An original dance and theatre show that re-examines the wound that is shadeism/colourism.  It continues to evolve from its debut in 2016

prejudice against a person based on the fairness,
or darkness of their skin colour

synonym: shadism







“"A tactical, almost sensual performance, shades conveys a desperation for community and intimacy through the unusual medium of dance. the performance is mesmerizing"”

The Mike

Dora nominated production, SHADES re-examines the wound that is colourism – prejudice against a person based on the fairness, or darkness of their skin colour – and how it inflicts on the Black community, specifically undoing the stitches in Mensah’s and six other dancers’ personal lives. Set against choreography and text, SHADES breaks the code of silence, compelling the audience to face how such brutality, whether on a global scale with colonization, or an offhand remark from a loved one, permeates generations.  Shades, challenges the issues of discrimination by communities of color against themselves and examines a group mentality that has plagued countries for over four centuries.

We see countless examples of the great lengths people around the world have taken to permanently alter their skin tone in the quest for a distorted beauty ideal; but what message does this send to the next generation of young boys and girls and more importantly why is this happening? What has been imbedded into our collective psyche that created an environment for us to believe these significant changes were beneficial?

This show is available to present or tour

For more information on how to book SHADES please contact:

Miranda Forbes
Dance Umbrella of Ontario
t: 416.504.6429×24 | ​


The conversation

is forever evolving..

I’m sharing a unique seed to start a new set of conversation. The future of where this will all go is unknown but the Ancestors didn’t guide me this far to not see it through.

- Founder & Director, Esie Mensah

The Evolution of Shades


- Presented Shades of Blackness at Dancemakers Theatre. It was one of three 10 minutes excerpts under the evening presentation of Fresh presented by Esie Mensah Creations.
- Community Conversation - Esie gathered two focus groups. One all female and the other all male to have discussions around shadeism. Moderated by Akosua Amo-Adem


- CBC Arts feature on Shades of Blackness directed by Alexis L. Wood
- Received a Toronto Dance Theatre residency for expiration of the work
- Alexis Wood brought on Lindsey Addawoo to co-direct the documentary of Shades
- Cancelled performance for Shades of Blackness at Contemporaneity Festival due to illness


- Presentation of Shades (changed the name) at Rhubarb Festival at Buddies and Bad Times
- Presentation of Shades at Royal Ontario Museum through the education centre for high students across the GTA
- Received a Toronto Dance Theatre residency for expiration of the work
- Esie Mensah Creations self-presented Shades at Factory Theatre co-directed by Esie Mensah and Akosua Amo-Adem


Fall for Dance North presented Shades at Harbourfront Theatre for the International Presenters Program. Choreographed and Directed by Esie Mensah


Community Conversation with the cast for Shades in partnership with TurnOut Radio

to be continued...

Esie Mensah plans to expand the conversation, so be sure to sign up for her newsletter to be in the know

Let’s continue to talk

Let's continue to heal

Continued conversations

Watch the videos below from CBC Arts; TEDxToronto & a Live discussion with the 2019 cast of Shades

Available to present

Present SHADES and discuss with your community