Esie Mensah is an award-winning dancer and choreographer who has worked with the best: Rihanna, Drake, French Montana, Janelle Monae, to name but a few. Beyond being regarded as one of Canada’s preeminent leaders in urban dance, Esie is known for building a whole new dance genre: Afrofusion. On Saturday, Esie will be one of the phenomenal speakers to take the stage at TEDxToronto to share her thoughts on this year’s theme RISE.

In anticipation, Esie shares with us what dance means to her, what’s currently guiding her journey, and how she’s gained a following and reputation in the cut-throat and ultra competitive world of dance.  Her responses are wise, and applicable to every industry.

SDTC: What does dance do for you?

EM: I am able to use my passion of dance to live out my purpose which is to heal and inspire people. Dance gifts me the opportunity to be a channel. I am thankful to hold that gift and give people the chance to experience something they haven’t before. 

In short, what does the word RISE mean to you?

RISE is a call into your highest and full self.

What mantra is currently guiding your journey?

Trust in the unseen because it will light the path of your journey. 

When you look back at the past few years, what decision, or move, has really helped your career?

The decision that shifted my career was a choice to start training in traditional West African forms. This shift occurred due to the closed doors I was experiencing as a dark skin woman in the dance industry. Lack of work and opportunities left me discouraged from being able to choose a career that I also dreamed of. But training in West African dance again literally transformed my life. From this decision, I started developing Afrofusion, formed my companies (Black Stars Collective and Esie Mensah Creations) and followed the path of becoming a storyteller. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t make that decision. 

When/where do you love to dance most?

I love to dance in spaces where my spirit feels free. That could be anywhere from a nightclub to the stage. I chase after the feeling of enlightenment. 

Smart and succinct answers leave much to contemplate—don’t miss Esie, and other Toronto trailblazers, next Saturday at TEDxToronto. Get your ticket now