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Shade of Blackness – Esie Mensah

Exploring the concept of shadeism through movement and text as the work tackles what it means to be viewed and scrutinized for your shade. An original art created and choreographed by Esie Mensah, Shades of Blackness looks at the past and present of these woven threads. Using movement to tell the story of several vignettes that plague our communities of color. The role of the field negro; one with limited access and opportunity.

Dancing Through Shades is a documentary that follows Ghanaian/Canadian choreographer Esie Mensah as she tries to start a cross-cultural discussion on shadeism through dance. The film charts Esie through the creative process as she gathers experiences from people in her community and reflects them back through art to create Shades of Blackness – a performance and debate where the audience become part of the show to start a discussion across races and colors. But will her audience be ready to talk and will society be willing to listen to these often uncomfortable truths?

Shadeism is the discrimination of a person based on their skin tone – an uncontrollable aspect of one’s body but one that holds weighty stereotypes from beauty standards to intelligence. This discrimination of one’s skin tone is experienced in many forms within communities of color. Known as shadeism or colorism it can segregate communities and separate families yet few who experience it talk about it openly and even fewer outside these communities know of its existence. Ghanaian/Canadian Choreographer Esie Mensah has dark skin and though her performances and teaching have taken her around the world, she’s been told by a black director she’s ‘too dark’ for television and lost work due to the shade of her skin. Personally as well as professionally Esie has witnessed shadeism in her community where even lighter skinned children are favored over their darker siblings by their parents and elders, aware of what opportunities and access they probably face due to their lighter shade.

Esie found that few people discuss shadeism and many outside of communities of color fail to recognize it. She feels that the visceral power of dance will be an effective way to communicate and reflect shadeism which led her to begin creating Shades of Blackness – a performance piece of dance and debate where movement and dialogue depict incidences of this discrimination and prejudice, followed by an audience talkback on shadeism and its impact. This film charts Esie’s journey and that of her dancers as they create a provocative piece to bring about a discussion between all races and shades to move beyond skin tone discrimination.

Dancing Through Shades is currently in development looking to go into production in the summer of 2017.

Documentary Link Here