Think “women in Hip-hop”, and you’re more likely to conjure up images of curvaceous video vixens or lyrics objectifying women in rap music.
Hip-hop dance culture in SA is certainly a tough game in which only the best survive. These women although few in numbers are fearless, business minded hard working individuals.
From Presenting and producing to teaching and entertaining.
Here’s 5 women who have been blowing up the scene that deserves our attention.
*IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER*
Michelle Leigh Openshaw
Experience: 25 years
Occupation: Dancer, Choreographer, Studio owner and International Judge
If you’re anyone that’s plugged in to Jozi street dance culture, then you’ve probably come across Michelle Leigh Openshaw quite a few times. Michelle has mastered it all from Freestyle to disco, Latin to Locking it’s no surprise that this National Champion was dubbed “step and point” since childbirth. She began wooing audiences with Ballet at age 5 but by age 10 was already choreographing her own jazz routines on the front lawn. Her interest in street dance was sparked while living and competing in Latin American dance in the UK. After coming across a B-boy Cypher she recalls being in awe of one dancer in particular. After plucking up the courage she eventually asked him to mentor her and he introduced her to breaking and many other street dance styles. She then grew to have much respect for the culture.
Apart from being a qualified judge for Hip-hop International she is head choreographer for entertainment and events production’s company FROG Productions. From working with companies like Cell C, Samsung, the Pendoring Awards, managing entertainment at Gold reef city, she also recently finished an international series for Cartoon Network called pop up party.
Michelle believes that women looking to make a career in hip hop can empower themselves by following these 4 principles:
- “Knowledge of self – Woman must dig deep and discover themselves fully, weaknesses and strengths. They must know what makes them
- Embrace who they are – In almost every industry people only believe in you if YOU believe in you.
- Be an apprentice or find a mentor.
- Remove the fear of failure. Realise that almost everyone is WINGING it and taking risks. Trust that you will learn as you go.”
- First female judge from Africa to sit on the world hip hop international panel
- Starred in Honey 3
- Strictly come dancing
- Dancing with the Stars
- Co choreographer and lead dancer for Mi casa’s turn you on video
Keep in touch with Michelle on Social Media:
Facebook: Michelle Leigh Oppenshaw
YouTube: Michelle Oppenshaw
Melissa De Vries
Experience: 6 Years
Occupation: Professional dancer, T.V presenter, producer (A Walk with Mel)
If you didn’t catch her on Cape Town T. V’s youth show ‘Ekse’ or breaking down moves as a member of revolution crew, then you’ve probably seen her dishing out the inside scoop of what it’s like be to an entertainer in Cape Town through her very own show called: A Walk with Mel. Either way, there’s no missing Melissa De Vries otherwise known as ‘MelRock’.
MelRock kicked off her journey in 2011 after taking dance classes with Nicholas Madden. She quickly gained an affinity for popping and later specialized in house, African styles, hip hop, breaking and krump.
The road to success was not an easy one for Mel. Early on in her career she recalls starting a show which was unsuccessful however, rather than accepting defeat, Mel took away key lessons which informed her future decisions. She would then go on to use them to create the success that is ‘A Walk with Mel’.
When she’s not busy captivating audiences through her dancing, Mel is a #GirlBoss in her own right. She runs her own company called MDV productions and has collaborated with numerous events and organizations such as: Hip hop international, Iconic Dance Awards, Splice shows, FISAF competition, Step Into Colour and Heal the Hood.
Through her weekly show, Mel aims to uplift and assist communities to grow in a positive way by showcasing their talent and getting government to not only recognise but also support such communities.
Mel is an avid believer in women empowerment and girl love. She encourages women to start creating opportunities for themselves rather than waiting for one to be placed in their path.
“Women need to start loving and believing in ourselves without comparing ourselves to other females. We need to stop breaking each other down. Take the lead and create your own work. It starts with yourself.” She adds
- Trained with legendary Popin Pete in Vegas.
- Starred in “Bring it on”
- CEO of MDV Productions
- TV Personality
Keep in touch with Melissa on Social media:
Facebook: Mel jo Pel
You can catch “Walk with Mel” every Wednesday at 11:30 am on Cape Town TV channel 263 or free to air channel and repeats every Friday at 18:30 pm
Experience: 10 years
Occupation: B-girl, photographer, videographer, model and Business woman
There’s no telling what this 27-year-old isn’t capable off. Born Sindiswa Mbanjwa, B-girl Sindy is proof that you can accomplish anything no matter the circumstances. If she’s not shattering misconceptions about dancers through her own magazine then she’s running her own production company called “ThatArt” Productions which offers Multimedia services. Did we mention that she also boasts formidable skills as a B-girl?
