Blood on the Dance Floor review (Sydney Festival, Carriageworks)

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Jacob Boehme is a dancer and writer from the South Australian Narangga and Kaurna nations who, in 1998, was diagnosed with HIV.

As Boehme says in his program notes, the Indigenous community has been dealing with HIV/AIDS right from the early days of its emergence in the 1980s, although conversations about the virus in Australia have been dominated by white men.

Boehme’s one-man show, Blood on the Dance Floor, is an attempt to put an Indigenous perspective back into those conversations and explore how HIV sits within Indigenous communities, and more broadly.

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The show is not politically didactic, but rather a personal monologue, intersecting with dance, covering Boehme’s experiences living with HIV.

Blood on the Dance Floor received a huge response the night that I saw it and premiered to glowing reviews in Melbourne last year. But, for me, it’s all a little too generic to have the impact that it might.

It’s technically impressive — director Isaac Drandic has pulled together a sharp and very attractive audiovisual component by Keith Deverell with James Henry’s narrative-driven sound design. Boehme also reveals an engaging and wryly funny stage persona.

The problem is that the audience doesn’t get a great sense of exactly who Boehme is, what he values or wants to communicate. Likewise, we don’t really understand much about the dynamic of the Indigenous community he comes from, or even his relationship with his father, despite several segments of conversations.

We do get some sense of how HIV positive people are treated by different parts of our society, but Boehme’s exploration could go much deeper.

Similarly, Mariaa Randall’s choreography, while a clear and confident combination of Indigenous movement with other contemporary forms, could be a little more textured, varied and emotionally connected to really do this story justice.

And it’s certainly an intriguing story and an intriguing look at the intersections of identity politics, told from the perspective of a lighter-skinned Indigenous, HIV positive, gay man.

But the thing which seems to define Boehme above all of those is his desire to find love in his life and share moments of intimacy. There are few of us who don’t relate to that.

Blood on the Dance Floor is at Carriageworks until January 25.

THIS REVIEW WAS PAID FOR WITH THE SUPPORT OF DAILY REVIEW READERS. TO FIND OUT MORE CLICK HERE 

Featured image by Prudence Upton

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