Vibing With Jermaine McGhee

Meet the mind behind Da Vibe, an incredibly raw and powerful musical dance piece created by Jermaine McGhee. The creative has an MFA in Dance: Creative Practice with a Certification in Dance Stage Management and set out to bring his final thesis to life on stage this Spring but COVID-19 had other plans.

“My initial plan for Da Vibe was to present the work on a proscenium stage. In my mind I saw the work unfold in an auditorium with various light fixtures, specials and specific light cues. I assumed that the proscenium stage could better manifest the thoughts of this research lead choreographic exploration on black bodies.  However, when March 15, 2020 came, the panic of a global pandemic, COVID 19, derailed my conception and presentation of the work, Da Vibe. Once the seriousness and fear of the virus set in, I immediately brainstormed how I would be able to present this deep and meaningful work about African Aesthetics in a clear and demonstrative way. I called on colleagues, friends and family to bounce ideas off of and eventually came to the conclusion that a concept video would be the best way to represent how theory and research converge into a creative choreographic illustration.” Jermaine said.

The project had to get done but how?

“Through quick thinking and re-evaluation, my thesis Da Vibe transitioned swiftly from a live stage show to a video presentation. I struggled with casting of dancers, confirmation of venue and selection of a director/videographer, due to the wide spread impact of Covid 19. I found myself nervous and anxious to figure out how this work would come together with mandated restrictions and curfews imposed by local and state government. However, my big sister Andrea Jasper, Tour Manager for Kiaos Dance Convention, was a great resource in helping book dancers and confirm director and videographer great, William Sikora III. I was so grateful and excited to work with him as he is one of the best in the business.” Jermaine explained.

William Sikora III has been in his circle for quite some time thanks to Andrea Jasper but it wasn’t till now, that the two would work together.

“When Jermaine asked me if I wanted to be a part of this project, I immediately jumped on it when he explained the concept and vision. It was a small scale production that with simple guidelines we could pull off even in the midst of COVID-19. We filmed the entire thing in a half day and had it edited and ready to present less than two days later.” Sikora stated.

Looking back at the piece that came alive Jermaine said “I was struck by the visuals in every section. I witnessed the dexterity and grace of each artist and I notice my shortcomings as choreographer due to time along with the difficulty of the work as a dancer. I was so pleased with every artist contribution to the piece. As I watched the completed version of the Da Vibe, I was relieved and grateful that it manifested in reality as it was depicted in my mind. All the colors, shapes, and skills of the black bodies in the work made me proud to be a black man adding to the continuum of African Aesthetics with my art.”

Sikora was very moved being a part of this project saying “Working alongside the creative direction of Jermaine was incredibly easy, he was a wonder and professional who clearly had a passion for what was happening in that studio. I don’t think I’ve ever broken down while filming something before but during the dance number with dancer Danni Rogers and Lila Hood, everything was just so intense. This was also during the peak of protests and craziness with George Floyd and others, I felt so much emotion filming that once the scene was done, I kinda lost it…that really speaks to the artists, they created something so powerful, I was just lucky enough to capture it.”

So, the project was completed and now Jermaine had to turn in his video thesis and present it to the world.

“Once I finally showed the work to faculty at St. Mary’s College of California Dance Department, family members and colleagues, the response was overwhelming. So many people said wow, I didn’t know you could do that, or the dancers and choreography were excellent. Others explained how significant the work was due to the persistent racial divide and inequity that exist here in America. I recognized as a supporter of Black Lives Matter and a black art maker, it is important to fully express the black experience in dance, culture and society.” Jermaine said.

Ending on a note looking ahead, Jermaine has big plans.

“In a perfect world I would love to take my work on tour or actually do the stage version of it in Los Angeles, California. It is my hope to educate and challenge the authority of the Eurocentric point of view in dance and culture. In my mind, I believe dance serves as a creative vehicle to communicate and inform people about lack of justice, false narratives and life experiences. With that said, the black experience and African Aesthetics are interwoven in the fabric of American culture yet has been consistently devalued and underrepresented. I wanted to create work to illuminate the tenets of African Aesthetics and their influence on America culture thereby displaying the importance of black people and their prominence within the art form of dance.”

You can learn more about Jermaine on his official website here.

Watch the full film below:

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