Coming into the Commercial Dance Program at George Brown College with no prior formal dance training, Esie Mensah poured herself into the program to get where she is now.
Three years into a university degree, Esie decided to take a year off to do the Commercial Dance Program and see where it would take her. “I always knew that I was a natural dancer growing up,” she says, but with no formal or technical training, it was quite a big change. Esie had focused on traditional West-African dance and hip-hop growing up where she built her foundation. However, coming to George Brown Dance was the first time she was really introduced to Ballet, Jazz, Modern and musical theatre in an institutional environment.
There was a lot of extra work to do, but Esie put everything she had into the program. “Dance was the one thing that I loved,” she says, “so I decided to pursue it and here I am.”
“As artists, there will be many
incredible opportunities to explore
new avenues and to grow.
You continue to develop and learn
throughout your career.”
Now she’s worked in just about every field within dance that she can get involved in. Right out of George Brown Dance, Esie focused on the commercial world, working with artists and doing music videos and some movies. That path eventually faded and she found her way back to traditional West African dance. Working with dance and theatre companies was an introduction to larger stage production and an understanding of the world of presenting and producing your own work.
“I started doing more stage shows, more theatre shows,” she says, “Obviously mainly as a dancer and then got asked to produce shows.” She has worked with various theatre companies to create movement and choreography for productions. She is currently working with Soul Pepper Theatre Company and is continuing to develop and produce her own show, Shades, which will be presented as a full-length work in the fall.
Esie has found a path in many areas of the dance world. Being open to the various opportunities that have come her way has kept her learning throughout her career. “To me, everything is informing each other,” she explains. “I think that even though you can be put in different scenarios, as long as the through line of what it is that you’re doing makes sense, then you’re on the right track.”
As artists, there will be many incredible opportunities to explore new avenues and to grow. You continue to develop and learn throughout your career. “Being able to just explore what else is possible,” Esie says, “I’m really thankful that I’ve been able to fall into all these different spaces that have challenged me.”
Esie is currently creating a dance work with the 2018 Commercial Dance Program students. It will premiere on July 24 and 25 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
Photos courtesy of Esie Mensah.
Written by Elise Tigges
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