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TEDxToronto 2019: Esie Mensah, Dancer and Choreographer

An award-winning dancer and choreographer, Esie is considered to be a leading dance artist in Canada’s urban music scene and has single-handedly built a new dance genre: Afrofusion. In the past, she has worked with talent such as Rihanna, Drake, French Montana, Janelle Monae, and events including TIFF, FIFA, Luminato, WE Day and more.

(To see Esie live on the TEDxToronto stage on October 26th, purchase your tickets here.)

What was your first “million-dollar idea”?
I loved writing poetry when I was in high-school. I wanted to publish a book of poetry to the public and perform my work around the world.

What’s the wildest idea you had to sell somebody on? How did you do it?
The support that I had to seek out while planning my first production! Getting people to commit to my vision and support a self-funded dance production called Akoma. Akoma was where my creativity really took a turn and I was able to see my potential when you create on a budget. Beautiful things can grow from closed doors.

Name a big idea in your lifetime that you can’t believe never took off?
Equality for everyone—women, people of colour, Indigenous people, LGBTQ, etc.

Name one thing, as a society, we aren’t spending enough time thinking about? What would be a good first step?
Listen. We must be brave enough to hear each other’s story and empathize with our experiences. Listening will allow us to hear our neighbour and not judge them even if the experience is against your morals.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your day-to-day work? How do you take it on?
The biggest challenge that I face in my work is getting people to invest in the legacy. I am committed to building a community and building careers of those around me. Persistence and commitment are the two traits to see you through. As the African proverb says “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together.”

Where do you look for inspiration?
Artistically, I find a lot of inspiration in my Ghanaian heritage and the ebbs and flows of nature. Witnessing how the forces of nature exist can be memorizing and its inspiration can journey into my work in major or subtle ways. My Ghanaian heritage is the thread that weaves the foundation of who I am as an artist.

If you could achieve one goal in the next 18 months what would it be? And why?
I plan to purchase an investment property. I want a space (dance/event space) to be a hub where creatives can work out their ideas. A centre for creation that encourages you to push past your fears to discover beauty in the unknown. This investment property will be a stepping stone of things to come in the future.

(To see Esie live on the TEDxToronto stage on October 26th, purchase your tickets here.)

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