“Swing around, boom boom boom!” Instructor Jenay Anolin’s voice echoes through the hollow studio. As bass-heavy music begins flowing through a large speaker six dancers mimic movements in front of a wall mirror. “Don’t lose your rhythm,” Anolin bellows. “That’s a part of hip-hop.”
Mix’d Ingrdnts, the Oakland-based all-female dance collective, is in charge of this Monday night hip-hop dance lesson at In the Groove dance studio on 14th Street. Tonight, Anolin directs the class while co-founder Samara Atkins looks on from a seat in the corner.
The two started the collective in 2010, after meeting two years earlier at an audition. Over the past three years, the company has grown from three dancers to 17, plus four in training. Though Atkins and Anolin will sometimes invite male choreographers or teachers to work with the group, the company is fundamentally for women. “We wanted to keep it all female to empower the women in the dance community to be a stronger unit,” Atkins said.
A festival flier inspired the name “Mix’d Ingrdnts”. “On the flier there was a tongue and it said ‘bitter, sour, sweet’,” Atkins explained. “The idea was to have these different things as ingredients that you would put into a mixing bowl, to create something amazing that the Bay Area hadn’t seen.”
To Atkins, those ingredients include everything from traditional tap and ballet, to modern dance and more esoteric forms. “We have an aerialist that does hoop dancing in the air,” Atkins said. We wanted to be a company that could do all of that and more.”
Angelica Tolentino, a teacher at Arise High School, recently joined Mix’d Ingrdnt’s training group. She first saw the dance crew at the Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival in Oakland’s San Antonio Park and was inspired when she saw the women freestyling. “It was good to see diverse women represent and be really strong and fierce,” Tolentino said.
The company incorporates various dance styles into their routines, including hip-hop, break dancing, samba and waacking – a style of dance from the 70’s that involves moving legs and arms to music beats. The group offers an “Intro to Waacking” class on Sundays at In the Groove, which is open to all dance levels.
Tolentino was excited to find out about the waacking class. “I was drawn to it because with waacking, the hits are really fierce but it’s still super feminine,” she said. “It’s women still owning their sexuality and their bodies but not being exploited, so it was really powerful to see that.”
Mix’d Ingrdnts is currently preparing for their second full-length show titled “Queen” at Laney College Theater, in February. According to Atkins, “the show takes a look at how society views a woman and how we are creating or saying what a queen is to us, regardless of these external factors.”