(Dancing) To the beat of her own drum: Izzy Odigie

Izzy Odigie is the Cover Star of ONETRIBEMAG’s Winter Issue

Photos by Zara Israel

By Antoinette Isama

Iziegbe “Izzy” Odigie is a Nigerian choreographer and creative director who’s continuing to come into her own with her artistry rooted in Afro-fusion and hip-hop movements. When ONETRIBEMAG first linked with her back in 2018, she was 22 and fresh out of college—breaking the internet with her choreography to A-Star’s “Eggplant” while working with the likes of Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Sho Madjozi, and more. 

She’s since maintained her presence online and in real-life, touching the stage at Burna Boy’s historic concert at the Apollo Theater, embarking on international tours to spread her knowledge and love for dance, and growing TRŸBE—her creative agency ensuring opportunities and longevity for Afro dancers and their careers.

Over the past week, all eyes have set on her latest creative offering during these crazy times—an eponymous dance film that Odigie says is an ode of gratitude to the people who’ve supported her and have been present throughout her journey as an artist. Iziegbe, which translates to “patience” in the Edo language, strikes a balance between pulling one into the story of her emotions while leaving the viewer to interpret the message she sends with each segment for themselves. 

Shot and co-directed by soof Light, Odigie uses five flowers—daffodils, roses, violets, irises, and tulips—to explore who she is as an individual, as a creative, and as a peer in the industry in just 10 minutes. Ever intentional with the music selection, the styling, and the movement, her vulnerability plays as a real strength and is a clear foundation of this project. Her newly-launched website further engulfs you into the concept.

IZIEGBE is yet another reminder that Odigie is a visionary who stealthily challenges the notion of a dancer’s capabilities and position in African pop culture. Not only are her movements audacious, fluid, and seemingly effortless, but they arise from the depths of her soul.

Two moments of note from the film include footage of young Nigerians from the #EndSARS protests as an opener to “Violet”, as well as Odigie closing out in “Roses” with a dedication to her friend and collaborator, the late Love Divine Ike, known as Picture Kodak. This year has been a whirlwind for so many of us experiencing an insurmountable level of loss in every capacity while being a test of our strengths, convictions, and capabilities as a people. It was cathartic, yet comforting to see how Odigie has taken both important circumstances that hit close to home and use them as a means of substantive expression.

The film is an anticipation to see what Odigie will give us next. A new standard has been set, thanks to the OGs in the dance industry who gave her the needed spark, of how an Afro dancer can stand firm in their artistry and create for the culture. This issue’s cover shoot parallels the flowers we see in the film, with ethereal photography by Zara Israel, set design by Kadi Kargbo, and styling by both Nikki Billie Jean and Brownie Brown. We also were able to have a brief sit-down with her after the shoot, with some highlights from our conversation below.

On making the title of the dance film eponymous:

My name, Iziegbe,’ means ‘patience’ in the Benin language—I’m an Edo girl. The project embodies a lot of things like my emotions throughout this year—having to exercise a lot of patience like a lot of people have. It’s just showing where I am at creatively and what I want to do and what I want to put out—I’m reintroducing myself to the industry. So it just made perfect sense to name it after myself because it’s taking everything that I am in the best way I can explain it to others and putting it in a visual.

On Izzy tailoring her creativity for a film versus for social media:

It’s similar to if I was shooting a video for Instagram, for example, but 10 times bigger. We’re now going into costume design, creative direction, fashion direction—I’m employing a whole team of people to collaborate and make it much more than an Instagram video that trends for two days. Just to make it more than a snack—it’s a full-course meal. 

On the important role of dancers in African music today:

Throughout this year especially, a lot of people have been doing IG lives, where people in the industry are talking to one another about the state of the music industry. And one thing that always comes up is that dancers are vital parts of pushing the culture. With that, if you guys know that, why don’t we treat dancers with that same energy? 

I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. Obviously [with] branding in the dance community—not a lot of people know what that is; not a lot of people do it well. But I’m a firm believer that the dance industry can save itself. I think there are a lot of dancers on the continent and in the diaspora that are trailblazers—they’re doing their own thing and creating their own brands, being able to travel, being able to collaborate with different brands and companies. So I think we are slowly changing that narrative.

On Izzy being a key player in changing the narrative:   

I think I’m one of the people—at least I hope so. Especially in the United States, just [by] creating independence separate from the artist, being able to tour, being able to teach, being able to create my own content and then collaborate with other artists also. I’ve been fortunate to have the career that I’ve had so far, so I think I’m doing a good job.

On this project being a reaction to this year in quarantine:

I did invest a lot into it. This year was crazy—it felt like I had no control of things that were happening. From personal to business, with COVID and the pandemic you couldn’t move—I couldn’t meet all the goals I set this year. I felt like I needed to take control and create. The gigs that are coming in are not what I want to do right now, so if this is only I can drop this year then it has to be quality with the help of some dope people I know that could bring it to life. 

Watch our full interview in the video below:


Photographer: Zara Israel (https://www.instagram.com/zaravisuals/)

Videographer: Retji Dakum (https://www.instagram.com/retji/)

Journalist: Antoinette Isama (https://www.instagram.com/justantoinette/)

MUA: Nikita Tibiru (https://instagram.com/makeup.nikita)

Hair: Princess Abrafi (https://instagram.com/byprincessabrafi)

Set Designer: Kadi Kargbo (https://www.instagram.com/assemblybyk/)

Fashion Director & Fashion Stylist: Nikki Billie Jean (https://www.instagram.com/nikkibilliejean)

Fashion Stylist: Brownie Brown (https://www.instagram.com/highfashionthrift/)

Creative Director: Troy Massa (https://www.instagram.com/troy.massa)

Executive Producer: Ayo Omolewa (instagram.com/thetribeguy)

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