Monday, March 28, 2011

ESIE MENSAH

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
        
          ESIE MENSAH DANCE REEL

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

-Dancing in Urbanesque (an urban burlesque show) choreographed and produced by Hollywood Jade - March 17th at El Convento Rico

-Carnival in New York City with  Jordan Washington

-Working on shows with Step Team Black Ice and Artists in Motion (AIM)   


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



Monday, March 21, 2011

LINDSAY RITTER

This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Lindsay Ritter.  Lindsay began dancing at a very
young age continuing dance throughout her teens and early twenties.  She attended The Randolph Performance Academy in Toronto, training in dance, drama and vocal.  With this training she went on to perform in Fame-The Musical, Legends Tribute Show, Various Cruise Lines, Music Video's, Television and Film in Canada, USA and Europe.  Over time Lindsay found it difficult to make a living as a Dancer and decided to take some time off performing. She used this time to gain knowledge and experience in online marketing and business management. Always knowing she wanted to make a living in Dance she used her strong business background and her passion  for Dance and made the transition into teacher, choreographer and director. LR Productions was created 4 years ago providing professional dancers and packaged dance productions for corporate events, shows and entertainment. Her current roster stands at 50 with 40 females and 10 males, auditions are held twice a year. LR Productions gave Lindsay a way to turn her love for dance into a rewarding career.  Being the first Dance Company in Toronto to Offer Drop in Commercial Jazz Classes and Master Classes with Top Choreographers. All of LR Productions classes take place at Canada's National Ballet School check the link for scheduling Classes Schedule  Lindsay recently teamed  up with Vancouver native and Founder of Nuvo Burlesque Carla Catherwood. Together they created the Nuvo Burlesque training and performance group. These sessions are geared towards women looking to develop their feminine style. *Note must audition as this is a 4 week program click the link for more details  Training and Performance Group 
 Lindsay continues to expand LR Productions providing clients with Quality Dancers and Performances as well as providing dancers with quality physical and performance training. Get to know Lindsay in this weeks shout out here's what she had to say.....


Bio written by Nikki


          www.lindsayritter.com 
          Twitter LR Productions

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?  




Lindsay: I was about 4 or 5 and my mom put me in ballet.  I didn't like it because it was too slow for me!

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)  

Lindsay: I choreographed a solo when I was 16 to a song called "Out here on my own" from the movie Fame.

Nikki: What advice can you give to dancers when it comes to free styling?  

Lindsay: Just be yourself and let the music guide your body.  Move the way that makes you feel good.

Nikki: What does it take for you to get into choreography mode?  

Lindsay: A good song, focus, and sometimes I just have to be in the zone while I'm moving.

Nikki: Name some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

Lindsay: I love Wade Robson's choreography.  I think his style is always entertaining.  While I try to be creative I'm also always thinking about the audience and how they would feel watching the movements.

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?

Lindsay: I've really enjoyed working with Nico Archambault and Wynn Holmes because they are kind, appreciative and that's sometimes hard to come by in this industry.

Nikki: Name one of your favourite artists to work with and why?  

Lindsay: There are so many great artists that I've worked with!  I don't have a favourite because I was inspired by and learned something new from all of them.

Nikki: What projects are you working on right now?  

Lindsay: We have a bunch of different events coming up for spring and summer.  We currently added new dancers to our roster which will be making their performance debut very soon!

Nikki: What qualities do you think Toronto Dancers possess that dancers from other parts of the Country and States don't?  

Lindsay: Having worked across the globe, Toronto dancers have more technique and focus on the foundations than other parts of the world.  

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?  

Lindsay: It's important to stay fresh by taking class and keeping up with new techniques and styles.  Performance can't be taught so always be yourself and perform from the heart and YOU will always shine through.  Strong performance combined with strong technique, style, determination and PASSION will make you successful in this industry.



