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Dances With Branches, a Trio of New works by Merian Soto at the Bronx's Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture: Three Branch Songs and States of Gravity & Light

by Merilyn Jackson
October 30, 2006
Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture
450 Grand Concourse at 149 Street
Directions to Hostos Community College: #2,4,5, Bx1, Bx19 to Grand Concourse/149St.
Bronx, NY 10451
(718) 518-4455
In a circle of light, Merian Soto ceremonially carries a large branch forward. She looks like an earth goddess draped in rust colors in her new solo work, Three Branch Songs. It's a major departure from the post-modern, yet saucy Salsa-based dances that she's been known for in her work with Pepatián, the multidisciplinary Latino arts organization based in the Bronx. She's bringing the new look in the new work to the Bronx's Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture this Thursday and Friday. Another work on the program, States of Gravity and Light features dancers Noemi Segarra and Jumatatu Poe.

Soto says her many days spent in Philadelphia's Wissahickon Park inspired and informed both works. "The work involves an investigation of gravity as an essential force," she says of her "dances with branches". It also continues her investigation of movement paired with live music. In fact, she calls it "A duet for me and Elio Villafranca."

But watching it on a promo tape, it seems more of a duet for her and her branches. At first, her movement is in silence and seems in response to the shape the branch makes as she slowly moves it and it changes shape in shadow beneath her. It is more divining rod, leading her, not she leading it.

Once Villafranca's piano arpeggios begin to swirl like leaves in a fall wind Soto begins to find her ground becoming the branch's roots. Even her neck becomes a bough, shaking her head in a breeze. In another section, she balances the branch on her head becoming a tree trunk, somatically absorbing the elegant movement of trees in her slow walk.

Soto says this new choreography takes her back to her dancing body, which as she ages is not so gravity defying as it once was. That's alright. There is a lot of room for work by mature artists who bring gravitas to the stage as a way of defying gravity.

November 2 & 3, 2006
7:00 PM

Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture
450 Grand Concourse at
149th Street in the Bronx
Tickets $12/$8/student: (718) 518 4455
www.hostos.cuny.edu/culturearts
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