Merián Soto/Branch Dance Series
The branch dances are simple, yet powerfully communicative, works centered on consciousness in action, in performance, in practice. They are grounded in a meditative movement practice involving the detailed sequencing of movement through inner pathways; the investigation of gravity through dynamic shifting of balance and alignment; and the investigation of a spectrum of tempi. The simplicity of the performance task — to connect/harmonize (body/mind/place/) while approaching stillness always results in heightened consciousness and a sense of centering for both dancers and viewers.
The dancer practices observing relational connections between breath, nerves, bones, viscera, heart, sound, memory, the present, ideas; the focusing of the mind; how light, temperature, sound, and vision affect experience —how the sensory organs can pull the body into action; how gravity determines structure; how relational structure in the body has inherent expressive possibilities; how thought leaves pathways in the body; the experience of performance — how this informs dance/life. Maintaining energetic balance and flow in the body as it responds to
weight, place, temperature, sound, light, etc., allows the performer (and the viewer) to sense, imagine, and experience, conceptual and poetic relationships, meanings, and potentialities.
Since 2005, Soto has created dozens site adaptive works in in parks, the stage, as well as installations. These have included the critically acclaimed Three Branch Songs (2006), States of Gravity & Light (2007), Postcards from the Woods (2009), the award winning SoMoS (2012) and yearlong seasonal projects such as the One Year Wissahickon Park Project (2007-08) and Branch Dances @ Wave Hill (2011-12).
One Year Wissahickon Park Project OYWPP
"The glacial pace of their transformations forces the viewer to disconnect from whatever momentum they blew in with, to settle... Time being our most precious resource, how powerful to craft a dance that gives it back to us." --Lisa Kraus
OYWPP consisted of 16 performances in Philadelphia's Wissahicon Valley Park (four during each season), over the course of one year. Investigating correspondences between movement, the elements, physical experience, alignment, balance, consciousness, and performance, performers includedShavon Norris, Jumatatu Poe, Olive Prince,Noemí Segarra, Merián Soto, and music by Toshi Makihara. Photos by Pepón Osorio.
Branch Dances in the Bronx
Photography: Lindsay Browning
Branch Dances at The Barnes
The development of the Branch Dance Practice and Series has been made possible with the support of Dance Advance, a program of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the NALAC Fund for the Arts, Temple University, & PennPat.
"It was operatic. I watched the ending from further away the second time and was enchanted by the whole village of it, zoomed out, with its glowing homes. Watching twice was also great because of how the mind shift that happened got deeper and deeper. Like the kids who got quiet and still and watched things for a long time, I sank into the state I have while watching a flickering fire. Just present. And warmed." Lisa Kraus, thINKing Dance
"Merián Soto's Branch Dances... don't just do away with traditional notions of performance, they reorganize whole landscapes."
“This branch, so delicate and slender, sometimes turned beneath
her fingers like a living creature, a familiar spirit, or perhaps a
fakir's staff about to morph into a heap of rope and make a crowd of gawkers gasp. Carefully maneuvering the branch, Soto stepped
slowly, crouched, turned, rose, extended her arm, placed
her weight first on one foot and then
the other, and walked backwards
with eyes closed. Watching this simple passage
unfold with its certainty and luminosity, I thought that
if I could dance like this, I would be the
happiest dancer in the world.”
Eva Yaa Asantewaa, GAY CITY NEWS
Branch Dances in the Bronx