Black in Canada
February 20, 21 2024
Orillia Opera House
10am / 11am / 12:30pm Performances
Tickets: $35 - Students $8
Black In Canada (B.I.C) by award winning Choreographer Shameka Blake, brings attention to the overlooked histories of Black people in Canada. In dance, song, and spoken word, the show explores key issues and debates that expose the truth about oppression, resistance, and resilience. B.I.C. focuses on the cultural experiences of Black Canadians from slavery to present day. Performed by Artists In Motion, B.I.C challenges students and teachers to reimagine Black cultures within the Canadian context and the Black diaspora worldwide.
Shameka Blake, was born in Manchester, Jamaica, and immigrated to Canada at the age of ten. She developed a passion for dance at age three, and in 2007 Shameka, pursued dance professionally. Her training in a variety of dance genres, including jazz, ballet and contemporary, helped her to develop her craft as a dancer/choreographer. Since establishing her professional dance company Artists in Motion in 2008, Shameka, through her choreography, has made a strong imprint on the Toronto urban and commercial dance communities.
Shameka’s career began in the commercial dance field but has now evolved as she has found a new voice in the dance/theatre world. To date, she has six productions. Her most recent full length production "Earth" was commissioned by Uptown Moves, a double bill feature alongside world-renowned Zab Maboungou/Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata. “Earth” premiered at the Meridian Arts Centre November 2019. In the previous year, Shameka was commissioned by Dance Ontario to present at DanceWeekend’18 and most recently for Dance Ontario ONWARDS where she premiered her first short film “No Justice, No Peace!” In February Shameka remounted her production “Ashes'' which takes a critical view of the history of the Peoples of the African Diaspora by examining their struggles, and celebrate their victories through an exploration of the “Black Experience.” Shameka was recently commissioned by Dusk Dances to be a part of their summer festival as well as by Lua Shayann Co. for the Yensa Festival, celebrating Black Women in dance.
Shameka’s work has earned her the 2015 Black Canadian Award for Best Urban Dance Act and has been featured at the Association for the Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Convention in New York City and the BNL (Basketball National League) in South Africa, in addition to local Toronto festivals; Toronto Fringe, Pride Toronto and TIFF. She has also had the pleasure to co-choreograph for the Victory Celebration of the 2015 Pan Am Games honouring Canadian and International athletes.
Diane Jean-Louis was born in Haiti and raised in the US and Canada. She is very passionate about the arts and she knew from a very young age that it is something she wanted to pursue. At the age of 16 Diane decided to submerge herself in the art form that is dance and since then she has never looked back. In 2018, at the age of 18, Diane moved to Toronto to pursue her acting career and then began exploring the opportunities within the Toronto dance scene. Diane started her Toronto training at Dark Dance Company taking Hiphop lead by Lineen Doung and contemporary lead by Allison Bradley. Now at twenty five years old, Diane has had the time to develop into an industry professional which has given her many opportunities to share her passion. Diane has been fortunate enough to have opportunities to learn from Toronto’s best Dancers and Choreographers; e.g. Shameka Blake, Allison Bradley, Chris Clarke, Amanda-May Wilson, Esie Mensah and many more. As a current member of AIM (Artist In Motion) Dance Company directed by Shameka Blake, Diane is thrilled to see where this chapter of her dance journey will take her, and is looking forward to continuing performing and growing in multiple elements and styles, into the versatile artist she knows she is. Diane would one day like to fuse all her favourite styles and everything she has learned in her dance career and create a unique style in hopes to teach and inspire the younger generation of dancers.
