Mix’d Ingrnts Director & Co-Founder Jennifer ‘Jenay’ Anolin from Bay Area, CA -Photo Courtesy of Mix’d Ingrdnts
BOLD: How did the two of you connect and collaborate?
SAMARA: We connected by auditioning, as adults, for the same dance company. We became friends and realized we had common dance interests, and were hungry to showcase and perform. We wanted to create our own work and perform together, while creating something that our community hadn’t seen before. We got to talking about constructing a project that focused on giving ladies confidence in their femininity and all other kinds of ideas.
JENAY: After a year of developing ideas, I unfortunately lost my father to a battle with cancer. This loss, ignited a force to making our dream come to fruition and the company took off from there.
Photo Courtesy of Mix’d Ingrdnts
BOLD: Why the name Mix’d Ingrdnts for a dance group, with its clever spelling?
SAMARA: The name Mix’d Ingrdnts came from the idea that the dancers we wanted populating the group would all be of different ethnicities and from various dance and cultural backgrounds. These differences would be celebrated and fused together, much like ingredients that are mixed together to make a really good meal.
JENAY: Ingredients, was just too long and looked odd after staring at it for a while.
BOLD: Who are your dancers? What are their stories?
SAMARA: The Company today is, Zoë Mountain Muhler, Esme Kundanis-Grow, Desiree Dela Pena, Rose Huey, Nina Wu, and Marjorie Ortiz hailing from Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Chicago, and Florida.
Our dancers’ stories consist of exploring human connection, sharing their life experiences, relating and physically commenting on our societies’ socially economic perils. Their experiences from childhood to adulthood come out in their movement and their messages are powerful, impactful, and inspiring.
JENAY: Dancers have joined our company through our various connections to the community. Samara and I teach weekly classes in Oakland and SF, which is where most of the dancers started as students, but we have had a few dancers join through open auditions and workshops.
BOLD: How does dancing inspire a community, particularly young women to evoke social change in their neighborhood and other communities?
SAMARA & JENAY: Movement speaks volumes, even if no one opens their mouth. Dancing communicates across cultures, languages, and in most times, is our strongest and truest form of communication with each other.
Dancing is a tool that can evoke emotion in a community, it can unite a people, start a movement, and shed light on the issues we face every day. The fire that is ignited within a neighborhood and community travels and can spread like wildfire. It inspires others who relate in one way or another to stand up and speak out as well.
In our society, women don’t always get the chance to speak up or sometimes their opinions and thoughts aren’t as valued as their male counterparts. Seeing other strong representations of women having a voice through movement motivates and inspires others to be a part of that or to do it themselves.
Co-Founder of Mix’d Ingrdnts – Photo Courtesy of Mix’d Ingrdnts
BOLD: For dancers, you all tackle some tough and controversial topics through dance. What are those topics ?
SAMARA & JENAY: Racism, sexism, ageism, gentrification, gender equality, police brutality, women’s rights, human rights, and challenging social norms are just a few.
BOLD: Talk about a time when you experienced negative responses to your messages through dance? How do you overcome the negativity?
SAMARA: Recently on social media, a gentleman commented on a spotlight that we did with KQED. Although our video followed how we were making positive waves in Oakland, he chose to comment on how Oakland only consists of drive-by shootings and violence, and that we should go to San Francisco for the arts. To this, all we can do is respond with positivity and dispel the depictions people create about our city and keep doing what we’re doing to impact our communities.
JENAY: In response, our community of supporters and friends backed us up, and within a few hours all his negative comments were removed. We can’t let negativity affect us because there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you do for whatever reason but that can’t hold us back. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and continue to create work that pushes boundaries and challenges social norms.
Co – Founder of Mix’d Ingrnt : Samara Atkins, Photo Courtesy of Mix’d Ingrdnts
BOLD: You must have at least one success story where you saw that social activism occur among your youth dancers? Please share.
JENAY & SAMARA: The work that the young women in Mini Mix’d perform stems from their own personal experiences. During our dress rehearsal for one of their pieces about the rise in Oakland’s gentrification, the girls on their own reworked my original choreographed ending to a more powerful and moving one. For the girls to feel empowered and confident to create and explore through performance art is what Mini Mix’d is all about.
