UPPER WEST SIDE — One year ago, New York City dancer Ashani Mfuko had just started a new job as a radio host, living out an unconventional dream to bring the dance community closer together with an online radio show devoted to the art of dance.
Now, the entreprenur has gained significant exposure and respect amongst the dance community with her show. Its 46 episodes have drawn in everyone from hip hop legend Buddha Stretch to American Ballet Theater dancer Misty Copeland, representing styles ranging from ballroom dancing to house and everything in-between.
The show also advises New York dancers on how to recover from debilitating injuries, what to do with a nonprofit dance company during statewide budget cuts, and even how to overcome misogyny in hip-hop.
"I think it's very brave, and she's really pushed through to get it," said ballet dancer Taylor Gordon, a former guest who appeared last year to talk about her experiences with injuries. "Online radio is an interesting choice because dance is so visual, but it seems to be working well. She's really cornered the market."
To celebrate her success, and honor women entrepreneurs like herself in light of breast cancer awareness month, Mfuko put on on an anniversary show Thursday night at the Triad Theater on the Upper West Side. The show featured performances by several New York City-based artists and former radio guests, including modern dancer Laurie M. Taylor, the group Ladies of Hip Hop Training Crew, and work by choreographer Roberta Mathes.
Other women highlighted were breast cancer survivor and house dancer Marjory Smarth and Hillary-Marie Michael, a tap dancer who invented what she calls "improvography"- choreography influenced by audience improvisation.
For the show's finale, the Ladies of Hip Hop Training Crew performed a piece by Michele Byrd-McPhee that involved house, popping and locking, and many other forms of the typically male-dominated form of hip hop- all performed by a crew of over a dozen women.
Byrd-McPhee, one of Mfuko's first guests on the show and executive director of Ladies of Hip Hop Festival, spent a good deal of time on the air speaking about the imbalance between the number of men and women who are involved in the hip hop dance form.
"I hope to be one of those people responsible for moving women in hip hop further along," she said. "I really love what I do, and I want to bring as many women along with me as humanly possible."
During an interview before Thursday's performance, Byrd-McPhee added that appearing on The Kiner Hour helped her realize that what motivates her as a dancer and choreographer runs much deeper than the movement she executes onstage.
"When people ask you questions about what you do, you don’t even think about you," Byrd-McPhee said about being interviewed on the show. "I’m speaking from the heart. It helps you learn about yourself. What you do, what moves you, things like that."
In turn, for Mfuko, it's women like Byrd-McPhee and Smarth who inspire her to keep doing what she does.
"I think it's really important for me as a radio host to showcase women in the arts, and women in multimedia, and just to show how fabulous we are, basically," Mfuko said.
"I think its really important for women, no matter what industry you’re in, to know that you don’t have to stay in a box," she added. "You can do whatever you want to do."