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Jamaal Burkmar - interview

The latest production from choreographer Jamaal Burkmar, How To Build A Universe, is currently touring throughout this year. In a concoction of music and movement, the dance piece illustrates the creation of a unique world, visited by an improving local dancer who must entwine with the company.

Discussing his involvement in bringing the show to life and his career, Jamaal tells us more.


Can you tell us a little about your journey into choreography and why you have a passion for it?

I started choreographing when I was a student. I never thought I had the knack for it, definitely didn't think I was clever enough to do it. But I kept complaining that I wasn't getting to dance in the kinds of works that I wanted to, and so ended up choreographing the type of work I wanted to perform in for my first work "Ocean".

How did you develop the concept for How To Build a Universe, and what was the inspiration behind it?

It developed over a long period of time, partly as a post-lockdown reflection on my own practice but also as a means to create a process by which anyone could engage. I think it's morphed over time into a "show about making shows", which has always been an interest of mine in all kinds of media.

What message or emotions do you aim to convey through your show? 

I'm not sure if I have any specific messages or emotions. Somebody who watched it recently described it as a 60-minute window into my brain. I think I like that.

How does having a local dancer improvise the performance at each venue add to the dynamics of the piece?

I think the mistake is in thinking it's about the body and the movement, but overwhelmingly it's just about "them" and who "they" are and how we "meet" them in that space that changes the dynamic of the piece.

How would you say this production is unique and adopts its own sense of style, and why does this draw in audiences? 

Each show HAS to be unique in that we invite new people in everywhere we go. I think the narrative draws on lots of elements that are interesting and keep a fun freshness to the choreography.

What were the most significant challenges you've faced on this project, and what has been the highlight in bringing the production together? 

It's very difficult making a show where you've essentially had to admit that you'll never know the ending until it's time to do it. That is somehow also the most rewarding part. 

What advice would you give to any aspiring choreographers out there who want to break into the industry?

 Patience, timing and try to tell important stories well, 'Important' being as necessary as the word 'Well'.


Big thanks to Jamaal for taking part - it is particularly great to hear from someone in your profession and hear of your success. Best of luck with the future of this show and others!

Get tickets here:

Other venues such as Brighton Festival also upcoming.

Additional thanks to Emma Berge for coordinating this interview.


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