Kenna-Camara Cottman: 100 Creatives

Kenna-Camara Cottman: 100 Creatives

Number 61: Kenna-Camara Cottman (a.k.a. Kenna Sarge)

City: Minneapolis

Years spent living in MN: All my years

Dance artist Kenna-Camara Cottman (who has also performed as Kenna Sarge), has been exploring dance both old and new for over 20 years. Her choreography often fuses West African dance with hip hop, pulling traditional dances into the present, and tying newer movements to the past. Cottman's dance company, Voice of Culture, introduces young dancers to both African and African American dance, drumming, voice, and culture. In addition to teaching dance around the Twin Cities, Cottman has performed at the Southern Theater with musical group Burkina Electric, at the Walker's Choreographers' Evening, and at the always-exciting Rabbit Show hosted at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.

Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:

1. Languages both foreign and well-known.

2. Physicality and the desire to make something hard to do.

3. Remix and fusion.

Kenna-Camara Cottman: 100 Creatives

Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

1. My parents. Both have second careers as artists. I watched them doing their art alongside their "real jobs" while I was growing up.

2.  Young griots from Senegal and other West African countries who are creating new things out of their traditions.

3.  My daughter. I wanted her to see Mom doing her thing so she would realize how to do her thing.

What was your last big project? 

Completing a residency with my company, Voice of Culture, and another youth dance company Young Dance. I pushed my company members to become teachers, and the Young Dance company members got into traditional West African dance. The result is a traditional West African ballet that tells the story of a year in the life of an agricultural community.

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?

Momentum 2011, to be performed July 21-23.

Creative/career high point (so far)?

Black Choreographers' Evening 2003-2005
Kenna Sarge: The Missing Pieces at the Southern Theater

What has been your biggest challenge as an artist or organization?

Balancing my family with my creative needs. I like to make my kids a hot breakfast and I like a clean house. I like to work late into the night on media projects. I like to be in shows and have marathon production weeks. I like to go to the beach with my kids and not have a time to come out of the water. It's very hard to balance.

Mom+Daughter Doundounba from Kenna Cottman on Vimeo.

How has the local scene changed since you began your career?

The Minnesota dance scene has crystallized. We have a certain flavor: quirky, intelligent, meaning-based movement, physical. I think I am a part of that flavor even though the scene is very white (as in, white people). But I'm a part of the scene and there are other black artists and artists of color that are doing their thing.

Describe your last dream:

I was arguing with my daughter. It was a nightmare.

If you had to live in the world of a novel, which would you choose and why?

Kindred by Octavia Butler. A modern black woman gets snapped back to slavery days. I want to know how I would handle what my ancestors had to go through.

Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.

Past creatives, so far:

100. Jennifer Davis
99. Sean Smuda
98. Chuck U
96. Amy Rice
95. Kara Hendershot

70. Tim Sievert
67. Dessa
66. Heidi Arneson
65. Erin Currie
64. Jayme Halbritter
63. Amy Buchanan
62. Kimberly Jurek

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >