GOOD

GOODFest: Jon Boogz Will Keep Dancing ‘Til You Start Paying Attention

“We want to put ourselves in the same category of a Picasso, of a Basquiat, of a Van Gogh”

Photo by George Evan

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing editorial coverage of GOODFest, we’ll be chatting with artists from each of our five shows about the intersections of music and activism as it pertains to them. Check out our complete GOODFest coverage here.

If ever there were someone up to the monumental challenge of demystifying the art of dance and packaging it in a palatable way for the masses, it’d be Jon Boogz.


A lifelong student and practitioner of dance and movement arts, Boogz found recent viral success in a video collaboration with visual artist Alexa Meade and dance partner Lil Buck. The video, titled “Color of Reality,” used dance to poignantly address the devastation wrought on the black community by police shootings.

To see Jon Boogz perform tonight, tune in to goodfest.live for the livestream and follow us on Facebook.

GOODFest: Both you and The Southern Poverty Law Center, our non-profit partner for the LA show, focus on addressing issues like police killings of unarmed people of color through wildly different approaches. How do you use body movement to convey such a life-and-death issue?

Jon Boogz: My partner, Lil Buck, and I have an organization called M.A.I, Movement Art Is, and the whole mission statement is to use movement and dance not just for entertainment, but as a tool to break down social, economic, and geographic boundaries. We believe it’s a healing mechanism and a universal language. We believe it can heighten awareness of the major social issues of the day.

But dance is not just entertainment. Like music, it has the power to send a message, and movement often has the power to send a message that words can’t. We’re physical embodiments of frequencies and energies, and the energy behind our movement is so powerful that we choose to use the platform and gift we’ve been given to try and bring about social change, even if just through exposure.

Was there a moment where you realized the personal catharsis you got from dancing could be shared with others?

I did a piece in 2012 called “Mad World,” using the (Gary Jules) song from Donnie Darko. At the time, I kept seeing stuff in the news about kids committing suicide—young kids. Nobody was really shooting videos like that in my genre of dance, so my friend and I shot the video about a father who was neglecting his son, but he didn’t know his son was suicidal because he’d been neglecting him.

When we released that, I had so many people telling me they were showing the video to kids in schools. A couple preachers and churches said they used our video in their sermons. It was crazy to me because I’d never had something I did [get] used to raise awareness of any kind.

That was probably the first time I thought I might be on to something and able to create things that can provoke emotion and spark entry points into and dialogue around these critical issues.

And these aren’t always comfortable or easy topics to talk about, but if we can use movement and dance as the medium, it could bring two different worldviews and perspectives together. Art doesn’t have a religion. Art doesn’t have rules. Art is for everybody. So when you use that medium to talk about things, I find it a lot easier to bring people together in discussion.



Is there ever a concern that your viewer has to already be on board with the medium for the message to make an impact? Can a Trump supporter-type be moved to consider police brutality through the medium of dance?

At the end of the day, I can’t control what people do or don’t like. I can only create an entry point. I base my art off how I feel and what I want to say. But because we do want to affect change for the positive, we try to present as safe an entry point as possible.

I’m aware there are some people who may say ‘I don’t like it,’ or ‘I don’t agree with that.’ I can’t control that. All you can do is put out art that’s genuine and let the chips fall where they may.

Clearly, there is a growing movement of acceptance and appreciation for dance in the public sphere with films like The Fits and La La Land catching tons of awards buzz. How do you hope to see the art progress in 2017?

Our goal is to just keep pushing the boundaries. Dance seems pretty low on the totem pole right now. We glorify singers, rapper, actors—while dancers remain at the bottom. Even other artists discriminate against dance at times.

Our goal is to help create bigger platforms for dance to be appreciated both artistically and educationally. Dance should be a part of education.

My partner, Lil Buck, was on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and they’ve gone around to different schools and used dance within the kids’ curriculum to teach a certain topic.

And people learn differently nowadays. Kids can memorize a Drake song but can’t memorize a math formula, and maybe it’s because we aren’t using all the tools we have at our disposal. Technology, music, everything, really, seems to be evolving, but sometimes it seems as if education is at a standstill.

Beyond that, I see bigger and better platforms for dance. And I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, but we want to put ourselves in the same category of a Picasso, of a Basquiat, of a Van Gogh. We want dancers to be revered that way in the future.

And there have been a few breakthroughs who have reached that stature: Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire.

People in the fine art world already appreciate dance, sure, but it’s something that was created all these millennia ago to be experienced by everybody and we’re gonna bring it back to that place of prominence.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics