A historical trail of the dancestyles we work with at Ella Mesma Company

This is a pretty long brief historical trail of some of the dance styles that have inspired us in creating our pieces. We hope you find the journey enlightening! We use a diverse range of folkloric dance styles including contact work from partner dances (such as salsa, tango, kizomba), breaking, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian folkloric dances and capoeira. The meeting of these different styles and cultures reflects the diversity and life experience of company members, and we have begun to refer to the work we make as diaspora dance theatre, because we recognise that the roots of these folkloric dances lie in Africa, and that we are also making our own new journey, just as these dances did: taking influence from the past and making sense of them in the context with the lives we live now.

Dance has always been an integral part of daily life in Africa. Africans forced to Brazil, Cuba, America and the Caribbean islands as slaves meant that the diverse dance styles of many African ethnic groups merged with indigenous and European dances. Dance helped enslaved Africans maintain connections with their homeland, keeping cultural traditions alive. Enslaved Africans in Cuba, Brazil, the Caribbean, and South America were given more freedom to dance than enslaved Africans in North America.

Afro Cuban

The term Afro Cuban refers to music and dance that combine elements of black African, indigenous and Spanish culture. Nearly 1 million Africans from West and Central Africa were captured and brought to Cuba from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and Afro Cuban dances reflect the traditions and dances of four main groups of enslaved Africans. The majority of enslaved Africans in Cuba were Yoruba and thus the Yoruba religion is still strong in Cuba today. As the religion includes drumming and dancing, these feature in Afro Cuban folkloric dances. Some of the best-known dances are attached to the Yoruba-based Afro Cuban religion of Santería: a syncretic religion (interlacing intra-African and Roman Catholic belief systems and religious practices). Both men and women sing and dance, but only men traditionally play the sacred batá drums that accompany the rituals. The percussive rhythms, songs, and dances of Santería are meant to please the orishas (deities) and to persuade them to join the celebration. There are many Afro Cuban dances, but they include dances of the Orishas (spelled òrìṣà in Yoruba), Rumba and Palo (explained further below).


Originally, the term rumba was used as a synonym for party in northern Cuba. Traditionally, the three main styles of rumba are Yambú, Columbia and Guaguanco, each of which has its own rhythm and a characteristic style of dance and singing.

Rumba: Columbia

The columbia style is a solo dance, generally, though not always, performed by males as a competition.  The dance of the columbia is acrobatic, mimetic, and competitive; one dancer follows another, each trying to outdo the rest. The columbia is the most virtuosic showpiece for the rumba dancer, with a wide vocabulary of movements that can include gestures from Abakuá, Congo, or Yoruba dancing; Tumba Francesa from Oriente (which is to say, Afro-Caribbean Domingan / Haitian influence); Spanish dancing; pantomimes and mini-dramas that can involve boxing, household tasks, or memories of slavery; and moves from later genres like tap or breaking (breakdance). Women also insisted on dancing columbia, traditionally the province of the male dancer. The most famous Columbiana was Matanzas’s Andrea Baró, and in the UK there is the amazing Luanda Pau daughter of Domingo Pau.

Rumba: Guaguancó

Guaguancó is a dance for couples representing sexual competition between the male and female. The male tries to “catch” his partner with a single thrust of his pelvis. This erotic movement is called the vacunao (‘vaccination’ or more specifically ‘injection’), a gesture symbolizing sexual penetration. The vacunao can also be expressed with a sudden gesture made by the hand or foot. The drummer often accents the vacunao. Holding onto the ends of her skirt while seductively moving her upper and lower body in contrary motion, the female ‘opens’ and ‘closes’ her skirt. The male attempts to distract the female with fancy steps, until he is in position to ‘inject’ her. The female reacts by quickly turning away, bringing the ends of her skirts together, or covering her groin area with her hand (botao), symbolically blocking the ‘injection’. Most of the time the male dancer does not succeed in ‘catching’ his partner.

“The dance is performed with good-natured humour” David Peñalosa


Palo, also known as Las Reglas de Congo, is a religion with various denominations which developed in Cuba among Central African slaves from the region of Congo. Palo dances involve many pelvic and torso movements. Drums and hand rattles are used in this music, which is based upon communication with ancestral spirits, the dead, as opposed to the Orishas.

Afro Haitian

Haitian music and dance combine elements of black African brought to Haiti as slaves, indigenous and European culture. It reflects French, African rhythms, Spanish elements and others who have inhabited the island of Hispaniola, Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) and minor native Taino influences.

