Diaspora Dance Theatre
“I feel it is important and powerful work to continue to see womxn breaking down stereotypes. I also think it is important to provide platforms for womxn to feel safe and united and able to speak up.” Ella Mesma
Ella Mesma Company invited 33 female artists to take part in I Am All Womxn, a piece of lock down art which celebrated and talks about the female experience.
Filmed in our homes all over the world (UK, USA, Portugal, Cyprus, Brazil), each section was choreographed by the individual dancing it in reaction to the lyrics, and the video which came before it, with the goal to celebrate womxn in our entirety and empower more of us to embrace every side of ourselves as womxn.
Now, for this Dance Transports, Ella Mesma has interviewed five fabulous international female hip hop artists to share their intimate thoughts around the issues raised in the lockdown piece.
Watch the videos in the links below and click here to download the transcribed interviews and learn more about the 5 artists on Yorkshire Dance’s website.
On the 11th August (chosen because this was the date of the birth of hip hop when DJ Kool Herc held the “Back to School Jam” in 1973), we hosted a Zoom conversation where 11 local and international artists were invited to respond to the interviews and lockdown video and share their thoughts on being a female artist in hip hop and on how to create a better future.
*womxn: we are using this alternative spelling to avoid suggestions of sexism perceived in the sequence of m-a-n and m-e-n, and to be inclusive of trans and non binary women.
A killer Musical Director, Composer, Sound Artist, Beatz Producer, Writer and Performer, Busty Beatz has been creating fearless art to activate, pollinate and liberate for over 25 years. Of Xhosa heritage and living on Jagera country in the land known as Australia, she signed her first record deal at sixteen, performing, recording and touring with bands for over a decade – this era immortalised via her contribution to Sophie Howath’s Big Day Out book Peace, Love & Brown Rice and her place in the Women Who Rock photographic exhibition of the Melbourne Arts Centre. Adhering to a manifesto of creative, collective power through collaboration, Busty creates global sonic experiences intersecting disciplines, politics, activism and soundlines using the Arts as a tool for Social Change. This beat-making Mama is co-creator with Director/Designer Lisa Fa’alafi, of the international smash hit Hot Brown Honey winning the 2016 UK Total Theatre Award – Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form, Green Rooms – Best Production/Best Design, 2017 Helpmann – Best Cabaret Performers, 3Weeks Editors Award – Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Sydney Theatre Award – Best Production, with 2018 nominations for the UK Theatre Awards – Best Touring Production and the Toronto Theatre Critics Award – Best Ensemble. She is the co-creator and music supervisor of Hive City Legacy with a team of Extraordinary Black Femmes and Femmes of Colour from London in partnership with the Roundhouse – this acclaimed work has gone on to a 2019 return season followed by a UK Tour. Busty has created work withThe Sick of The Fringe and London’s Wellcome Collection for installation We Are The Latest Models of Our Ancestry and was invited to be part of Barby Assante’s Declaration of Independence Venice Biennale – Diaspora Pavilion. Busty Beatz is a sound visionary, defying genres and bringing her fierce empowerment to mobilise museums, galleries, theatres and public spaces, all while leading audiences onto dance floors across the globe.
“We’re re-matriarching. So we’re coming back into a space that is female-led and specifically, Black and Indigenous female-led.” “It’s like what Audre Lorde, the poet and amazing writer has talked about self-care as warfare. By your self-preservation, and having the time for yourself and your community, it means you’re able to hold space.” Download and read Busty Beatz transcribed interview here.
Share, Tweet, Follow Busty Beatz: @Hotbrownhoney @Bustybeatzhotbrownhoney.com
I am a freelance, independent movement artist. A hip hop head. A lover of film. Using predominantly movement vocabulary, my work is rooted in storytelling and documentation. I am inspired by social evolution and art healing communities. Underpinning my work are three key aims, to: honour people, document stories and inspire change. The duality of my work lies in its political context and visceral delivery. I engage with my creativity by connecting to my community and in this way, everything is collaborative; from performance, to choreography to teaching and all that falls in between. I align my values with my work and let this lead me. Recent manifestations of this include, ‘The Tide’ (UK Tour), ‘Hive City Legacy’ (UK Tour) and Colmeia Integra (Brasil).
