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News :: Gender and Sexuality

Break Out! Montazh performs at the first annual LADYFEST

Break Out!
Montazh performs at the first annual Ladyfest

B-girls being bad: The Montazh dance company.

Performing Arts:

From Horses to Tangos
Behind "Shades"
On the Move
Intimate Evening
Bringing Art Alive
The Performing Arts Channel

Kate Bredimus
Wednesday April 28, 2004

There aren't enough ladies doing headspins and windmills in this world. That was the basic premise behind the creation of Montazh, an all female hip-hop dance and breakdancing troupe based in Philadelphia who will be performing at Ladyfest, a women-centric arts festival making its Richmond debut this weekend.

"In hip-hop culture as a whole, women are underrepresented, or the representations that are there are very negative," says Montazh co-founder Michele Byrd-McPhee. "Visibly in hip-hop dance, which is primarily male, women are treated more as decoration or jewelry."

That just wasn't going to fly with Byrd-McPhee. In 1998 she and fellow dancer Crystal Frazier founded Montazh to promote women in hip-hop. At the time Byrd-McPhee was dancing in the Philadelphia house scene and taking lessons from Frazier at the Koresh Dance Center. Both women had commented to each other on the lack of opportunities for female dancers, and decided to do something to change the status quo.

Montazh has since become a formidable force in the Philadelphia dance community. There are now 12 dancers and two-trainees in the troupe, which puts on two or three performances every couple of months. For the past two years, Montazh has performed at Philadelphia's esteemed Fringe Festival. There have also been appearances on "Philly Live," "Good Day Philadelphia," and MTV's "Global Groove."

What draws attention to Montazh, besides the dancers' gender-defying choreography, is the diversity within the company. Compared to a classic dance form like ballet, which breeds dancers from an early age and often requires they be a specific weight, Montazh is an all-ages, multi-ethnic group of women who come in every shape and size. "As in any other dance company, we look for things like technique and stage presence. We don't look at size. We're not exclusive in any way, shape or form. This isn't an all-black dance company."

Nor is it all hip-hop. Montazh's performances often include spoken word, African dance, ballet, classical, jazz, modern dance, tap, stepping, house, breaking and Capoeira (a Brazilian form of martial arts).

Montazh will perform four pieces at Ladyfest, focusing on break dancing, jazz, modern dance, African and hip-hop traditions. "Ladyfest is a great opportunity to show all we're capable of doing," says Byrd-McPhee. "It will give an example of how diverse we are."

For Byrd-McPhee, who didn't start dancing professionally until she was 28, dance was never a conscious decision. "It was never really a goal to pursue it professionally. It just fell in my lap. I was always a dancer in my own mind. I was always dancing in the living room."

Currently McPhee is the only member of Montazh who supports herself on dance alone. The 33-year old mother just finished teaching an introductory course on hip-hop at Bryn Mawr College. She quit her job as a financial planner last April to focus on bringing Montazh to the next level. Recently the company was awarded part of the Pew Charitable Trusts Program's "Dance Advance." The money will be used to hire four masters of hip-hop dance to come and train members in different types of choreography. Some of the money will go to compensating members of the troupe who have to take time off of work to train.

"This is phase one of the plan," Byrd-McPhee explains. "Eventually we'd like to be able to sustain employees, have an actual office outside the home, and be part of the Philadelphia arts community, maybe even a part of the national and international communities. We'd like to have continuous training and workshops for our dancers. Getting to perform is just icing on the cake."

Montazh holds a workshop and performance for Ladyfest
Friday, April 30
Randolph Community Center, 1415 Grayland Ave.
6 p.m.

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News :: Peace & War

This Just In

"While American commanders in Iraq have not asked for more troops, the Pentagon's detailed planning, disclosed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his senior military and civilian aides, is the strongest indication that the recent decision to delay for 90 days the return of 20,000 troops at a time of intense fighting might not be the temporary measure officials had described."

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:: Civil & Human Rights : Elections & Legislation : Gender and Sexuality : Protest Activity

March for Women's Lives interview with pro-choice leader

On April 25, Kate Michelman will join thousands from across the United States converging on Washington, D.C., for the March for Women's Lives. Michelman is the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, one of seven groups organising the march.

Seven Oaks interviewed Michelman about the March for Women's Lives and the right to choice.

1. What is the current state of women's rights in the United States?

Today, women's rights generally, and our right to choose in particular, are threatened as they have never been before. For the first time since the Supreme Court guaranteed reproductive freedom in 1973, we have both houses of Congress, the President, and a majority of state leaders lined up in opposition to that basic right.

Read the full interview: http://www.sevenoaksmag.com/questions/09.html

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News :: Elections & Legislation : Media

How blogs are changing electoral politics

These days, everybody has one. Your friends have them, profs have them, journalists have them. Even Noam Chomsky has one. Moby does too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many politicians are also jumping on the latest Internet trend. In the United States, the campaigns of both President George W. Bush and Democratic Party nominee John Kerry feature blogs, also known as weblogs, on their official websites. During their candidacies for the leadership of the Canadian Liberal and Conservative parties, respectively, Prime Minister Paul Martin and Belinda Stronach also kept blogs.

Read the full story: http://www.sevenoaksmag.com/features/08_blogging.html

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Announcement :: Drug War & Pharmaceuticals : Miscellaneous

Were you damaged by Schering Plough's interferon treatment?

Class action lawsuit forming over the severe damage caused by use of Schering Plough's interferons on Hepatitis C sufferers. Ed Masry, Erin Brockovich's lawyer is on board to fight for you. Fill out this form and make them pay.

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News :: Crime & Police

"VCU Student Charged with Vandalism" OR "Richmond Refuses To Be Smart About Graffiti"

A quick summary of some of the facts known about the arrest of Refuse to be Smart's creator, including the estimated number of people that see the rollered letters in question daily.

. . .Which is seriously really useful information. I'm glad to know our city is putting some real elbow grease into solving the problems of life in Richmond.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights : Crime & Police : Labor & Class : Protest Activity

Support GW Students Arrested for Defending Worker Rights!

Today, at 2pm -- just a few hours ago -- the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. arrested a dozen student activists from the George Washington University and Georgetown University as they urged the George Washington University to take a stand on workers' rights!

Please send the message below to GWU President Trachtenberg and call his office at 202-994-6500!
Demand that he drop the charges against the students and agree to their demands!

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Commentary :: Right Wing

Fatal Blind Spot

As Richard Clarke's testimony demonstrated, the Bush administration believed their own campaign rhetoric instinctively rejected the Clinton administration's hard-won wisdom as worthless.

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