Transforming 15 seconds of an Instagram video into an intimate dance performance is no mean feat, but with his focused grace, MJ Harper makes it look almost easy. The professional dancer, who was born in Jamaica, grew up in Florida, and is now in Berlin via New York and London, got his start when, unbeknownst to him, his mum signed him up for an audition at a dance and drama conservatory. She told him the night before his solo performance — which he nailed and so began four years of intense study.
After graduating he was lucky enough (read: exceptionally talented) to have a job waiting for him in New York, and things kept rolling from there. After working with the some of the world's pre-eminent choreographers and dance institutions, MJ is gravitating towards a more personal performative art. "I never had this goal to dance for lots of companies. I like moving because I like moving, it's just a way for me to fully express myself," he says.
Gallery settings provide him a closer communion with the audience: "Seeing the person in front of you sweating, muscles articulated, it really gives this human intimacy and removes the formality of the stage." For MJ dance is pure freedom, it opens up a space that allows him to voice what he's previously been unable to articulate, and he's begun to incorporate in various ways the words that flow out of him, alongside what he aptly calls his "physical sketches".
The sense of artistic liberty he experiences is precious to MJ, and something he is acutely aware of in the current political climate. "Before we know it we might be working under such tight constraints that who knows what we'll be able to express. Right now it's absolutely necessary for creatives to really dig and dive and investigate in their work - whether you need to scream or speak quietly. Really wherever you can find the space to make, make something!"
Text Clementine De Pressigny
Photography Tim Walker
MJ Harper wears all clothing model's own.