TESSEL is a national initiative conceptualized by Dora-nominated choreographer and dancemaker Esie Mensah, featuring the stories of 14 pioneering Black artists from across Canada, exploring the complexities of diverse movement and voice as a form of resilience.
This gathering is a way to continue the conversation by asking ourselves what has changed. From June 1st, 2020, until now, have we seen a change in our communities? Many committees have been formed but have we seen the change we desire to see?
TESSEL the film premiered on June 1, 2021.
About Esie Mensah
Esie Mensah is an award-winning artist whose creative footprint extends to many genres, disciplines and regions. As a dancer, choreographer, movement director and TEDxToronto speaker, Mensah brings her mastery in storytelling to audiences as diverse as her experience. From working with celebrities and musicians (Rihanna, Drake and Arcade Fire) to historic brands like Coca-Cola, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, TIFF, ROM, Shaw Festival, Soulpepper Theatre and the Toronto Raptors, this powerful woman shows no sign of slowing down.
Although her origins are in dance, Mensah continues to evolve. Recently released, a digital short film, A Revolution of Love, follows a young Black woman as she grapples with the histories of her ancestors and the present-day violence ravaging her community. This work inspired her short film, TESSEL, co-produced with Fall For Dance North and Harbourfront Centre, which features the stories of 14 pioneering Black artists from across Canada, exploring the complexities of diverse movement and voice as a form of resilience. A featured speaker at TEDxToronto 2019, she spoke about her experience as a dark-skinned dancer and creating her Dora-nominated production, Shades. Mensah is committed to her purpose as a healer to bring more inclusive practices to the Canadian arts industry.
About Jiggy Man
Raoul “Jiggy Man” Wilke has become a staple name in these communities, from main stage theatre to world-renown battles. His passion for learning and educating has become his prompt and he looks to introduce a new approach to learning further. Wilke is now a part of a Dora award-winning company Holla Jazz and local dance collective The Moon Runners. He is a multifaceted artist whose love for fashion has opened many doors, from leading male actors to modeling print for Walmart and E-Commerce for vintage clothing stores. Wilke approaches life “as a constant journey, but the path is forever changing.”
Eugene “GeNie” Baffoe is a freestyle dancer, educator, actor, choreographer and filmmaker originally from Montreal, Québec. Baffoe has been training, instructing and studying hip-hop culture for over a decade. As the Director of B.O.S.S. Dance Team since 2011, Baffoe has brought his community several battle events such as DANCE 4 M.S., The Artist Within, Who’s the iLLEST and BeatMakeUSDance. He has choreographed two Blue Bomber halftime shows, three opening numbers for WeDay at the Bell M.T.S. Place and was selected to be one of two Canadian choreographers to create the Sharing Dance flash mob-style routine for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2018. Previously, Baffoe created and directed a documentary called Our Scene The Movie, a film about the history of hip-hop dance in Winnipeg. Honoured by the City of Winnipeg with the Youth Role Model Award in 2009 and now a C.B.C. Future 40 finalist, Baffoe is a dedicated artist passionate about his community and continues to educate and spread culture through dance and film.
About Lisa La Touche
As a proud Canadian and former New Yorker, Lisa La Touche’s credits are world-renowned. She was an original cast member in Broadway’s Shuffle Along, choreographed by Savion Glover and directed by George C. Wolfe. She received the Fred Astaire Award and the Actor’s Equity Award for the Outstanding Broadway Chorus. Her TV credits include the 70th Annual Tony Awards and Amazon’s Original “Z, The beginning of everything.” Previous highlights have also included touring with the Savion Glover production, Stepz, and performing with New York’s Off-Broadway and North American touring casts of STOMP.
Since 2010 she has run her own performance company Tap Phonics and has been commissioned to present for organizations such as The Brooklyn Museum, 92Y, Gibney Dance and Fall For Dance North. As an educator and Professor, she has taught for PACE University, NYU, The School of Jacob’s Pillow, University of Calgary, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Rosie’s Theater Kids and member of the creative council for the American Tap Dance Foundation. Her recent endeavor includes co-curating the Tap Dance Legacy Series and Travis Knights in partnership with Dance Immersion providing the local community free access to their cultural history. She has also written and directed her debut film TRAX, encompassing her journey to Alberta while discovering important local Black history. Above all, her proudest achievement and where she finds the greatest inspiration is in the gift of being a mom.
About Crazy Smooth
Yvon “Crazy Smooth” Soglo is one of Canada’s top street dancers, performers, choreographers, instructors, judges and community leaders. He is the founder and artistic director of Bboyizm, an award-winning street dance company that has been instrumental in preserving this style of dance in Canada. In 2004, three of his full-length creations: The Evolution of B-boying, IZM and Music Creates Opportunity, toured throughout Canada. The company has been nominated for a Dora award (2012) and won both the Atlantic Presenters Association Touring Performers of the Year Award (2013) and the Ontario Presenters Network Emerging Touring Artist of the Year (2012). Soglo was named the 2020 Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award recipient by the Banff Centre for the Arts and is a Long Term Artist in Residence at the Centre de Création O Vertigo in Montreal, Québec. In My Body will begin touring in February 2022.
About Kevin A. Ormsby, Panel Moderator
Artistic Director of KasheDance and Program Manager at Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), Kevin A. Ormsby has performed with companies in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean. He is The Canada Council for the Arts’ Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award recipient and TAC Cultural Leaders Fellow and has been a guest artist at the University of the West Indies (Mona), Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts and the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Northwestern University.
Ormsby’s creative research practice through KasheDance’s technical approach to dance exists in the space of constant interrogation and navigation of Caribbean cultural nuances, all towards a methodology of understanding space in creation, research and presentation. He is on the Boards of Dance Collection Danse, Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, and has served on the Boards of Canadian Dance Assembly, Prologue to the Performing Arts and Nia Centre for the Arts.
About S-Quire Johnson, Facebook Live Moderator
S-Quire Johnson (he/they) is a Toronto-based multi-hyphenate creator with over ten years of professional experience in the arts, entertainment and media.
His expertise in videography has afforded him the opportunity to capture some of the brightest artists and influencers from various artistic intersections, including Jessie Reyez, Machel Montano, Tanika Charles and Future.
Johnson has produced content for the Regent Park Film Festival, CaribbeanTales Film Festival and transitioned into broadcast television work as an Associate Producer for Caribbean Vibrations TV (2017–2020).
He chooses to balance his artistic ventures with a solid commitment to community development. S-Quire has been an active Community Facilitator, moderating workshops that spark discussions around race relations and amplifying youth voices in collaboration with organizations like UrbanArts and Harmony Movement. He is also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Fatherhood Initiative, supporting children and families by providing critical support to fathers who often feel marginalized and unsupported.
Johnson has since established S-Quire Media Group, an interactive digital media company focusing on developing original content that seamlessly incorporates culture, lifestyle and social justice issues. “Do You See Us?” is currently in production for its second season, with new episodes premiering in March 2022 on Spotify and Google Podcasts.
Dates & Times
Q&A to follow event, hosted by S-Quire Johnson.