beginning of Percy’s charismatic epilogue that invites the audience into a drag dressing room on Sydney’s Golden Mile – the gaybourhood synonymous with being out and proud and dressed to the nines – we are mesmerised.
Stripped of drag queen artifice but adorned with some fierce projections by video artist Keith Deverell, Boehme uses dance to navigate the idea of blood as an organic, almost mechanical, entity.
We watch. Then we listen. The emotion is raw, unapologetic, fragile, and brave, moving through a shattering confrontation with the brutal truths and harsh challenges of being a HIV+ man. Fortunately, Boehme is a very funny man, and the sweet swerving of his poetics is laden with humour. This is a story of triumphant self-determination.
With the help of his father and Narangga and Kuarna ancestors, traditional and contemporary cultures cross-pollinate to give Boehme strength and beauty. Through a body reliving ancestral ceremony, we see the slow determination and sure steps of healing.
The multidisciplinary work shifts between dance, theatrical monologue and projections build on one another in the way that life’s lessons build on one another. Maybe it’s a little like the way a drag artist accessorises.
Navigating past alienation inflicted by ignorance, into a world where truth, love and acceptance is possible, Boehme emerges to embrace a happy-ever-after story. The boisterous standing ovation was surely an audience agreement to send all of our very best blessings that his dream comes true.
In sharing this epic journey that documents a shift in real-world history, this performance, as part of the Art Centre Melbourne’s Big World Up Close series, is a forerunner to the future of Australian main stages. Multicultural and multidisciplinary, it shows us experiences beyond our own, and worlds outside our own. Let there be light.
Disclosure: Jacob Boehme is the Witness 2019 First Nations Emerging Critic.
Blood on the Dance, writer & performer Jacob Boehme, director Isaac Drandic, Choreographer Mariaa Randall, Sound Designer James Henry, Video Artist Keith Deverell. Ilbijerri Theatre Company. Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio. Until 21 August 2019. Bookings