JEZEBEL is a dance performance inspired by the ‘Video Vixen’: female models who appeared in hip hop video clips in the late ’90s and early noughties.
Images in the mass media – and in music videos particularly – often projected the female in a hyper-sensualized way. The repetitive images in hip hop videos reinforce stereotypes associated in particular with black/dark/coloured women. Video Vixens – also referred to as ‘hip hop honeys’ or ‘video girls’ – were the subject of severe criticism and often typified as the ‘Jezebels’ of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In the pre-Youtube era – when MTV still meant Music Television – the Video Vixen model played a central role in video clips. In spite of the explicit lyrics (usually written by men) and the sensual, seductive and scantily clad appearance of the vixen, her performance had a great influence on the aesthetics of these clips. As well as on the popularity of the (male) artist.
During the past twenty years, the Video Vixen has both suffered and benefitted from this. Today, she stands for much more than the objectified ‘ride or die’ model within a male-dominated culture.
Jezebel refuses to be defined by others. She navigates the landscape of hip hop culture, looking for ways to reclaim her own image. Can Jezebel deconstruct the controversial stereotype associated with the black hip hop honey? How did this video girl redefine herself in 2019?
Nomination for the BNG Bank Theaterprijs 2020 theatre award (presentation September 2020).
From the jury report:
“With Jezebel, Cherish Menzo moves between dance and performance. She draws us into a slowed-down, deconstructed video clip with a video vixen centre stage. Using minimal means, she succeeds in powerfully turning the iconography of this oversexualized female character into a theatrical experience. The vixen ‘created’ by Menzo evolves and appeals to the imagination – also that of an audience that may not be at home in this world. The jury were impressed by the choices Menzo makes in revealing her protagonist. Going against expectations, Menzo chooses a discreet approach. Starting with stylization, the tempo gradually picks up as the character literally and metaphorically explodes. In Jezebel, Menzo has managed in a highly original way to show the black woman in hip hop culture in a new light.”
“Dancer and choreographer Cherish Menzo turns stereotypes upside down.” In February 2020, NRC newspaper selected Cherish Menzo as one of the ‘101 new talents’ in the dancers and choreographers category (9 in total).
Interview with Cherish Menzo in newspaper Het Parool
“Composer Michael Nunes creates a stunning soundscape, menacing and powerful. As is Menzo’s entire performance: at the intersection of threat and seduction; of alienation and seductiveness. Cherish Menzo stops short of making a real statement, and that is good; above all, she forces us to think about how we think in stereotypes.” Critic’s Choice in Theaterkrant
“Menzo is a force to be reckoned with, not only as a dancer, but also as a brave maker of her own work.” Movement Exposed
Menzo has continued to work with Frascati Producties since 2019: the study for JEZEBEL was presented at the Fringe, where Cherish Menzo won both the Best of Fringe Award and the International Bursary. The jury of Fringe 2019: “Menzo demonstrates that she is a very strong performer, able to shift effortlessly between female, male and animal. She is enchanting and gripping from start to finish.”
concept/choreography/performance Cherish Menzo lighting design/technical Niels Runderkamp music Michael Nunes costume Daniel Smedeman dramaturgy Renée Copraij consultation Berthe Spoelstra, Christian de Yav & Nicole Geertruida singing coach Shari Kok-Sey-Tjong co-production Frascati Producties sales GRIP campaign design Tatchatrin Choeychom supported by Amsterdam Fund for the Arts with thanks to Benjamin Kahn and Centre Chorégraphic Le Château
Dance-maker Cherish Menzo is striking for her powerful, controlled, inescapable physical presence.
In 2016, she created EFES with Nicole Geertuida: a punishing duet in which perfection and fallibility evoked intriguing questions about how we prefer to see human beings.
As part of Fraslab (Frascati Producties), in 2017 and in cooperation with Benjamin Kahn, Menzo created the solo Sorry, But I Feel Slightly Disidentified…: a cartographical examination of how we experience the other on the basis of a series of physical and performative ‘meetings’. She then went on to make LIVE (Het Veem, 2018): a mix of dance performance and pop/rock concert, in cooperation with musician Müşfik Can Müftüoğlu.
In 2019, Menzo continued to work with Frascati Producties: JEZEBEL became a dance production inspired by the Video Vixen phenomenon from hip hop video clips of the ’90s. But today’s hip hop honey refuses to be defined by others and shakes her image up by deconstructing and redefining it. Cherish Menzo presented a first try-out at the Fringe 2019 before the full production premièred in Frascati in November 2019.
Cherish Menzo (1988) graduated in 2013 from Amsterdam University of the Arts (Urban Contemporary Dance) and has since appeared in work by the likes of Eszter Salamon, Akram Khan, Leo Lerus, Hanzel Nezza, Olivier Dubois, Lisbeth Gruwez, Jan Martens and Nicole Beutler.