Basking in the Joy
The Funky Monkey Family at The Dreaming Space
“Expect to come in with a sense of wonder,” said performance extraordinaire Jimmy J.
Wonder we all did. All eyes were drawn up and around towards The Dreaming Space. Colourful flags fluttered from the ceiling as vibrant performers The Funky Monkey Family band juggled, danced, hula hooped, sung and played a variety of instruments. A rabbit was pulled out of a hat, literally, and Jimmy J rode a unicycle around the venue before joining his wife, Ruby Ray, and their children back on stage to sing. Everyone was transfixed.
“It is impossible not to be filled with an ecstatic amount of joy and happiness in that space,” said Jimmy.
For front man Jimmy J that flicker of joy was sparked young. It was a Tidy Rooms game as a child that set him on an artistic and creative path. A seed was planted one Sunday evening by happenstance. All rooms were tidy, so his Dad gifted he and his siblings with a juggling ball set.
“My brother had a go but lost interest, my sister had a go and gave up and I had a go and absolutely loved it.”
“Some people have a talent and it’s easy to pick things up, however other people have a passion and drive to just work hard and I had that drive- I juggled three, four, five, then juggled clubs and kept asking for more.”
Jimmy J is now a multi-skilled performer, touring, travelling and teaching with his wife Ruby Ray. Together they have over 30 years of combined experience and have travelled the world refining their art and performing. Their greatest creation has been their Funky Monkey Family with their kids. They juggle, do acrobatics, create magic and make music that spans genres and connects generations, making light and laughter of their daily family lives. Their main aim in life is to inspire families to have fun together because: “Fun is the key to a harmonious family. Happy Family, Happy World!”
Ruby Ray and Jimmy J have lived vibrant and diverse lives and it seems their paths were destined to cross as they moved through similar circles. They met at a winter solstice festival where they were each performing. Jimmy J was interested to learn more dancing and Ruby Ray was interested to learn more circus. They skill-shared and hearts did flutter.
“Four kids later, marriage, travelling a lot together, running The Dreaming Space business together- so much so, you might have a conversation with Ruby and then have a conversation with me- and a lot of people are like ‘are you the same person’?” laughs Jimmy.
Part of the charm of The Dreaming Space is their all-in enthusiasm. They are the character, there’s no pretense. It is not hard for the audience to believe it, as Ruby Ray and Jimmy J truly do bring things to life.
They have a wonderful knack of creating an environment, rich with learning opportunities.
“We experience our world through our environment. A child absorbs from the environment and that’s how they learn. So it is so important to give them as many diverse experiences as we can- what they see, what they smell, what they hear, what they feel (as they live in the feeling world), what they taste, touch and manipulate.”
The thing that keeps Ruby Ray and Jimmy J performing after all this time is the sheer joy of it. The feeling that music and movement incites, gives meaning in their lives. They remember that feeling. They capture it, share it. They are ready for more.
“It’s about creating vibrations, sounds and experiences that inspire joy and if you are joyful, you remember things you learn and when the emotions engaged, the memory is long term and development is accelerated.”
Watching the children chatter among themselves as they left the performance space, there was definitely joy. They were dreaming and imagining big things. They will remember this.
Article by Sinead Halliday
Discover more about The Dreaming Space here
Cover Image Photo Credit: Ian Toohill