Nia-Amina Minor believes in the power of showing up. Whether on stage or in her communities, she knows being present brings a noticeable shift.
“You can really see how your choice to be present makes a difference,” Minor said. “Whether going to class, a film screening, or a performance, being involved, showing up, and supporting other artists are very important practices especially in Seattle where the community of artists and creative folk is more intimate.”
Minor is best known in Seattle as a company dancer and community engagement liaison for Spectrum Dance Theater. But since she arrived in Seattle four years ago after getting her contract, she has performed in various spaces in the city from stages like Velocity Dance Center to non-traditional dance spaces like Seattle Art Museum. She also coordinates DanceSPEAK, a free dance program for young people facing barriers to arts education. So far, all the opportunities have emerged organically one after another.
“It’s all been so interconnected from the very beginning … I went headlong into this, not knowing what I’d find up here in the Northwest,” Minor said. “So in a very real way, what I’ve learned about the city’s art scene has grown with and through my role in the dance company.”
It helps that Spectrum company members overlap with other parts of the Seattle dance scene, leading her into contact with artists like the Au Collective, Dani Tirrell, and David Rue. “Not to mention Donald Byrd’s collaborations bring us in contact with various institutions throughout Seattle,” she said.
Minor says this organic approach to artistry and community building is traceable to her work in Los Angeles prior to moving to Seattle. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Minor founded an art collective called No)one. Art House, which came together through “collective action to support and give back to not only the dance and arts community that lifted us up” including friends and family.
“Our guiding philosophy in the collective is: Not the Efforts of One. I carry that philosophy with me in all that I do,” she said.
Being trained in various dance forms, including black social dances at school and home, much of Minor’s work converses with Black realities and “the intersections of physical movement, memory, and rhythm.” But her move from Los Angeles to Seattle, as well as frequent uprooting in Seattle due to housing unaffordability, has made the idea of home a theme in recent works. The focus is further amplified given how this trend of displacement disproportionately affects black communities in both Seattle and Los Angeles.
“For me, constant movement or migration leaves a deeply unsettled feeling and strains a sense of home or roots,” she said. “So, what do you do when your sense of belonging is constantly disturbed or questioned?”
Her newest work, set to premiere on August 10 at Wa Na Wari center for Black art in the Central District, is a collaboration with musician Hannah Mayree and the Black Banjo Reclamation Project. The piece is their way of reclaiming a sense of home and self when it is constantly compromised. Minor will also be performing a site-specific solo on September 20 at the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station as part of a series curated by Seattle Art Museum’s David Rue for The AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway project. And of course, as Spectrum’s upcoming season will take much of her focus for the coming year.
But beyond company work, Minor will keep continuing to show up in the community, whether it’s taking classes at various studios across the city like Massive Monkees, having conversations with other artists, or just serendipitously walking into an African dance class around the corner from her home. “I usually just stroll in to events I find interesting and search for a movement experience that is honest,” Minor said.
“Instead of spending time ruminating over things like: Am I working with the right people? Am I making a good career move? My concern right now is do my colleagues stoke my curiosity? Does this movement bring me joy? Will the work I’m involved in affect an audience’s understanding or bring people together in new ways?” she asks. “There is great work happening in Seattle and the unheralded or under recognized often provide the backbone of a city.”