Lion’s Jaw

2020-21 MIT Performing Series

Creating an environment where risk, rigor, and rebellion can flourish through dance

About the Project

Lion’s Jaw and MIT Performing present Queer Futures, a series of three discussions centered on re-orientations for performance facilitated by Thomas F. DeFrantz. The Lion’s Jaw dance festival grew out of a continued investigation into how to create environments where risk, rigor, and rebellion can happen and where the community can come together and make dance-work together. Using this virtual moment to expand its reach beyond the local Cambridge and MIT communities, the festival will share conversations with a global audience around queer arrivals and pursuits through and after the pandemic.

Queer Futures is presented as part of the 2020–21 MIT Performing series, a prototyping and presenting series programmed by Jay Scheib, professor for Music and Theater Arts, and presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology. The series is supported in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT. MIT Performing promotes a research-based artistic practice and serves as a new platform for contemporary performance.

Public Events

Past Events

Queer Futures
Re-Orientations for Performance
Queer Arrivals and Pursuits Through and After the Pandemic

Three evenings of discussions hosted by Lion’s Jaw and MIT Performing, facilitated by Thomas F. DeFrantz and featuring zavé martohardjono, Eroca Nichols, Joseph M. Pierce, jumatau poe, jess pretty, and Joy Mariama Smith.

Day One
October 8, 2020 / 5:00pm
Thomas F. DeFrantz, jess pretty, Eroca Nicols
Watch the recording

Day Two
October 9, 2020 / 5:00pm
Thomas F. DeFrantz, Joseph Pierce, zavé martohardjono
Watch the recording

Day Three
October 10, 2020 / 3:00pm
Thomas F. DeFrantz, Joy Mariama Smith, jumatatu poe
Watch the recording

Free to all with suggested donations of $0-25 payable to (paypal) Donations will be split between the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and the NDN COVID-19 Response Project.



Thomas F. DeFrantz (Facilitator) is Chair of African and African American Studies and Professor of Dance, and Theater Studies at Duke University. He is past-president of the Society of Dance History Scholars, an international organization that advances the field of dance studies through research, publication, performance, and outreach to audiences across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. He is also the director of SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, a research group that explores emerging technology in live performance applications. He convenes the working group Black Performance Theory and the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. His books include the edited volume Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance (2002) and Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture (2004) and Black Performance Theory co-edited with Anita Gonzalez.

jumatatu m. poe is a choreographer and performer based between Philadelphia and New York City who grew up dancing around the living room and at parties with his siblings and cousins. His early exposure to concert dance was through African dance and capoeira performances on California college campuses where his parents studied and worked, but he did not start formal dance training until college with Umfundalai, Kariamu Welsh’s contemporary African dance technique. His work continues to be influenced by various sources, including his foundations in those living rooms and parties, his early technical training in contemporary African dance, his continued study of contemporary dance and performance, and his recent sociological research of and technical training in J-setting with Donte Beacham. He produces dance and performance work with idiosynCrazy productions, a company he founded in 2008 and now co-directs with Shannon Murphy. Since 2012, he has been engaged in a shared, multi-tiered performance practice with NYC-based dance artist Jesse Zaritt. Previously, he has danced with Marianela Boán, Silvana Cardell, Emmanuelle Hunyh, Tania Isaac, Kun- Yang Lin, Kemal Nance, Marissa Perel, Leah Stein, Keith Thompson, Kate Watson-Wallace, Reggie Wilson, and Kariamu Welsh (as a member of Kariamu & Company). As a performer, he also collaborates with Merián Soto. He is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College. His middle name is Mtafuta-Ukweli, which means “one who searches for the truth”.

jess pretty is on a quest for pleasure that transcends time and the spaces she claims to reside in. Within her research she choreographs, performs, collaborates with other artists (Will Rawls, Katie Workum, Cynthia Oliver, Leslie Cuyjet, Larissa Velez-Jackson, Dianne McIntyre, Jennifer Monson and Niall Jones) and teaches her contemporaryTRAP class in New York City where she moved after receiving an MFA in Dance and Queer Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her free time is filled curating methodologies for living past survival through being as unapologetically black as possible.

Performance, installation, and movement artist and educator Joy Mariama Smith’s work focuses on issues related to visibility, projected identities, and self-representation in different contexts, and investigates the interplay between the body and its cultural, social, and physical environment. In their* dance, performances, and installations, they create spaces in which the distinction between spectator and participant becomes blurred and visitors are encouraged to reflect on the ways in which they deal with space. They teach at SNDO-School for New Dance Development, Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam. Their work has been performed internationally, including at Freedom of Movement, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2018; If I Can’t Dance Edition VI – Event and Duration, Amsterdam, 2016; SoLow Festival, Philadelphia, 2015; and Ponderosa, Stolzenhagen, 2013. Smith lives and works in The Hague.

