Yeukai Zinyoro-Chandiposha and Lynsey Mambwere have walked unique journeys in the Zimbabwean dance industry. Yeukai started off as part of the acclaimed Rolx Dance Crew and Lynsey worked with dance studios as well as the Innovative Dance Crew before going solo. Yet, when they chronicle their experiences, it is apparent that they share similar experiences.
In this post, they take us through their experiences in the Zimbabwean dance industry.
FROM HOBBY TO PROFESSION- LYNSEY’S STORY
When 29-year-old Lynsey hears tales from her childhood, it usually includes her being a prancing toddler. However, from her own recollection, she began dancing in high school for fun and professionally from the age of 23.
“My mom says I started dancing at 2, I don’t know about that,” she chuckles.
Dance was undoubtedly sprinkled across her growing years, tagging along to dance rehearsals with her friends before deciding to pursue it professionally in 2012. Dancehall and hip-hop were her genres of choice.
“I had been dancing for a while and I had been enjoying it, it’s just something that I loved to do,” she says matter of factly.
In the process, ‘Lynsey Lynn’ was born.“
Lynsey’s dance career has been remarkable so far, with projects including a two-year residency in China between 2015 and 2017 and performances in South Africa. However, sustenance as a dancer has been difficult.
“It’s hard when you are a freelancer because projects come here and there, so you don’t have a constant income, it’s not definite that you know, ‘next month I’m going to sustain myself’, so things just pop up,” she says.
A SPIRITUAL CALLING- YEUKAI’S STORY
Yeukai was lured into dancing by her sister in High School and she was initially hesitant.
“..She tricked me into joining a crew she was in. We were all friends from church,” Yeukai says.
While she exhibited artistic traits growing up, regularly sketching and drawing, she did not envision herself as a performing artist. Until a revelation from God reshaped her path.
“He spoke to me, he said Yeu, if you choose not to, it’s fine. I’m happy with you, I love you still, but if you don’t, I’m not going to ask you to do it again,” she explains.
Yeukai continued with the performance her sister had asked her to do but tried her best to conceal herself whilst on stage.
“I danced, but my hat was up to my nose, I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to see anything,” she says.
From then on, she enrolled at NUST University in Bulawayo where she met fellow dancer Sean Mambwere and they formed the Rolx Dance Crew and doors started opening for her, participating in a US tour and a US Embassy Exchange Programme.
“Every decision I made in my twenties was about Rolx and Rolx the ministry, we were a ministry going commercial so that’s how we came to Harare in the end,” says Yeukai.
Yeukai continued to travel solo to different parts of the world including Botswana, Nigeria, and Germany, always representing her crew in the process.
SHARED EXPERIENCES- LYNSEY AND YEUKAI
“You are a dancer first, THEN a female,” says Yeukai, that’s how it should be, and yet the world they love dearly has chosen to spotlight their gender before anything else.
The female gender bracket comes with preconceived notions and stereotypes placed upon you the moment you walk onto a stage.
“Being a woman in Zimbabwe in dance is very hard. It’s like every time you go on stage you have to prove a point, which shouldn’t be the case,” explains Lynsey.“.. When you go on stage, there are certain dances they expect from you. When they see something different, they are sort of shocked,” she says.
The expectation is that you dance provocatively adds Yeukai. “Some expect it to the point of being offended when you dance properly.”
“That’s been the narrative for I’d say, over a decade, for as long as the Zimbabwean dance industry has existed,” says Yeukai on the expectations placed on females in the industry. Women are also expected to wear revealing clothing including “bum shorts” she explains.
Furthermore, women’s capabilities are questioned and undermined in comparison to their male counterparts.
“Whenever you go on stage, the spotlight is always on you…People think the female in the crew is always the weakest link..If it was a battle and if they were to select one person from the crew, they would be like- ‘I want to battle the girl’,” says Lynsey.
The fact that women are outnumbered exacerbates the issue, a growing problem in the industry.
Despite the challenges including a back and leg injury over the past two years, Yeukai’s passion comes first, and finding purpose in her craft has propelled her in new and fulfilling directions. She is currently working as an Allied Arts director and an adjudicator for competitions and is running a children’s program teaching dance in schools called ‘Little Arrows’.
Lynsey is continuing to grow and explore new avenues in her dance path, including being part of a production called HerStory in which she challenged herself to take on roles in public speaking that she was previously uncomfortable with.
“You are a good dancer AND a YOU’RE a woman, my mistake and maybe the mistake of the industry is that you’ll be classified as a female dancer as though we have different rules. You are a good dancer, period,” says Yeukai.