The inaugural YENSA Festival kicked off its two nights of live performances with a stellar program featuring local artists and companies. Produced by the Lua Shayenne Dance Company, it is truly a joyous celebration of Black artists through dance and song. The two nights are completely unique, but if the first program is any indication of what’s to come, I promise you’re in for a spectacular night of dance.

            The first piece, entitled “Open Light,” was created and performed by Jaz “Fairy J” Simone. A beautiful look at the healing power of water and finding the goddess energy within ourselves, “Open Light” was itself beautiful and healing. Simone showcased the strength and power of her body through her slow, meticulous choreography, which then gave way to joyous, upbeat dance as the water healed her. I really enjoyed how they used the overhead projector with a bowl of water over the screen to create a sort of moving focus on Simone as she moved throughout the piece. The poem which was featured in the work was really touching; it is very true that we often try to avoid emotional pain at all costs, even though it’s just as natural as physical pain. It just really made me think about the hard times we all go through, but as she demonstrated, it makes the happy moments afterwards feel all the better.

            The second piece was called “Black Canadians – Our Stories” and was performed by members of Artists in Motion. This work called attention to the racist acts, both overt and subtle, which Black people face in Canada every day. Through the use of media clips, storytelling, song, and dance, “Black Canadians” is a poignant and important piece which I wish everyone could see (there is a filmed version on YENSA’s website, I highly recommend watching it). I enjoyed how the movement would often start out with one dancer, but then be mirrored or given over to another. It highlighted the communal aspect of the piece and was visually stunning. Watching this piece made me feel frustrated at how much work there is yet to do for all of us, but hopeful for what’s to come. These beautiful artists are proof of what excellence comes from being open about our experiences; only through listening to these experiences with open hearts and minds can we create the harmony we wish to see in the world.

            The final piece, “Kira, the Path | La Voie” was performed by the Lua Shayenne Dance Company. “Kira” is a story about two warring kingdoms who are visited by a god and show them the path to living peacefully together. The distinct costuming for each kingdom was gorgeous, and allowed us to easily keep track of the characters, but it also was even more stunning to see them come out at the end in matching costumes as one joint kingdom. Honestly, this piece gave me goosebumps several times; when all five dancers were in sync it sent shivers down my spine. Their athleticism and talent was awe-inspiring. The live music for the performance was an added delight; watching the drumming was a spectacle all on its own. The storytelling was breathtaking (I literally realized I wasn’t breathing at one point), and all of the performers were immensely talented. It was phenomenal.  

            The YENSA Festival’s performances were inspirational to say the very least. I urge you to watch what you can online of these performances, and then buy tickets to the second live performance. There’s also a workshop and Atisa Circle happening on August 28th to close out the festival if you’re interested (the Atisa Circle and dance celebration sounds like quite the party!). For more information and for tickets, visit: PERFORMANCES – Yensa Festival

            Looking to make a night of it? African Fashion Week Toronto is happening in Yonge and Dundas Square this weekend! My friend and I happened upon it as we were heading for dinner and promptly changed our plans in favour of taking in the festivities! Featuring fashion shows, food, and vendors, it’s a fun way to start the evening before heading over to the theatre (and it’s just a short drive or street car ride away!). The food is amazing, and the fashion is gorgeous. For more info visit: Black Fashion | Afwt Support local Black excellence, this weekend and always!


Photo by Dahlia Katz

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