“Hip-hop has served me as an alternative universal language” “Hot Brown Honey shattered a lot of those boxes for me, and labels that I had placed on myself” “Unfortunately we still don’t programme womxn of colour in these spaces.” Download and read Elsabet’s transcribed here.
Share, Tweet, Follow Elsabet at @elsabetter www.elsa-bet.com
Yami is an established artist with over 21 years’ experience within Hip Hop Dance and Theatre sectors. Between directing and performance work, Yami creates and delivers dance and theatre workshops across the UK and Internationally. Concentrating on collaborations, working with companies and individuals to bridge the gap between theatre and dance she challenges participants to explore a new take on theatre whilst confronting preconceptions and stereotypes. Using her broad knowledge of Hip-Hop Culture and movement Yami loves working with comedy, characterization, spoken word, and cross-arts. Her skill of teasing out questions and finding the why has seen her collaborate with a multitude of diverse artists throughout her career. Key topics she often works with; racism; social and political structures; equality and intersectional female empowerment.
Accolades; Hive City Legacy (Roundhouse/Quiet Riot), Afroabelhas (Roundhouse/British Council Brazil/Tempo Festival, Brazil), Kind of Woman (Camden People’s), Fuck You Pay Me (Bunker), Breakin’ Convention (Sadler’s Wells), Talawa TYPT 2017 (Hackney Showrooms), Boat (BAC), British Council and Arts Council England recipient, One Dance UK DAD Trailblazer Fellow, Marion North Recipient, and Talawa Make Artist, Creative dance team on the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and is a member of Australian sensation Hot Brown Honey
“Female voices have always struggled to be heard amongst the noise and this noise comes in different shapes and forms; whether it’s a patriarchal system, whether it’s white privilege, whether it’s any sort of discrimination that disrupts our focus” “I get labelled as an angry black woman… but No war, no revolutions and no role models in our history or lifetime has ever been quiet and not spoken up.” Download and read Yami’s transcribed interview here.
Share, Tweet, Follow Yami at: @rowdyyami
Emma Houston: is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in London, UK. Recently performing in Boy Blue’s latest production ‘REDD’ and Kate Prince’s ‘Message In A Bottle’, Emma also represented UK at the Redbull BC one Bgirl cypher 2019 making it to the semi finals. Emma has choreographed and directed for brands such as Levis and Adidas and is passionate about dance as a tool for positive change. Emma’s work centres around identity and LGBTQ+ visibility and representation, with her company Houston Dance Collective’s The Purple Jigsaw performing at Sadlers Wells Breakin Convention, Shoreditch Town Hall’s Identity and Levi’s and ELD’s Equality Always Fits at Richmix. The company’s outreach work also includes LGBTQ+ dance workshops aimed at improving young people’s mental health through movement.
“I think gender does play a big part in the way that a womxn’s value is seen or not seen in the scene” “I’ve come up against these invisible glass ceilings because of my biological sex at various points.” Download and read Emma’s transcribed interview here.
Share, Tweet, Follow Emma at: @BgirlShortbreadUK FB: BgirlshortbreadUK
Azara is a multi-disciplinary artist that likes to express her views through live art and film using poetry, breakdancing and theatre. Through these different art forms, Azara shares her personal politics on sexuality, gender, racism, classism and homophobia. Azara aims to identify the struggles faced in trying to maintain individuality, but also highlighting the cultural limitations, beliefs and society’s stereotypes that Azara does not adhere to. Throughout her developing career Azara has worked with a variety of artists such as, playwright Roy Williams, Company 3, Talawa Theatre Company, Duckie, The Cocoa Butter Club, David Hoyle, Ursula Martinez, Ella Mesma Company and Some Voices. Azara has also performed as a dancer at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and The London Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012.
