Young Voices in DAD

1 Mar 2021

Mayowa Ogunnaike

Tell us who you are and what is your practice?

I am a British Nigerian freelance dance artist. Currently, I live in Leeds but I grew up in South London. I graduated with a BA (hons) in contemporary dance at Trinity Laban (2017) and afterwards became an apprentice dancer with Phoenix Dance Theatre. Since then, I have worked as a company dancer for Uchenna, Ace Dance and Music and currently Rosie Kay Dance Company.

What do you love most about DAD? 

What I relish about DAD is the strong sense of community. There is a natural desire to elevate one another, to support and to celebrate ourselves as artists. I didn’t know many black dancers while I was training (I was one of three in my year group) but since working I have been blessed to meet so many incredible artists that identify as DAD, and we are all in the same whatsapp groups!

What challenges do you see for DAD generally?

I see a huge disconnect between the number of young black dancers in youth groups and those who progress on to professional training. There are so many gifted youth DAD who aspire to be artists yet in UK institutions this is so poorly reflected. I was disappointed, when I began training, not to see more people who looked like me amongst students and educators. The challenge is to make dance a viable and accessible career path for young members of the diaspora.

Why do you feel it is important that young dancers are seen and heard in the DAD community? 

Amongst dancers generally there is a great ability to absorb, shift and respond to new information. We are an ever-evolving community with an instinct to move in relation to the world around us. However, I think this urge is particularly present in young dancers; the desire to shape an identity for oneself and discover what that can offer to the world. I think this energy contributes a lot to the dance community, it’s inspiring and stimulates innovation.

What positive changes would you like to see or opportunities you would like more of for young dancers in the field of DAD? 

I would like to build upon the conversations we are currently having within the community regarding, identity, equality and representation and I certainly would like to see a meaningful response reflected in the work being created and across our education systems.

Do you have any upcoming dance plans?

Over the next few months, I will be working with Rosie Kay Dance Company. I will be performing the role of Juliet in a new interpretation of Romeo and Juliet which will premiere at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre. This is my first live performance since the very first lockdown, so I am itching to get back on stage!