Eroca Nicols is currently known as a dancer/choreographer/teacher, her multiplicitous practice stems from a family of semi-mystical trailer people and years working as a janitor. They have a BFA in video/performance art and sculpture from California College of the Arts (formerly and Crafts.) Their teaching, dancing and training are deeply influenced in her continued study of ritual, biomechanics and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

zavé martohardjono is interested in performance that spurs embodied healing and radical thinking as pathways to decolonizing and de-assimilating the body and contending with the political histories it carries. They have performed at the 92Y, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, BAAD!, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Boston Center for the Arts, Center for Performance Research, EFA Project Space, El Museo del Barrio, Gibney Dance, HERE Arts, Issue Project Room, Movement Research, Storm King Art Center, Wendy’s Subway, the Wild Project, WOW Café Theater, and elsewhere. A 2019 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence, zavé participated in LMCC’s 2017-2018 Workspace Residency, the Bronx Museum’s BxMA Co-Lab Residency, Shandaken: Storm King, Gibney Work Up 3.0, and Chez Bushwick residency. zavé has worked in social justice for over a decade and organizes with artists of color through Potluck Project.

Joseph M. Pierce is Associate Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on the intersections of kinship, gender, sexuality, and race in Latin America, 19th century literature and culture, queer studies, Indigenous studies, and hemispheric approaches to citizenship and belonging. He is the author of Argentine Intimacies: Queer Kinship in an Age of Splendor, 1890-1910 (SUNY Press, 2019) and co-editor of Políticas del amor: Derechos sexuales y escrituras disidentes en el Cono Sur (Cuarto Propio, 2018) as well as the forthcoming special issue of GLQ, “Queer/Cuir Américas: Translation, Decoloniality, and the Incommensurable.” His work has been published recently in Revista Hispánica Moderna, Critical Ethnic Studies, The Art Newspaper, and has also been featured in Indian Country Today. Along with SJ Norman (Koori, Wiradjuri descent) he is co-curator of the performance series Knowledge of Wounds. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

About the Artists

Lion’s Jaw was built out of a desire to bring artists together.
To work in close proximity.
To ask questions.
For artists to spend time together in duration.
To catalyze a small change inside of ourselves.
To disassemble hierarchy and consumerism in the arts.
To learn from each other and to swap toolboxes with one another around performance and dance.

Founded in 2015, the festival was the brainchild of New Movement Collaborative, an organization created to support, interrogate, and cultivate contemporary dance in the city of Boston and throughout the US.

Lion’s Jaw grew out of the continued investigation into how to create environments where risk, rigor, and rebellion can happen and where the community can come together and make dance-work together.

Jared Williams (Director/ Co-Founder) is a visual artist, dance-improvisor, and dance-arts curator primarily interested in ideas of wilderness, multiplicity, and chaos. He has been programming and curating dance in the Boston area since 2014, with a focus on experimental performance and somatic dance practices.

Williams co-founded Lion’s Jaw in 2016 with his long time collaborator Sarah Mae Gibbons. He is a believer in the power of movement, performance, and the exploration of the physical self, both as artistic practices and as tools to support the interrogation of systems, build community, find collaboration, and joy, and to create political and social change.

Williams is a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the unceded territory of the Nonantum and Massachusett, a father, and a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design.

Sarah Mae Gibbons (Co-Founder), is originally from Athens, Ohio and earned her BFA in dance and minor in education from Ohio State University. She continued her training through a Yoga Teaching Certification and Thai Massage Level I Certificate, as well as becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist. Gibbons is currently enrolled in the New England School of Homeopathy.

As an administrator, Gibbons holds experience managing and programming for non-profit organizations such as Green Street Studios and Urban Arts Space, as well as running education and mentor programs including Green Works, Moving Target, and Balans Workshops. She also has managed events for Wexner Center for the Arts, the Center for Nonviolent Communication, Cambridge Performance Project, Artist in Context, Not Me! Inc, Shambhala Boston, and many others. She is currently on the new Artistic Advisory Committee of Green Street Studios.

As an artist and educator, Sarah Mae Gibbons is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts, offering massage and yoga sessions at Balans Organic Spa and Wellness Studio, and teaching dance to individuals of all ages at a variety of locations throughout the year locally and nationally. She also performs and choreographs her own work, both independently and collaboratively, for which she has received local recognition. She continues to strive towards physicality and authenticity in all that she does.