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IN MOTION: Interview with Jack Gray
~ Dr Dawn Karima
Q) We love I MOVING LAB! Introduce yourself to us please?
We'd love to know more about you and the story behind this
A) Kia Ora Dawn and thank you so much for your
recognition of the spirit of I Moving Lab. My name is J
ack Gray and I am a Maori dance artist and scholar from
Aotearoa. I have been evolving my practice of Maori
contemporary dance through a 4-year relationship with Turtle Island that has seen my work begin to envelop a more global indigenous perspective acknowledging the universal aspects of First Nations peoples and the nuances of our contemporary experiences. Over this time, I've come into contact with many dance makers and communities, worked in institutions and creative arts initiatives. I Moving Lab came about as a vision to express this depth of research potential into ways of living and being that could teach the ourselves and others how to share and exchange our knowledge. Our first tour has been a successful 4-island trip through Hawaii, an ambitious and radical template that we hope to emulate again and prosper more from in the future.
Q) How did you begin performing? How did you know that performance was your passion?
A) I think I wasn't conscious that I was learning culturally through dance and song and collective energy until I was older, but I began my onstage experience with Kapa Haka, traditional Maori dance in competitions when I was very young. I had always integrated my passion for the arts with my cultural aptitude, and seriously began dancing at high school. I have a degree in dance and then became a professional dancer almost twenty years ago! Since then I founded Atamira Dance Collective, travelled throughout the world with various scholarships and have recently focused on artistic residencies mostly in Turtle Island. I have had many lives, onstage and off, formally and informally performing. Now I don't differentiate, and see myself in a constant state of high quality output.
Q) Pursuing your passion is an important part of your life. What are some of the ways you celebrate your culture as you perform?
A) I think that my main response to this question is to strive for integration and wholeness as a person. I have always questioned my identity and my role and responsibility as a Maori person, and considered my contribution to my family, my people, my country, my field. I have always been authentic and sincere in my pursuit of truth and connection and have through my interactions with people throughout the world grown in a sense of reciprocity and generosity as important values to be instilled. I think in terms of my culture, that I take alot of power from the example of my ancestors, I take their ability to speak publicly in the oral traditions, I take their ability to adapt to new times and to constantly innovate and I take their unwavering commitment to own self determination as indigenous peoples, custodians and caretakers. I am proud to be me, but I am also mindful of others and how to uplift them too.
Q) What are some of your favorite cultural traditions? What are some of the lessons that influence your life?
A) I would say, the language is important and I am lucky and fortunate that it is a strong feature of our cultural revitalization movement. The language is poetic and beautiful and when I translate that world view into a western paradigm it gives me a unique approach that sets me apart. I would also say that I am fortunate that my personal upbringing was not locked in a static way of seeing culture, but that I was influenced and raised by researchers and people who innovated and developed our cultural resistance and solidarity. This means that I am already predisposed towards their great example and feel emboldened to carry on the tradition of simultaneously breaking new ground while upholding our values. I Moving Lab is the latest example of the teachings I have received.
Q) Where can we connect with you and I MOVING LAB? What would you like us to know about you that we may not already know?
A) I think that part of the beauty of I Moving Lab is that it is indefinable and unpredictable. It operates on instinct and intuition and is a living entity. It encompasses many people and places that are seen and unseen and so for me is a mobilization of many things that are needed today. Recently we created a 2-day workshop in Sydney, Australia which turned out beautifully. I love that I Moving Lab will do things that others might not necessarily have the courage to pull off. There is an ethereal element to the organic nature of I Moving Lab as much as there is a deep set of foundational values that underpin the integrity of the work.
Q) What wonderful work you are doing! Much Success!
A) Many Thanks!
Photos Credit: Jack Gray / Dawn Karima