Over the past year before the pandemic, she has been developing her new exciting and hilarious show Just Another Day and Night. This show has been growing over the last three years showcasing at venues such as The Lowry, The Place Rich Mix and Hackney Showrooms. It has just finished its ACE funding for the last stages of development and is now proceeding for a tour in 2020. She previewed this show at Ovalhouse and Streatham Space Project. In addition to this project, Azara has toured the UK with the Ella Mesma company’s show ‘LadyLike’, and with the Roundhouse hit, Hive City Legacy.
Share, Tweet, Follow Azara at: @Azararm
These are the wonder womxn who took part in the lockdown video in order of appearance
Ana Rokafella Garcia
Ana “Rokafella” Garcia is a NYC native who has represented women in Hip-hop dance professionally over the past two decades. She co founded Full Circle Prod Inc- NYC’s only non profit Break Dance Theater company with her husband veteran Bboy Kwikstep generating theater pieces, original poetry and NYC based dance related events. She directed a documentary highlighting the Bgirl lifestyle entitled “All The Ladies Say” with support from the Ford foundation and performs music based on her experiences growing up in Hip-hop’s Mecca. She is hired internationally to judge Break dance competitions based on her mastery of the classic Hip-hop dance style and she teaches unique workshops aimed at evolving and preserving its technical aspects. She has worked within the NYC public school system exposing young students to the possibility of a career in dance. Presently she is an adjunct professor at The New School and a dance instructor at NJPAC, Peridance Studios and Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. In May of 2017 she launched Shiroka– a t shirt fashion line with Shiro a Japanese Grafitti artist. She has been featured in pivotal Rap music videos, tours, film and commercials as well as choreographed for diverse festivals/ concerts such as Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Momma’s Hip-hop Kitchen and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Rokafella is a multi faceted Hip-hop artist who references street and Latino culture as her foundation
Kendra “KRO” Horsburgh
Insta: @KendraHorsburgh Twitter: @kendrahorsburgh @birdgangltd www.kendraj.com
Kenda Horsburgh: Artistic director and co-founder of BirdGang Ltd. A movement architect for stage, theatre, film and TV. With a wide range of credits commercially, she is currently associate choreographer for &Juliet the west end show. Www.kendraj.com
Insta: @EllaMesma Twitter: @EllaMesma www.ellamesma.co.uk
Ella Mesma is artistic director of Ella Mesma Company, and an established professional artist with a wide range of credits over 15 years. She is currently dancing for Lea Anderson’s Chomondeleys and was also the curator and producer of this project ‘I am all womxn’.
Rox Roxane Zana
Roxane has a background in Breakin, Capoeira and Contemporary. She has competed all over Europe and performed and collaborated with companies such as Puma, Adidas, Cirque Bejou, Breakin Convention, CBBC, BBC, Mercedes and many UK festivals.
Azara is a multi-disciplinary artist that likes to express her views through live art and film using poetry, breakdancing and theatre. Azara has worked with a variety of artists such as, playwright Roy Williams, Company 3, Talawa Theatre Company, Duckie, The Cocoa Butter Club, David Hoyle, Ursula Martinez, Ella Mesma Company and Some Voices. Azara has also performed as a dancer at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and The London Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012.