Thank You very much Lindsay for being a part of T.D.O.T. XO



Watch LR Productions Promo Reel



LR Productions Company Dancers




Monday, March 14, 2011

SHAVAR BLACKWOOD

This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Shavar Blackwood aka Caution. Ive known Shavar for many years one of my closest male friends, someone I turn to when I want the truth and nothing but lol Over the years I've watched Shavar transform and evolve with the industry.  Born in Toronto and raised in Detroit, he came into the game later in his life . After moving on his own to Toronto in 2006, he quickly plunged into the Hip Hop Dance industry.  He began training with Touch International where he spent 2 years of intense mental and physical training.  After the mutual decision for Shavar to leave Touch he continued to train vastly immersing himself in the world of ballet and contemporary with no prior experiences. With some amazing choreographers believing in his talents he found himself performing at major events like Dance Ontario Weekend, L'oreal Fashion Week and Cadence City Connect. He's Danced in music video's for George Nozuka, Divine Brown, and the late Jacksoul video "All You Need".  He has found great joy in his choreography as he fuses his Hip Hop background with Contemporary and Ballet.  His choreography has been showcased at Roy Thompson Hall, Sick Kids Hospital, Harbour Front, F*$K Cancer Fundraiser, Toronto's Original Choreographer's Ball and Talent Defined to name a few.  In 2008 Shavar choreographed and performed in a piece for the Manifesto festival he and his team of dancers came in 1st place winning $1000. While continuing to train and teach Shavar decided in 2008 to audition for the first season of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Like many dancers that year Shavar did not make it through. He was persistent and auditioned for season 2 the following year, where he made it to the Top 40. Although he was not given a spot in the Top 20 2nd season he did not give up. So You Think You Can Dance Year 3 Shavar came back with a goal and that was Top 20 and He made it :) *Happy Dance* I can honestly say because I know how hard he worked that he deserved that spot! A lot of dancers would not be able to go back after being turned down twice, this is on television after all. It takes a strong, dedicated individual to not give up and that's who he is. He kept a positive outlook having made it to Top 14 with some great experiences, training and knowledge to take away with him. He is currently a dancer with the Cadence Progressive Contemporary Ballet. he continues to train in Hip Hop, Ballet, Contemporary and Ballroom expanding his language of Dance.  He teaches at The Ashley Ingram School of Music providing choreography for upcoming artists and producers, an Instructor for recreational Hip Hop classes at the Academy of Ballet and Jazz and Open classes at OIP Dance Center on Wednesdays (Beg. 7-8pm Int. 8-9pm Adv. 9-1030pm) Shavar is Inspired to be successful by understanding dance not just as an art but a way of life. Check out what he had to say in this weeks shout out......

Bio written by Nikki







Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

Shavar: I was living in Detroit, it was Grade 6 and I was at a school dance. It was the first time people noticed me. It was also the first time I felt alive.

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)

Shavar: I Don't actually remember the very first song but I do remember one of the first pieces I choreographed. It was Maxwell - This Woman's Work. It was the first time I choreographed something so emotional and was able to fuse Urban and Contemporary dance together.

Nikki: Any advice you have for dancers when it comes to free-styling?

Shavar: Just let go. Let the music absorb you and follow its instructions. Don't judge your freestyle it is a form of expression.
 
Nikki: What does it take for you to get into choreography mode?

Shavar: I have to really feel the song. It helps if I am going through something in my personal life that relates to the song.  I also have to be in a comfortable environment. Studios don't really work for me; I almost get the feeling like I'm forcing myself to create; some of my best work was created while traveling to a destination.

Nikki: Name some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

Shavar:
Luther Brown
Leon Blackwood
Hollywood Jade
Siona Jackson
Courtnae Bowman

Nikki: What was it like being a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 3?

Shavar: Hard!!! It took everything I had mentally and physically. There were times I wanted to give up, But I couldn't because while the work was hard it pushed me to be a better and stronger person/dancer.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Shavar: Life Goals!! I'm trying to get more involved with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Inspiring kids there to follow their passions. There is so much talent in the upcoming generations. Not everyone has the opportunity to join in a dance studio.

I'm also trying to focus on establishing myself as a powerful creative force within the dance community.
In the future I would like to help create more opportunities for dancer/choreographers/teachers.

Shows
March 30th - Carla Catherwood Chic-A-Boom-Room
April 7th  - Flash Mob for CBC on
April 20th - Co-Producing a show at Winchester Street Theatre (details coming soon)

Nikki:What qualities do you think Toronto Dancers possess that dancers from other parts of the Country and States don't?

