Michele Byrd-McPhee is the executive director and founder of Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival (LOHHF) and directing cofounder of Montazh Performing Arts Company. Montazh Performing Arts Company was created in October of 1998, when fellow dancers Crystal Frazier and Michele came together to discuss their frustration with limited performance opportunities for female hip-hop dancers in the Philadelphia area. Montazh PAC was a Philadelphia based all female hip-hop dance company. Now based in New York, Montazh Performing Arts Company has now evolved into the “Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival Crew”
Despite these impressive accomplishments, Michele never formally studied dance, preferring instead to forge her own path. Michele, originally a Philadelphia native, moved to New Jersey at the age of four. It was in New Jersey that Michele began her “dance training,” consisting of careful attention to episodes of the 1980’s television series “Fame,” mixed with occasional classes here and there. Michele continued to dance throughout her childhood and by her high school years was part of every high school dance performance possible. Growing up during the emergence of the Hip-Hop culture Michele embraced “street dance” and began dancing with local “club” and “house” dancers in area nightclubs.
Michele, has danced in music videos, battled in the club scene and traveled along as the Hip-Hop dance culture exploded onto stages, in studios and in theaters. Being one of the few women dancing along side groups of men, she became increasingly aware of the narrow opportunities for women in Hip-Hop. Her experiences as a woman in Hip-Hop dance were the catalyst for her to create an outlet for female dancers. Michele created a safe space, a neutral zone where the art does not get lost or stifled because of complexities of male/female relationships. Spaces were it is ok to be women as you define it, not as defined by others. Her work celebrates womanhood… embraces being a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, as well as an artist and how all those things intersect.
Now living in the NYC area, Michele most recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival, presented a new work at Connecticut College during their annual weeklong Ladies of Hip-Hop residency program and had the honor of being invited to join the prestigious New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award’s committee. Michele provides organization and artist consulting services; production management services and continues to be an advocate for the Hip-Hop dance community, especially for women.
2015 Clutchfest Hip-Hop Dance Awards – Rennie Harris Puremovement Award.
2008 Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant – $2,500
The Art and Change Grant provides project-based grants of up to $2,500 to women and trans* artists in the Delaware Valley region to fund art for social change projects.
2008 Leeway Transformation Award – $15,000
The Transformation Award provides unrestricted annual awards of $15,000 to women and trans* artists living in the Delaware Valley region who create art for social change and have done so for the past five years or more, demonstrating a long-term commitment to social change work.
Montazh Performing Arts Company
2004 Dance Advance, the Pew Charitable Trusts – $18,000
2006 Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant – $2,500