This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Esie Mensah. Esie pronounced AC began her journey into dance at a very young age, practicing the dances of her culture every Sunday. She enjoyed dancing for the love of dancing and did not attend a dance studio growing up. She took the initiative in her teens to expand her knowledge of movement and discipline receiving a Black Belt in a mixture of Karate, Jui Jitsu, and Tae Kwon Do. In high school she decided to take a Studio Hip Hop class and was invited to join the company. Finding the company expensive at the time she was unable to take part in the program, but continued dancing for recreation. Dancing throughout her teens into her twenties, her love and passion could not be denied. Moving Forward with her friend Nadine she formed the dance group Xklusiv at McMaster University and went on to organize and perform in the well known University Dance Competition OUCH. In Dec 2007 she graduated from the George Brown Commercial Dance program where she trained in Acting Vocal, Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop and Musical Theatre. Upon graduation she continued training in all different styles ranging from African, House, Wacking, Step and Dancehall. Spending the last 3 ½ years working as a professional dancer, using her Theatre background and training she performed in the South African Hit Musical Umoja. She has appeared in Disney’s Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam and Drake’s Commercial for the MTV Video Awards. Esie recently toured Canada with Artist Divine Brown opening for the Backstreet Boys. Her Live performance credits include major events like Toronto Pride dancing for Deborah Cox and The MMVA’s dancing for Flo Rida. She has appeared in music video’s for Grammy award winner Nelly Furtado, Juno award winner Divine Brown, Addictiv, Dru and Lauren Pritchard. I had the pleasure of being 1 of 4 principal dancers along side Esie in Carl Henry’s video for Dim the lights. Its always an Honor working with someone who is passionate and disciplined and Esie is just that. Fierce, Hard Working and On Point, Esie continues to train and perform with Artists in Motion aka AIM, Catalyst The Company and Canada’s #1 Step team Black Ice. Esie is proof that it doesn’t take training at a top studio from a young age to be a successful working dancer. It takes Love, Drive, Passion and Hard Work. Check Out what Esie had to say in this weeks shout out…..
Bio written by Nikki
Nikki:Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Esie:My first memory of me dancing would be my weekly Sunday cultural practices at an old wooden studio somewhere in Toronto. Being there every Sunday and learning all of the dances and being told I’m too young to perform.
Nikki:Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Esie:What chu like – Da Brat feat Tyrese (pretty sure I was 12 lol)
Nikki: What advice can you give to dancers when it comes to free styling?
Esie:Let go! Be free and do what comes naturally. Allow your spirit to move and you can refine and alter afterwards.
Nikki:What does it take for you to get into choreography mode?
Esie: One major thing when I’m creating is the vision for what I want to accomplish. Where I want things to go, what accents I want to manipulate. I put together the main components of story and worry about the moves afterwards. I always say, “as long as it makes sense in my head I’m good!”
Nikki:Name some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Esie:I’m more old school than anything else but Fosse is huge for me. I am die hard fan of Debbie Allen. I don’t know if many dancers are familiar with how amazing this woman is and how hard she worked to get where she is. When she did “America” from West Side Story at the Tony Awards or the American Music Awards with Gregory Hines….dancing just isn’t the same after that. Her passion is written all over her every time she moves.
Nikki:Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Esie:Aside from my Artists in Motion family, I must say Catalyst is apart of my family of extremely talented ladies. I enjoy the vision that they created for the 5th element show last May both as a dancer and spectator. These ladies hard workers! You have no idea how impactful they are until it hits you dead in your eyes. Very proud and thankful to be given the opportunity to work with them.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Esie: Favorite artists is split between Divine Brown and Lauren Pritchard – Divine because I have been working with her for almost 3 years and she is one of the most down to earth people you will meet. Every time we have a show with the whole gang we always know its guaranteed laughter for the whole time. I love that she is someone I can call family. Lauren Pritchard, is a UK artist that I had the pleasure of working with on her video choreographed by Aakoman AJ Jones. One of the best experiences with an artist on set by far. So down to earth and in love with her art and it showed. Her kindness is so genuine and ill never forget that about her.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Esie:I choreographed a highschool play for an afterschool program called COBHA @ Bishop Marracco/Thomas Merton Black Heritage Month
Nikki:What qualities do you think Toronto Dancers possess that dancers from other parts of the Country and States don’t?
Esie:True diversity. Because there is no set way a Toronto dancer dances our advantage is that we can blend in with just about anyone.
Nikki:Any advice for emerging Dancers/Choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Esie:Hard work pays off. A lot of people underestimate it but hard work truly does pay off. Don’t worry about the need for instant results, word hard at your craft and then let you work speak for itself. With so many dancers and choreographers in the city, you want to sit comfortably knowing you can let your work speak for itself.
BIG THANK YOU TO ESIE FOR BEING A PART OF T.D.O.T. XO
Check out Esie in this Dance Battle