 Shavar: I think that dancers from Toronto move with a unique sense of style and originality. There is a lot of talent here and people all over the world are starting to notice it thanks to people like Luther Brown of Do Dat and Steve Bolton of BluePrint who are making big movements in other countries. I think Toronto is definitely on the up and coming. Which is causing everyone to look this way.

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Shavar: Respect yourself and your artistry. Make sure to demand that respect from others as well. Know your worth and don't let anyone abuse your talents.

Dancers
Try to avoid taking the same classes every week. Diversify yourself try different styles of dance. See what you can learn from one form of dance and how you can apply it in the classes you regularly take.

Choreographers
There is more to choreographing a piece than just picking a song you like and putting moves to it. Don't neglect the important stuff
like:

-A good CONCEPT "that makes sense"

-Proper WARDROBE "that fits the piece"

-ENERGY.... People should walking away with something after watching your piece, some kind of feeling whether it is angry, sad, happy or intimate. Whatever you’re trying to convey create energy and make it contagious.

-Casting... Very important! Choose the right people and place then in the right roles. Just because someone is a good dancer does not mean they are right for the piece. Think about your favorite movie and ask yourself if the movie would be the same if the actors were different or all the roles were switched.

-Love.... put your heart into it. Don't do it just because you can..... unless the price is right *chuckle*


So You Think You Can Dance

HAVE FUN and don't let the experience pass you by. Some of my best moments on that show where when I was just making the complete fool of myself.

Don’t avoid the camera!!!! It is your BEST friend give the producers lots and lots of footage so that when they are editing they have many moments to choose from. You need to make it so that the producers and crew cant see the show happening without you on it. People might HATE but let them at the end of the day You’re auditioning for a TV SHOW!!! With that being said don’t try too hard lol..... complete contradiction right? But what I mean is don't force it. It should be natural.

Training
If you’re training out side of your genre for the show, then don't limit your self to taking classes. You need to put you self in real life situations.  If you’re doing ballroom try taking what you've learned and going social dancing. The feeling is totally different and a lot closer to what you’re going to experience on the show.  Ask your teachers if they are working on any shows and if you can understudy at their rehearsals. You need to not just learn about the style of dance but how to embody it.

Last but not least RESPECT the staff....... especially CHI!!! lol but really YES the Producer and Directors are important but they are not the only ones that make the show work. Everyone you meet has a hand in what happens on the show, and never forget that the producer is the one they are reporting to.


Thank You Shavar for being a part of T.D.O.T. XO



Watch his choreography: Dancers Shavar Blackwood, Irvin Washington and Matthew Cuff



Watch his So You Think You Can Dance Experience







Monday, March 7, 2011

HOLLYWOOD JADE

This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Hollywood-Jade.  I met this fine young man over 10 years ago,  when we were part of the same Hip Hop crew fresh in the game. The crew eventually separated but I was not surprised to run into him many years later at a dance studio and see that he had continued to grow and make a name for himself. From the start Hollywood had no issues attracting attention when dancing, knowing that what he was passionate about brought joy to his audiences had him sold on the idea at a very young age. In 2003 Hollywood auditioned for Blaze Ent. The Company run by Leading Choreographer Jae Blaze. With vigorous training and growing as a Dancer he went on to be featured in music video’s for Rhianna, Jully Black, Kelis, Divine Brown and more. He can be seen in Feature Films Save the Last Dance 2, Hairspray (playing the character of Stooie), MTV’s Turn the Beat Around and Disney’s Camp Rock 2 Final Jam. In the first season of So You think You Can Dance Canada Hollywood definitely got the judges to notice him with his out going personality and passion for dance. Although he was not given a spot in the Top 20 he went on to assist one of the choreographers in that same year (You better work) Hollywood is one of Toronto’s rising Choreographers creating and performing in many pieces which have appeared on networks like Much Music, MTV, BET  and more. Some of his most recent Choreography accomplishments; touring across Canada for Juno award winner Divine Browns The Love Chronicles Tour aswell as Co Choreographer for The Dreams Promo Tour and Snoop Dogg's latest Tour. He continues to grow as a Choreographer having his work in many live stage shows, short films and corporate events. There is no question that his passion for Dance and Choreography has opened up the door to production.  His newest venture is Urbanesque featuring the Woman of Urbanesque bringing a fusion of urban dance styles and burlesque to the stage. “An uninhibited body of work with the breath of Burlesque”  Be sure to check out their first show on Thursday March 17th at El Convento Rico tickets on sale now at Joy of Dance or at the door.  Hollywood continues to bring his unique, original style and flavour to the world of Dance.  Find out what Hollywood had to say in this weeks shout out.....


