But try to get to the Billie Holiday tonight— the show’s final evening—for so many, many reasons. Among them is ”Jumping the Broom” with its chilling imagery, prescient warning and the heartbreak of Mason’s performance. In the short amount of time he allows himself, Roussève not only conjures vivid scenes in our imagination, he taps our empathy and our sense of foreboding. It is dance as an act of conscience, responsibility and courageous love.
— Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Infinite Body Blog

David Rousseve discusses “Jumping the Broom” (footage from upcoming documentary)

Jumping the Broom was originally created in 2005 as a solo for performer/choreographer Gesel Mason’s No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers. No Boundaries sought to expand the viewer’s concept of Black dance through Mason’s performance of an evening of repertory featuring solos from a rage of noted contemporary African American choreographers including Donald McKayle, Jawole Zollar, David Roussève, Kyle Abraham, Bebe Miller, and Rennie Harris.

Equal parts protest and dialogue, Jumping the Broom was created before same sex marriage was legal. The piece juxtaposes emotional personal narratives around the ban on slave marriage with personal narratives around the contemporary ban on gay marriage in an attempt  to elicit an empathetic response from the viewer towards same sex marriage. (Jumping the broom is a ritual of forbidden marriage performed by American slaves.) Roussève wrote, choreographed, and directed the work which premiered at Washington DC’s Dance Place prior to extensive touring.

In 2018 No Boundaries received an NEA grant to film one final public performance in order to convert the work form a live performance archive into a digital one. The performance was presented in New York by 651 Arts and RestorationART/The Billie Holiday Theatre in April 2018. Footage of this performance  will now be combined with rehearsal footage and interviews with the choreographers to create a documentary and online platform. Roussève worked in studio with Mason in early 2018 to remount and clarify the work while also being interviewed for the documentary.

About the 2018 digital archive project Gesel Mason writes:

For over 15 years, I have been performing solos choreographed by prominent African American choreographers. The solos offer windows into the choreographers’ lives, illuminating the unique inventions, legacies, and aesthetics of these prominent Black choreographers–including what these artists were up against historically, culturally, and personally… In an effort to share and preserve this rich history, No Boundaries is transforming into a digital archive, which will feature interviews, dance-for-camera shorts, and documentation of the selected choreographies.

Gesel Mason performs “Jumping the Broom”(2018) at the Billie Holiday Theater, Brooklyn NY; presented by 651 ARTS and RestorationART.

Photo by Enoch Chan