Ella Mesma Company


“Really enjoyed the costumes the music and the dance. This is a performance that could be enjoyed by a ‘family’ audience with the dramatic spectacle and music engaging all age-groups audiences and the more serious layers of meaning reaching mature viewers. I really loved the vibrant costumes and the way they flowed with the dance.”


Welcome to the world of Ọkan, a new duet by Maya & Toussaint, the collaboration between artists Akeim Toussaint and Ella Mesma. Two dancers spin, ripple, and pulsate in a work that explores gender through martial dances that blend Salsa and Wing Chun.

Ọkan means Oneness, Conscience, and Heart in Yoruba, and was chosen to reflect the West African Yoruban roots of many of the dance styles used in the piece.

This project was sparked by a conversation between Mesma, Toussaint, and Thomas Talawa Presto, pioneer of the codified system of body movement Talawa Technique and director of Tabanka Dance. Talawa Presto offered this notion of Salsa as a martial dance. That seed served as inspiration for using Salsa, Wing Chun, and other diasporic movement languages and systems to explore the flexible boundary between partner dance and martial movement, their shared biomechanics and different ways of relating.

The choreographers & dancers acknowledge with gratitude that this dance piece is informed by Salsa, Wing Chun, Silat (Pencuk Silat), Qi Gong, Kizomba, Capoeira, breaking (breakdance) and Bachata. We acknowledge the painful history of colonialism and enslaved people that has led to the creation of these diasporic dances and commit to honouring and respecting them and their history, also acknowledging all the unrecognised cultural lineages and stories that are untold. 


Choreographers: Ella Mesma and Akeim Toussaint Buck (and dancers)

Dancers: David Evans and Ffion Campbell-Davies

Musicians: Azizi Cole and Joel Stedman

Costume Designer: Audrey Mae

Movement Consultants: Gil Del Prado & Leo Au Yeung

Dramaturgy: Eva Martinez

Collaboration Coach: Nadine Patel

Producers: Shona Phillips and Youcef Hadjazi

Co-Produced and commissioned by The Place This work is supported using public funding from Arts Council England The work’s creation has been supported by Pavilion Dance South West and Yorkshire Dance, with further support from FABRIC, South East Dance and the British Council

The choreographers & dancers are Akeim Toussaint Buck of Jamaican heritage (pronouns he/they), Ella Mesma of white British & Black Nigerian heritage (pronouns she/they), Ffion Campbell-Davies of Welsh Grenadian nationality (Welsh speaking non binary gender fluid) and David Evans of Kiwi & British nationality with British and Irish heritage.


David is a British-Kiwi dance artist with a background in salsa, breakdance, and contemporary dance. David combines these styles to bring about his unique approach to moving. David earned a Diploma in Dance with distinction from Trinity Laban in 2017. As an artist David makes mixed medium dance work for a range of spaces including site-specific, theatre, and galleries. He is the host of David’s Dance Podcast, a podcast with guests from across the UK Contemporary and Hip Hop scene.


Ffion is a multidisciplinary artist and Associate Director of House Of Absolute. Sound and film producer, composer, instrumentalist, singer, poet and dancer, born and raised in Wales. Welsh speaking non binary woman of mixed Welsh Grenadian heritage. Completing their degree at London Contemporary Dance School and California Institute of the Arts.


The piece will originally be made for a duet, commissioned by The Place and performed by dance artists David Evans and Ffion Campbell-Davies and able to tour to small-scale venues. The main goal of Ọkan’s collaboration is to design a versatile piece that can be expanded into multiple duets and toured with a larger cast. Ọkan is entering a Research and Development phase in Autumn 2023 with exciting collaborations, including sharing sessions planned internationally and taking part in an Artist Residency program at Armunia in Tuscany, Italy.

A technical rider will be available in Autumn 2024, in the meantime please get in touch with the producer for any questions related to scale and technical needs.

Research and Development: September 2023 – November 2023

Creation and Technical Rider: Autumn 2024

Touring: Spring 2025

Touring party: 3 to 4 (2 Dancers, 1 Technician, 1 Producer for some touring dates)

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Ọkan Knowledge Exchange