Haiti saw a steady succession of slave revolts beginning as early as 1679. This would continue into the 18th century, when in the last years before the French Revolution (1785-1789), the French brought 150,000 slaves to Saint-Domingue. Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution inspired millions of free and enslaved people of African descent to seek freedom and equality throughout the Atlantic world.

Haiti is similar to the rest of Latin America, in that it is a predominantly Christian country, with 80% Roman Catholic and 16% Protestant. A small population of Muslims and Hindus exist in the country, principally in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Vodou, encompassing several different traditions, consists of a mix of Central and Western African, European, and indigenous (Taíno) religions is also widely practiced, despite the negative stigma that it carries both in and out of the country. The exact number of Vodou practitioners is unknown; however, it is believed that a large amount of the population practice it, often alongside their Christian faith. Some secular Christians also have been known to participate in some rituals, although indirectly.
In the Haitian Vodou religion, it is believed that each of the gods and goddesses, called Loa or L’wa, inspired their own unique dance movements that range in dynamics from subtle to aggressive. In the case of Vodou, the religious experience of spirit possession is usually accompanied by dancing, singing, and drumming. Carnival and rara celebrations feature exuberant dancing and movement in the streets.
Dancing is also a social activity, used for celebrations such as church socials and informal parties, as well as evenings out with friends. Styles of music and dance unique to the nation of Haiti include music derived from Vodou ceremonial traditions, rara parading music, twoubadou ballads, mini-jazz rock bands, rasin movement, hip hop kreyòl, compas, and méringue.
Social dance music has been one of the most heavily creolized music forms in Haiti. European dance forms such as the contradanse (kontradans), quadrille, waltz, and polkawere introduced to white audiences during the colonial period. Musicians either enslaved slaves or freed Africans learned the European dance forms and adapted them for their own use. One of the most popular African-influenced dance styles was the méringue (mereng in Creole). Along with the carabinier, the méringue was a favorite dance style of the Haitian elite and was a regular feature at balls. The Haitian expression, Mereng ouvri bal, mereng fème ba; (The mereng opens the ball, the mereng closes the ball) alludes to the popularity of the méringue as an ‘elite’ entertainment. Like other creolized dance styles, the méringue was claimed by both elite and proletarian Haitian audiences as a representative expression of Haitian cultural values.
The American dancer Katherine Dunham traveled to Haiti in the 1930s and was inspired so deeply by Haitian dance that she began studying Haiti’s culture, traditions, and history. Dunham learned the traditional and ceremonial dances and presented them internationally, making Haitian dance a tangible form of expression throughout the world. Dunham’s unique blend of dance styles also helped to evolve American modern dance by combining Haitian movements with those of the emerging modern dance artists of the time. Later in her life, Katherine Dunham led a hunger strike to protest discrimination toward Haitian boat people. For this, the Haitian President awarded Dunham a medal of Haiti’s highest honour and named her the ‘Spiritual Mother of Haiti.’


The yonvalou is described by Katherine Dunham as ‘the Arada-Dahomey vaudun cult rhythm and dance’. In Haiti, Yanvalou is performed in a group as a prayer, invoking deities and moving the dancers to lose consciousness and enter into a state of trance. The dance movements can include wild spinning, undulation of the spine with the hands placed on bent knees. The yonvalou, which can be traced back to Benin, West Africa  symbolizes the waves of the ocean. It can also symbolize prayer, in terms of a greeting or welcome’. The yonvalou is part of the sacred dance of Osumare.

Afro Brazilian 

Close to 4 million slaves were captured and brought to Brazil from the African continent. They belonged to two major groups: the West African and the Bantu people. The West Africans were sent in large numbers to Bahia. They mostly belong to the Ga-Adangbe, Yoruba, Igbo, Fon, Ashanti, Ewe, Mandinka, and other West African groups native to Guinea, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria. Afro Brazilian dances include samba, capoeira and the dances of the Orixás from the religion Candomblé. Candomblé (meaning dance in honour of the gods) is a religion found primarily in Brazil that incorporates some religious aspects of Yoruba, Bantu, and Fon African societies, and some characteristics of Catholicism as well. These dances are explained further below.

Òrìṣà/Orishas/Orixás (A selection)

Spelled Òrìṣà in Yoruba, Orisha in Cuba and Orixá in Brazil, Orishas are gods that reflect the manifestations of the Supreme God / the All Father Olodumare or Olofi. Different Orisha may have different preferred colours, foods, saints and objects as well as their own characteristics, stories, dances and rhythms.