Kayla-Renée Wilson is a dance artist born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. Greg and Charlene Anthony-Hines, two original Do Dat Entertainment Company members, sought her. And at seven years old, she began training at their all-hip hop dance school, DOAHL Dance Academy. There, she received mentorship in choreography and freestyling, fuelling her love for hip-hop culture and street dance. When accepted into the Arts Unionville Program at Unionville High School, Kayla-Renée began expanding her dance knowledge in modern jazz. Performing as a dancer in musicals such as Crazy for You and Bells are Ringing. As of 2022, Kayla-Renée began her battle journey, taking on a victory in October at From the Ground Up All-Styles Battle in her hometown. Kayla-Renée is currently a member of Footnotes Academy, run by Andrew “Pyro” Chung and Mariano “Glizzi” Abarca; Artists in Motion Dance Company, run by Shameka Blake and WeKnoFlo Crew. Today, she continues developing her skillsets as a hip-hop dance artist while training in contemporary, jazz, popping, locking, breaking and house dance. All of which fuels her love for dance, pushing her to be a better artist.
Marquisha Sparkes-Whonder was born to entertain. Discovering her passion for dance in High School at the age of 17 when she curated and performed in her own annual talent show/fundraiser and established the schools hip-hop dance team. Being self-taught with no prior training she was accepted into the Fine arts dance program at York University where she studied ballet and contemporary modern dance styles such as limón and graham technique. There she was recruited into the Dark Dance Company where she trained and performed in various street styles and contemporary dance. Eventually branching out to advance her skills and work with a variety of professional companies including Artist in Motion, Urbanesque and Duality Entertainment. Now, you can find her on the tv screen dancing and acting in motion pictures for Disney, Netflix, and lifetime television films such as Work it, Sneakerella, Salt and Pepper, Grand Army, 13 the Musical and in short films like Tweetations and Revolution of Love. Her career has steered her to travel internationally and work with artist like Sean Paul and Keri Hilson and choreographers like Shameka Blake, Hollywood Jade, Tanisha Scott, Aljamaal Jones, Ebony Williams, Aakomon Jones, Christain Vincent, Amanda May-Wilson and more. She’s always felt gratification through exploring diverse personas, especially hip-hop, jazz-funk, afro-fusion, and heels choreography. Marquisha aspires to explore dance to the fullest and to inspire others to appreciate its value.
At the age of 17 Onija’s love and appreciation for the arts began to bloom into a passion for dance. With no prior dance experience he started educating himself by watching videos from youtube and his friends dancing. His love for dance and the arts grew and he moved to Toronto to pursue a career in dance. After dancing for a year Onija was convinced that this was the path he wanted to follow and he began to explore the opportunities of the dance community in Toronto, which eventually brought him to DARK dance company where he joined both the hip-hop company headed by Lineen Doung and the Contemporary company headed by Allison Bradley. Now at twenty three years old, Onija has had time to grow and develop as an industry professional which has in turn provided him many opportunities to share and express his artistry these include production titles such as Akoma, Ashes, Child Soldier, Iceberg Principle as-well a many community performances such as Choreographers Ball, Fever After Dark, Industry Night, Bazzar and others. As a current member of AIM (Artists in Motion) dance company directed by Shameka Blake. Onija has been fortunate enough to have had opportunities to expand on his artistry and has had the pleasure of learning from some of Toronto’s best dancers and Choreographers; e.g Shameka Blake, Allison Bradely, Leon Blackwood, Hollywood Jade, Lineen Doung , Chris Clarke, Esie Mensah, Siona Jackson and many more. With a strive and ambition for Performance Onija trains to continue to widen his scope of the arts to become a more versatile performer, while cultivating his own unique style of dance by blending elements and techniques from his favourite styles. He would like to eventually start his own company to help train the next generation of artists.
Emerson Kafarowski (she/they) is a Lighting Designer and Multidisciplinary Artist based in Tkaronto, Canada. A graduate of the Toronto Metropolitan University Performance Production + Design program, they’ve worked on performances and workshops in a variety of genres, including dance, theatre, opera, and live music. Dedicated to life-long learning, Emerson gravitates towards projects that explore the richness and complexity of diverse human experiences, in which important stories and voices of the past and present are uplifted. She has had the pleasure of working with many inspiring artists and companies, including BoucharDanse, Citadel + Compagnie, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Fall For Dance North Festival, Soulpepper Theatre Company, and Venusfest. Other projects include EMRSN x EOS, an open-source project designed to bring financially accessible and portable lighting control devices to emerging artists, companies, and site-specific performances.