Twitter: @xitsallgoodx www.lauradajao.com
Laura Dajao is a freelance inclusive dance artist influenced by Hip Hop, Contemporary stylesa and other specific dance forms such as Dancehall, Waacking and Locking. She looks to fuse movement from different styles to create her own vocabulary using her wheelchair to make cross collaborative art as an professional dance artist. Taking inspiration from Sign language, theatre, music and storytelling and spoken word. She looks to make work through Collaboration and exploration of theses styles. Based in East London, she had trained and performed with East London Dance, Candoco, Gloucestershire Dance, Moxie Brawl, Casson & Friends, and Stopgap across various platforms around the UK and is currently Associate Director of Sardines Dance Collective
Jemma Mae & Sofía Fourket
Insta: @jemma.mae Twitter: @jmaybe3
Filmed by Zak Hamza
Jemma Mae is a dance artist based across Leeds and Sheffield, with a passion for Afro Fusion dance, Hip Hop and Contemporary. Jemma loves the cross overs and fusions between dance cultures and enjoys teaching in the community, across dance organisations and in educational settings. Jemma also has a passion choreographing for the screen, working with music artists in the UK and abroad.
Yami Rowdy: A creative movement director, performer, lecturer, and choreographer. She is a British Council and Arts Council England recipient, One Dance UK DAD Trailblazer Fellow, Marion North Recipient, and Talawa Make Artist. She was on the creative choreographic team for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and is a member of performance collective Hot Brown Honey.
Emma Houston is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in London, UK. Recently performing in Boy Blue’s latest production ‘REDD’ and Kate Prince’s ‘Message In A Bottle’, Emma also represented UK at the Redbull BC one Bgirl cypher 2019 making it to the semi finals. Emma has choreographed for brands such as Levis and Adidas and is passionate about dance as a tool for positive change.
Bgirl Angel @bgirl_angel
I’m a movement artist on a journey to inspire people through dance. Starting as a bgirl where my roots still lie I have explored many roots and styles, forever learning and loving the journey.
Michela Di Felice & Hannah Betram
Insta: @Michela_Di_Felice @hanbertie Twitter: @mikyta7
Michela Di Felice is a choreographer and dancer. Credits include Coldplay, Tinie Tempah, Keno) Films (Legends) MOBO AWARDS, BREAKING CONVENTION, Choreographer for C4 COMEDY GALA SHOW, JAX JONES UK TOUR. “I Don t like to be restricted to do only one thing cause our minds can do so much more.” This project made me realise how lucky I am to have the power of choice and be free to choose whatever I want to be”
My name is Rawgina and I’m from Leeds, UK. I have being Breaking for 19/20yrs which is more than half my life and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! I represent 2 crews Leeds The Way and Heavy Smokers. I love to chill with my crews, battle, meeting new people and more than anything having fun with what I’m doing as lifes to serious and it’s nice to escape to my Breakin’.
Insta: @jonadette_ Twitter: @jonadette_,k
Jonadette is a dance artist that specialises in the styles of Hip hop, Krump and Popping.
Nefeli sMash Tsiouti
Insta: @Nefeli_Tsiouti Twitter: @bgirlSmash www.dancesciencecyprus.com
Nefeli ‘Smash’ Tsiouti: is a bgirl, Founder of Project Breakalign, dedicating her life to preventing injuries for hip-hop dancers, through scientific research, education, physical therapy, and all the health support that dancers need. Her love for dance, transitioned to her passion to save dancers from injuries, due to her personal chronic health conditions.
Lara Rose McCabe
Insta: @lararose89 Twitter: @lararose89
Lara Rose is a movement artist, dancer, choreographer and teacher. Passionate about using movement as a tool for creativity and internal growth and expression as a being. Lara has numerous performing and choreography credits that continue to develop her as a creative. Which she also has the opportunity to explore and execute as a dancer and teacher of Boy Blue Ent.
Jenn Gauss has been breaking for 17 years, battling and performing in breaking/house dance whenever she can, with highlights being winning the 2017 Queen16 UK qualifier and performing at the Olympic opening ceremony in 2012. She is also a clinical scientist for the NHS, lover of the natural world and has a passion for diving and filming underwater. Dance and nature are the two things in life through which she says she can fully lose herself.
