By Guy James Whitworth

Sydney Author and artist Guy James Whitworth catches up with Queer icon turned community fitness coach Betty Grumble.

You know on gameshows where they say, “my next guest needs no introduction,” Well, that’s kind of the case with Betty Grumble. To say she has become a bit of an icon in the LGBTQI community (and beyond) over the past decade is an understatement.

Her work within and supporting that community is legendary, she is someone known to put her body on the line for her craft and to also put to give till it hurts for the community she holds so dear to her.

During lockdown last year she brought into being a daily event called Grumble Boogie which she started for her beloved LGBTQI community to stay fit, stay joyous and stay connected, with the event now morphing into an occasional real-world event. I caught up with her, well, actually her creator and real-life personage Emma Maye Gibson, to chat about all things Boogie-based.

Grumble Boogie is massive in my group of friends, and even I, as an unfit couch potato have been enticed into a bit of a shimmy and a kick whist watching online, are you happy with how it’s going?  

“I love to dance. I am a trained dancer and grew up watching my mother teach aerobic classes. I believe that the body is a powerful source of meditation and dance is an immediate way to bring energy into the body, to change your feelings and say ‘Thank You Body’.

I love getting high off dancing and my particular brand of daggy disco aerobic leadership invites all bodies into a space of catharsis and connection. I am very happy with how the boog is flowing. During lockdown we met online everyday at 10am to do half an hour of dance together. I get a lot of people thanked me on the street for those portals. It helped me ground myself during the strangeness and now we are able to do them in person. I want to keep boogie up! I find it challenging and deeply rewarding to hold space this way. Boogie 4 lyf!”

For those that don’t know, can you please tell us a bit about how Betty came into being? 

“Betty Grumble was born out of my desire to play. I wanted to play with my body, with art and performance. She is a war mask and a love letter. She allowed me to meet kindred club spirits, folk very interested in glamour spells and the electric power of shared space. She is a trip and a meditation. Betty was my grandmother’s name and we referred to my grandfather as Grumble. I wanted to use their lineage to honour and unpack my ancestral roots. A grumble is a rumble in your stomach, a protest, a purring and provocation. She is my friend and, excitedly, she no longer belongs to me, she belongs to the universe.”

Did you always have a master-plan for Betty or has she evolved and adapted as she has gone along? 

“There was no plan beyond wanting to meet likeminded people to create with, get stronger, challenge myself and follow my pleasure. She was always a protest site for me, a healing place, a chance to express and connect. Love Energy, Rage Energy, Hope Energy, Fuck Energy. She helps me breathe.”

What do you have planned for the future of Betty and the future of Grumble Boogie? 

“A workout video would be divine! With all the critters in it. We have a durational work in process cooking up with my stage sis Hip Hop Hoe. I am going to keep leading classes at Addison Road community Centre in Marrickville and tour the Boogie’s alongside my major performance works.

Check out Betty Grumble’s next live show as part of VIVID from Aug 23-27. Tickets & Info: www.performinglines.org.au

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