A born entertainer, Sindy has always been intrigued by art. Recalling being drawn to poetry, music and rap from as early as 12. But it wasn’t until she was 17 when 021 B-boys lit up the stage at her school that she realised, breaking is what she was meant to do.
As a self-taught dancer, photographer and videographer, Sindy attributes her willingness to learn and absorb as much as she can from those around her as the key factor to her success. “I watch tutorial videos and collaborate with others on projects. This has really helped me in developing my skills.” She adds
Sindy also created Dashion Online Magazine to not only bridge the gap between audiences and dancers but to address the misconceptions about dance as an artform.
She shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. “In 5 years’ time I see myself as an established business woman, photographer and videographer. One of my dreams is to be the best 100% black female owned production company and also uplift and teach young girls about the world of filming. I strongly believe we need more female directors and producers who will one day own and run successful media houses.”
- TV commercial for DarkN Lovey (Dancer)
- Founder of Dashion online magazine
- CEO of ThatArt productions
Keep in touch with Sindy on Social media:
Experience: 16 Years
Occupation: Dancer, DJ, brand ambassador, TV & Radio Personality, Business owner, creative director
B-girl, DJ, Creative director, radio & TV personality, Courtnae’ Paul is not your average 26-year-old entertainer. Courtnae’ has performed and DJ’d throughout the country having worked with some of the best in the business and is a pioneer for women in hip hop.
“I give myself very little time to relax as I feel there’s always something that I could be doing better” she is quoted as saying.
Courtnae’ started gymnastics at the age of 6, Kick boxing from age 10 and became a part of her church dance group thereafter. Her interest in breaking sparked after being exposed to dancers and seeing B-boys at cyphers, battles and workshops.
Courtnae’ has an extensive list of clients and achievements in both the corporate and commercial world and has worked with the likes of Lil Wayne, Fatman Scoop, Nadia Nakai, Akon and Toya Delazy to name a few. Proving that there’s just no limit to her influence.
But it doesn’t stop there, Courtnae’ has a flair for business, and runs an entertainment company (CP Entertainment) that specialises in performance, creative direction and conceptualisation.
She is head judge for SABC 1’s “Break Da Beat” and was featured on various radio and TV shows such as Expresso on SABC 3.
Courtnae paul is a shining example of how hard work and following your passion pays off.
Courtnae has worked with clients such as:
Mercedes Benz, VW, G.H. Mumm, Land Rover, Play Energy Drink, Sprite, Jeep, Absa, Telkom, Nedbank, Huawei, Standard Bank, Old mutual, KFC, Cell C, Vuzu, Dove, and Castle Lite, Dove Hair.
Keep in touch with Courtnae on Social media:
Facebook: Courtnae Paul
Experience: 12 Years
Occupation: Dance Studio Owner, Coach, Judge, Choreographer and an Account Executive at a marketing company.
Anuq is no stranger to the hip hop scene with 12 years of experience under her belt. Known and revered for her expertise in House Dance (European / International House), she has judged, choreographed and coached for organizations across the country. Between Coaching, Judging, Choreographing, being an Account Executive at a marketing company and running her own dance studio. We just don’t know how she fits everything into 24 hours.
Her passion for dance began in the third grade when a teacher insisted she be a part of a hip-hop performance however, her official introduction into the hip-hop scene was when she was 17, through Hybrid crew in her then home, Cape Town.
In 2015 Anuq took a leap of faith and fulfilled a long-time dream of opening her own dance academy where she now coaches and teaches students.
“I am a firm believer of being able to somehow turn your passion into profit. This is far more consistent than waiting for gigs, that may not surface.” She adds
Anuq lives by the saying “we are the scene” and ensures that she is actively involved in supporting various events and projects aimed at growing the hip hop scene and women in hip hop.
Anuq is also an advocate for inclusivity in the workplace and feels that women in hip hop need to work together to become stronger and more confident.
“I genuinely think that we as women are far more driven, because generally we have to work a little harder to be seen and heard in a male dominated industry. But that doesn’t stop women from accomplishing what we set out to do. I think that we don’t easily lose sight of our goals and that we are relentless in accomplishing them.”
- Judge on “The Hustle”
- Shadow judging course at Hip Hop International Finals in the U.S.
- Choreographing Multi-award-winning artist, Khaya Mthethwa’s Live DVD recording
- Owner of The Cypher SA Dance Academy
Keep in touch with Anuq on social media:
Editors Note: We would like to do another feature on more women in hip hop soon. So, if you know of any other #BossLadies of hip hop let us know. Send us an email: Info@rocka-fella.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda has been involved with Rocka-Fella TV since its inception with a key focus on promoting women in hip hop. Catch up with us on our social media pages for more info about Breaking in South Africa.
YouTube: Rocka-Fella TV
Thanks for reading!