Renowned choreographer Merián Soto presents the culmination of her 7-year Branch Dance Series with the monumental SoMoS, bridging nature and the urban landscape, in the North Philadelphia barrio on October 12, 2012, as part of Taller Puertorriqueño’s free performance series, Café Under the Stars: Spotlighting the Arts in El Barrio.
This large-scale work features three large geodesic tents and an outdoor performance area with simultaneous performances for audiences to move in and out of at will. In contrast to the urban landscape, the parking lot at 5th and Huntingdon Streets will be transformed into a quiet carnival of nature images, sounds, and movement invoking the four seasons.
“I loved the vastness of the parking lot, a place to work with giant branches. I imagined large projections that would attract audiences from afar. I imagined a series of water-globe like spaces where audiences could enter.” – Merián Soto
SoMoS will create a meditative nature carnival out of a concrete parking lot, with performance spaces and multi-media displays for winter, spring, summer and fall. Fifteen dancers are spread out throughout the performing areas in numerous combinations, including core dancers and co-choreographers Olive Prince, Jumatatu Poe, Marion Ramírez, Beau Hancock, and Jung Woong Kim.
The culmination of choreographer Merián Soto’s Branch Dance Series, SoMoS is a large scale event, with three geodesic tents transformed into performance spaces. Seasonal video- and audio-scapes are projected on and about dancers performing the hypnotic, transfixing branch dances—an intensely intimate dance that follows the gravity and shifting balance of nature. Large shadows of the dancers are projected against the walls of the tents. Visible from the outside, these artful shadows create their own performance experience and yet another viewpoint for audiences. The fourth performance space will be the outdoors, with giant video projections of nature in extreme close-up upon the walls of adjoining buildings.
This performance spectacle, a sensory enchantment under the night sky, promises to rekindle the audience’s connection to nature. A free event, audiences explore the performance areas at their own pace, to allow their senses to be transported into a completely different environment. SoMoS aims to bring the audience en masse into an experience akin to a dream, a reverie on nature and our physical connection to it.
“SoMoS is providing an opportunity to expand branch dance choreography. There is new hot duet work, work with balancing multiple branches at the same time, and much more.” – Merián Soto
Branch Dance Series History
“The basic task is to connect with the branch through touch. You sense the shape, weight, and flow of the branch and respond physically. A dancer has ‘got it’ when they can hook in quickly into a ‘zone’—they move seamlessly, the balance is impeccable, they move through ‘impossible’ places, their dance is poetic, evocative.” – Merián Soto
SoMoS is the culmination of Soto’s Branch Dance Series that began in 2005. The series has included dozens of solo “guerilla” performances in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park (2005–06), the award-winning year-long seasonal project One Year Wissahickon Park Project or OYWPP (2007–08), critically acclaimed staged works, the performance/installation Postcards From the Woods (2009 Live Arts Festival), and currently two year-long “sister” projects of four seasonal performances: Wissahickon Reunion in Philadelphia, and Branch Dances at Wave Hill in New York City.
The branch dances are simple, yet powerfully communicative, works centered on consciousness in performance and in practice. They are grounded in a meditative dance practice involving the detailed sequencing of movements through the investigation of gravity through a dynamic shifting of balance and alignment. The placement of the body in nature, either real or simulated, triggers a recognition of ourselves as nature.
Merián Soto’s art begins in her body. Since 1999 she has been an associate professor of dance at the Esther Boyer College of Music & Dance at Temple University. She creates dance performances that are rooted in the body as the vessel and connector to the mind, spirit, and culture. Her work is about transformation and empowerment through embodiment. This mission has informed a professional artistic practice of choreography, interdisciplinary performance, and teaching for over 30 years.
The Branch Dance Series, first imagined in 2005, has represented a return to nature as source of Soto’s work. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Soto developed love and affinity for flowing forms and the polyrhythmic patterns and baroque diversity of the sea, wind, tropical reefs, and rainforests. This series has included the critically acclaimed stage works Three Branch Songs (2006) and What is Love? (2008), commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the interdisciplinary works States of Gravity & Light #1 and #2 (2006, 2007), A Song of the Heart (2009), Postcards from the Woods (2009), and Winter Dance (2011).
SoMoS, the most ambitious branch dance to date, explores branch dancing in the urban barrio, and as participatory performance spectacle.
Merián Soto Performance Practice
October 12, 2012 at 7:15 and 9pm
Municipal Parking Lot at 2600-2624 North 5th Street at Huntington Street, Philadelphia, 19133 – (future home of Taller Puertorriqueño)
Created and Choreographed by Merián Soto
Core Dancers and Co-Choreographers Olive Prince, Jumatatu Poe, Marion Ramírez, Beau Hancock, and Jung Woong Kim
Photo credits: Lindsay Browning