Bio written by Nikki





Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

Hollywood: I don't remember when I started but I remember the 1st performance I was about 6 years old and it was at Calgary's version of a Caribbean fest. All the kids in my group got stage fright and hid at the back of the stage, I went right to the front and did the routine! I remember finishing and hearing people cheer and I was sold!

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)

Hollywood: Hahahahahhaa the First song I ever Choreographed to was SWV's "I'm So In To". It was for a talent show at School and I was the youngest performer, but the girls asked me to dance with them and I ended up making up the routine at recess with my sisters girl talk. Hahhaha oh man all bad!

Nikki: Any advice you can give to dancers when it comes to free styling?

Hollywood: Listen to, interpret and make the music an extension of your movement. The first part of the word is "FREE", it should feel like that. Don't force what should feel natural.

Nikki: What does it take for you to get into choreography mode?

Hollywood: The sun to come up! Seriously before I even know what the word "Choreography" meant I was making up routines. When I started working professionally someone asked me on one of the first video's I Choreographed "how did you come up with those steps for this song" and I told them, I just listened to the production, listened to the lyrics and knew that my Choreography had to work seamless like the other two did to create a trinity.

Nikki: Name some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

Hollywood: Debbie Allen is one of my hugest influences. She does EVERYTHING, had a great dance career, did musical theater still works as a Choreographer, has executive produced and directed film and tv and owns and operates her own dance studios in the states. The shocking thing is so many "dancers" have no idea who she is and what she has done. Madness

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?

Hollywood: Shameka Blake! She understands that its about more then just the steps, she gives concepts that are always delivered clearly. She is theatrical and being someone who loves musical theater and hip hop she fuses the two really well.

Nikki: Can you name an Artist you've enjoyed working with and why?

Hollywood: Working with Snoop Dogg on his Imagine That Tour really showed me what its about. We Choreographed and staged the whole show even before we saw Snoop and I had no idea what to except was already preparing changes in my head, but when we got to stage he took a seat in the audience because he wanted to see the show we created. After we did the run threw he came on stage and said "Ok tell me where to stand, so I'm not in the way of what y'all did!" He had no ego at all and wanted to make everything work, I totally understand why he has been in the business for as long as he has.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Hollywood: I am Producing and Choreographing my own stage show. Its called Hollywood Presents: Urbanesque. Its a Burlesque show with a different flavor. Its Current while holding on to elements of classic Burlesque. Its March 17th 830pm at El Convento Rico 750 College st. 15$ advance tickets 20$ at the door. Tickets can be picked up at Joy Of Dance 95 Danforth Ave 3rd floor.

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess that dancers from other parts of the Country and States don't?

Hollywood: Toronto being so multicultural definitely impacts the way we move! There is a quality to our movement that is hard to emulate. I don't believe this as much as I used to simply because people are a lot more exposed to more thing thanks to mass media, but I can always tell someone who is from the outside of somewhere. They move with a hunger.

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Hollywood: Dance because you love it, not because everyone else is. You have to have a passion for it or you won't stay, and if you not gonna stay don't waste space. There are people who really need dance in there lives, who eat sleep and breath it, if you can picture yourself without dance keep it as a hobby, there are plenty of classes in this city to take! If that doesn't apply to you and dance fills you do your research! To many people have yes man around them, work on building yourself so that you don't need anyone to do it for you.

For Choreographers on the come up, know that its a process, it takes time to find your "voice" but we want YOURS, not your take on someone else's. You should also know that the steps is the easy part of being a Choreographer - thereby inspiring others in this field to do the same. He is truly a shining star - one whose power and capability are waiting to be seen. AS Hollywood always says "Success lies on the other side of fear"



THANK YOU HOLLYWOOD JADE FOR BEING A PART OF T.D.O.T. XO


WATCH HOLLYWOOD-JADE'S DEMO REEL

video


TICKETS ON SALE NOW CHECK THE LINK URBANESQUE INFO