Zinzi Minott and Greta Mendez recount their journeys through dance and how they found each other. They reflect on the whitewashing of the contemporary dance sector and recall parts of the Black British dance scene which have been erased or underfunded into oblivion. They speak of the strength needed by Black women, including themselves, to succeed in the dance industry, while contending with burnout and gaslighting. They describe Blackness as a culture not a colour: “I am culture”.
Lack of acknowledgement of Black dance in the UK, and consequently lack of mentors or other Black role-models means it can be difficult to feel supported, to see yourself in the industry and ultimately have the strength to keep going in the face of the racism and gaslighting you are faced with on a daily basis.
This talk was part of Crossing Borders 2019, presented in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, Society for Dance Research & Roehampton University.
Greta Mendez is a Trinidad-born movement and theatre director, choreographer, performance artist, drama coach, carnivalist and film maker. As a choreographer she has explored themes such as silence and sensuality in The Chair and Me, body politics and ageism in Ndulgence and shifting cultures in From Coffee Beans to Disinfectant. In her theatre work she has worked on a wide range of plays including; The Road by Wole Soyinka, Beef, No Chicken by Derek Walcott, Flyin West by Pearl Cleage, Love Space Demands by Ntozake Shange and King Lear by William Shakespeare.
Mendez has directed MAAS Movers, NiN Dance Company and Battimamzel Dance Company. In the 1970s – ’80s, she was an advocate in the movement for a dance department in the Arts Council and funding for independent dance. Greta’s short film Kashmir’s Ophelia has won several Awards and has been shown internationally. Mendez is currently a Tutor @ IDSA -Identity Drama School of Acting- and completing her film Ah! Hard Rain.
Zinzi Minott‘s work focuses on the relationship between dance, bodies and politics. Strongly identifying as a dancer, Zinzi explores how dance is perceived through the prisms of race, queer culture, gender and class. She is interested in the space between dance and other art forms, and though her practice is driven through dance, the outcomes range from performance and live art to sound, film, dances and object-based work.
In 2016/17 she was artist in residence at both Tate Modern and Tate Britain. During her time there she was commissioned by Tate to create Nowse Bwoy and Aunty…The saving of a life which premiered in February 2017 at Tate Britain as part of BP Families Festival with sound from cellist Pete Yelding. She has also been artist in residence at Rich Mix and Dance Research Space 2016/17 and currently resident artist at Somerset House and Once Dance UK Trailblazer. Most recently she has was awarded the Arts Council England’s Artist International Development Fund, Jerwood Micro Bursary and the Live Art UK/ Live Art Development Agency-Diverse Actions Leadership Bursary. She was artist in residence at the Serpentine Gallery 2018, and is currently one of two artist commissioned under CONTINUOUS – a four-year partnership between BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead) and Siobhan Davies Dance to explore the relationship between contemporary dance and the visual arts.
Adapted from bios written in 2019.