Insta: @kloedean Twitter: @mskloedean
Kloé Dean is the artistic director of all female Hip Hop company, Myself UK Dance. A passionate, caring and creative performer, choreographer, teacher, judge and mentor, specialising in Hip Hop, Funk and Steet Dance Styles. Originating from South London, UK, Kloé has performed in and created numerous productions, showcases and competitions as well as taught and judged around the world over the past 15 years.
Issie Lloyd is the director of Funk Supreme based in Bristol and specialises in a variety of street dance styles and capoeira. Her main focus is to bring the social aspect of dance alive, encouraging people to dance as one.
Odylle “Manti” Beder
Mantis is a Brooklyn native and member of Full Circle, a Bronx based crew and hip hop theater company. She started bgirling at 21 and has since travelled worldwide to compete at events such as Redbull BC One, Freestyle sessions and IBE and performed at venues including the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, New Victory Theater and Joyce Theater.
Elsabet Yonas: An independent movement artist. Her work is rooted in documentation and storytelling, often honouring marginalised communities.
Tomo Norimaki is from Japan and is based in the U.K. She is a dancer a teacher a choreographer and a mother. She is a member of Konoha crew U.K, and the founder of FUSE596.
Insta: @michaelacisarik Twitter: @michaelacisarik www.mcdccompany.com
Michaela Cisarikova is a UK based choreographer, dancer and the artistic director of MCDC, fusing contemporary dance, physical & Hip Hop theatre with worldwide collaborations to create visual and stimulating indoor & outdoor work produced and performed across the UK, Europe and Chicago.
Lyra: ‘I started my career as a dancer in my 20s teaching, competing, performing, doing adverts and live shows.
Following the death of my father in 2011, I got jaded and started to retrain to be a stunt performer & do movement in films. I picked up lots of injuries along the way, did some serious soul searching found I missed dance so much it hurt & set about healing myself mentally & physically to be strong & ready to be a part of this beautiful culture and scene again.’
Joey has a variety of experience in dance and sport. One of her most inspiring credits was being part of the professional cast of dancers in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Other highlights include featuring in the Adidas #MyGirls clothing campaign for ELLE Magazine and being a FitPro Magazine cover model. Additionally, she has worked as part of the teams organising some of the UK’s flagship international hip hop dance competitions. Joey has an academic background in Sport and Exercise Sciences (BSc) and Dance Science (MSc) and has previously presented her Laban research project at the International Association of Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS) Annual Conference.
Sunanda “Sunsun” Biswas
Sunanda Biswas: One of UK’s foremost B-girl’s and founder of ‘FLOWZAIC’ UK’s first all all female Breaking crew, Sunanda aka ‘BGIRL SunSun’ has performed, battled , judged and hosted at some of the biggest Hip Hop , Lindy -Hop and B-boy events. She was co-choreographer for the NHS segment of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and is now Associate Director of ‘GROUNDED MOVEMENT’ & founder of Bboy Crew ‘GROUNDED UK ‘
Sammi-Jo has been a lover of all things funky for as long as she can remember- Locking, Popping and Hip Hop are her passion and she hopes you catch a funky vibe.
Dani Sands is a creative originally from Brazil with influences in her movement from hip hop dance styles, always looking to empower womxn with her work.
Insta: @JuliaChenghoa Twitter: @houseofabsolute www.houseofabsolute.com
Julia Cheng is a Creative Director specialising in movement and inter-disciplinary theatre. Founder of all female collective House of Absolute.
Kenrick H2O Sandy
This idea of this lockdown video was first scratched out at an Artists4Artists event in 2017 when Ella Mesma was given a task by Kenrick H2O Sandy which she created to the words of Bridget Gray. the video of her creation ended up being retweeted so much on twitter that Ella realised there was something in her creation. Now, two years later, thanks to a conversation with Nefeli (one of the performers) at the start of lockdown, we were able to take action fast and in our homes, with a goal to spread some love out there!