Narangga Kaurna man Jacob Boehme is no stranger to stigma: he's a gay, fair skinned, Aboriginal man with HIV. But now, he'll be sharing his story at next year's Sydney Festival.
Michelle Rimmer

7 Nov 2016 - 2:39 PM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2016 - 3:00 PM

Jacob Boehme has turned adversity into art.

"It's my story, it's my father's story, my grandmother's...and in a lot of ways it's everyone's story," Jacob explains.

But this is an understatement - anyone would gasp at the prospect of imagining how many hurdles he has endured as a gay, fair skinned, Aboriginal man with HIV.

The now Director of the Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival says that even as a child his life wasn't simple. 

"I was one of those kids that at around 13 they were getting ready to send me off to Royal Park, a little kind of juvenile detention thing. I was kind of playing up at school and a social worker said to my mother, 'this kid's not troubled, he's just bored,' Jacob told NITV. 

His parents enrolled him in an after-school theatre company. It was a move that Jacob says turned his life around.

"I do believe in that slogan 'art saves lives' because I was one of those kids that was ready to go off the rails and, for me, being taught theatre and acting was the thing that brought me back."

Dance and performance became an outlet for Jacob to deal with life's hurdles, and was especially important when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. 

"Along with that diagnosis, somehow my blood became, I became obsessed. Not only for years had I been obsessed with blood in terms of being fair as part of an Aboriginal family and all that that entails, but then what being diagnosed with a blood borne virus meant for me, my identity, my future, my health." 

Jacob recalls being filled with fear after stepping on an exposed nail while rehearsing in a run-down warehouse shortly after being diagnosed.

"The next thing I knew I could see that I'd left a trail of blood on the dance floor." 

It became the inspiration for the title of his latest performance piece: Blood on the Dance Floor. 

Blood on the Dance Floor is an autobiographical story that draws on lessons passed down from Jacob's ancestors as well as his own life experience. 

The solo performance is the result of four year's work by members of the Ilbijerri theatre company Black Writer's Lab.

Jacob says it attempts to replicate all elements of traditional Aboriginal performance. 

"This was about taking all the elements of our ceremonies, so when you go to Inma, or wherever your mob call it, you'll have the story behind the dance, you'll have the dance, you'll have a story in the song, and then you'll also have the story on your body painted visually."

Blood on the Dance Floor will run from the 21st to the 25th of January as part of next year's internationally acclaimed Sydney Festival. 

Festival Director Wesley Enoch says Jacob's performance will be a treat for audiences. 

"Jacob Boehme is a dance artist and he's talking about his heritage in his blood, his bloodline, his sense of Aboriginal heritage, but also the idea that he's now HIV positive and how disease runs in that blood now," Mr Enoch said.

"It's a beautiful piece of dance that I think people should just get into."

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