BOLD: Who are the women who inspired your group and its dance moves? What would you say to them if they were doing this interview?
SAMARA: So many things, experiences, and people inspire our group and its movement, but I’d have to give respect to my dance teachers growing up like, Diane Green, Carla Service, Teela Shine-Ross, and Willa Bontle Willis, my first ballet teacher. They have all given me the tools to do what I do, told me to never stop dancing, or that I had something special.
Next, we’d have to pay homage to the women who have pioneered the street dance culture such as, Traci Bartlow and Ami “Tsunami” Nixon. They have shown us what strong and determined women look like in our dance community, mentoring and influencing us in our movement. There are also choreographers like Fatima Robinson and Tweet Boogie, as well as Afro-House teacher Kim Holmes. And there is the resilience my mother has shown me throughout my life.
I’d like to tell them that because you never let anyone stop you from sharing your stories, propelling dance culture and history forward by passing it down, taking time out of your days to make sure great female figures are represented in our dance community, and are so fierce, “we” thank you.
JENAY: The women who have inspired me as a mover, performer and artist include, Ballerinas, Joy Gim & Jenna McClintock, freestyle movers Tsunami, Fluidgirl & Marjory Smarth. My college best friend Diana Palaganas, my high school dance teacher Dawn James and my mother, Sherry. Thank you for being strong and influential women in my life.
BOLD: If you had a wish list for your dance group, what would the future look like for MI?
SAMARA: We’d like to tour our latest show “In Between the Seams” in other places and really build even larger platforms for our work to be showcased. We would like to have other women’s groups share their stories or who influence their communities. We’d like to travel the world and share our stories, continue to create, inspire other women of other countries to stand up to the injustices of their communities, celebrate the positive happening in their worlds, bridge gaps around the world, keep inspiring and empowering youth to have their voice. Big dreams, but we want to help impact the world and leave a legacy, if that is in the stars for us.
JENAY: I would like us to receive at least one grant this year. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share our story.
As Mix’d Ingrdnts continue to be movers and shakers in their community and throughout the world, hopefully, those reading their stories will give them the grant needed to continue to impact their community and eventually, the world.
Video Courtesy of KQED Arts
Nkoyo Iyamba has won Emmy and Murrow awards as a broadcast journalist. She is now a freelance multimedia journalist in the Washington, DC, New York City, and Atlanta areas. In her spare time, she designs couture gowns for weddings and formal events, especially quinceanera gowns. You can find her gowns at UpScale Seconds in Haymarket, VA.: https://www.facebook.com/upscale0seconds/
Nkoyo considers herself a journalist with a flair for all things international. She lounges in the arts, fashion, and entertainment worlds. Her passions are driven by world affairs and the human condition in her community, around the country, and abroad. She loves writing and reporting on the everyday lives of regular folks, especially issues affecting women, children, and minorities. Nkoyo has worked in the following markets: KSL-TV and KSL Radio in Salt Lake City, WTOP Radio in Washington, DC, The CBS Early Show in New York, KBYU-FM in Provo and KUER-FM in Salt Lake. WCCO Radio and KMSP-TV in Minneapolis. She also enjoyed singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for eight years.
Challenging the traditional roles women are often cast to play, Denise Mobolaji Ajayi-Williams has created a revolutionary organization for women worldwide to be a part of. Denise’s organization “Working Moms in 20’s” comes from a unique concept all her own, the idea that women can redefine their position in history and establish themselves as the true leaders that they are to their homes and communities. “Women are the pillars of communities,” asserted Denise, “They are the driving force of success, stability, and growth.” The mission of the organization is to theoretically go back to the 1920’s and to rewrite history, celebrating our racial, cultural, ethnic, and religious differences while making visible the parts of history not often celebrated. Denise’s vision is to go back in time to create a mindset that there are no limitations for women and highlight the unsung female heroes. In addition to being the founder of “Working Mom in 20s” Denise is a mother, wife of Hayden Williams III (her husband Pre-Med Student at University of San Francisco, Healthcare Innovator & Professional), she is a child of God, and like most moms a truly ambitious woman taking on the world.