The Orishas focused on in Ladylike (shown below in artwork by Hugo Canuto) are:

Òrìṣà/Orishas/Orixás: Changó (Shangó)

Chango is the owner of fire, lightning, thunder, and war, but he is also the patron of music, drumming, and dancing. He represents male beauty and virility, passion and power. His colours are red and white, and his eleke (sacred necklace) is made of alternating red and white beads. He had three wives, namely Oshun, Oba, and Oya. Oya is his favourite wife.

Òrìṣà/Orishas/Orixás: Oshun (Osun)

Oshun is an deity of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. Oshun is commonly called the river orisha, or goddess, in the Yoruba religion and is typically associated with water, purity, fertility, love, and sensuality. Like other gods, she possesses human attributes such as vanity, jealousy, and spite. Oshun gave birth to twins with Shango. When Shango heard the news that Oshun had given birth to the Ibeyi (twins), afraid of what Oya might do to these children, (since she had borne him no children), he decided to take these children from Oshun and leave them with his mother Yemaya. He took the children without a word  to Oshun. Upon her return, Oshun found her children gone and knowing that Shango would help her find them, left to find her babies.

Òrìṣà/Orishas/Orixás: Oya (Yansá)

Oya is an Orisha of winds, lightning, and violent storms, death and rebirth. She is similar to the Haitian God Maman Brigitte, who is syncretised with the Catholic Saint Brigit. In Candomblé, Oya is known as Oiá, lyá Mésàn, or most commonly, Iansã, from the Yoruba Yánsán. Iansã, as in Yoruba religion, commands winds, storms, and lightning. In Yoruba, the name Oya literally means ‘She tore’. She is also known as Ọya-Iyansan – the ‘mother of nine’. This is due to the Niger River (known to the Yoruba as the Odo-Ọya) which has nine tributaries.

Òrìṣà/Orishas/Orixás: Oba (Obá)

Oba is the Orisha of the River Oba, whose source lays near Igbon, where her worship originates. She is traditionally identified as the first wife of Shango (the third king of the Oyo Empire and an Orisha). Oba was tricked by Oya or Oshun into cutting off her ear and trying to feed it to Shango.

Òrìṣà/Orishas/Orixás: Osumare (Oshunmare)

Osumare is the spirit of the rainbow and the roadway to unleashing divine consciousness. Osumare  represents both masculine and feminine energies with an ability to change sex. Osumare is in essence an archetypal representation of kundalini energy and the chakras. The divine rainbow serpent provides us with the opportunity to connect with our destiny by traveling through the inner self. This powerful Orisha provides an infinite gateway of immense power.


Capoeira is a martial art developed initially by African slaves that came predominantly from Angola, Mozambique and Nigeria to Brazil, mainly in Bahia, where there was a high concentration of black Africans. A popular conception of cap­oeira is that it was developed as a means of self-defence (disguised as a dance) for slaves hoping to escape to independent black communi­ties or quilombos. A game, a fight, and a dance, capoeira is composed of kicks, acrobatics, and traditional Kongo dance movements. One doesn’t speak of dancing or fight­ing but rather of playing capoeira (jogar capoeira).


Samba is frequently identified as a musical expression of urban Rio de Janeiro, where it developed during the first years of the 20th century. The word ‘samba’ is thought to be derived from the Kimbundu (Angolan) term ‘semba’, which referred to an ‘invitation to dance’. Artists used samba music to express their opinions on the social, economic and political issues in the country. In the 1870s, politicians attempted to prohibit samba on the pretext that folkloric dances shamed Brazil’s national image, but it is widely believed that artists were censored during the country’s dictatorships for disguising protest messages in songs. By the 1980s, samba became associated with a more ethnically aware political movement, aligned both with the Black Power movement in the United States and the Caribbean as well as the Pan-African movement in Africa.

North America

African-Americans sang and danced while working as slaves, and as they converted to the religions of the Americas, they incorporated these traditions into these religions. Many North American slave owners barred Africans from most forms of dancing. Africans found ways of getting around these prohibitions. For example, since lifting the feet was considered dancing, many dances included foot shuffling and hip and torso movement. Dances dominant through the 18th century included the ring shout or ring dance, the calenda, the chica, and the juba.

The Creole Show, a revue staged on Broadway in 1891, introduced ‘The Cakewalk’, the first dance created by blacks to become popular with the white population. Other black-influenced dance trends that followed were the Charleston, the lindy hop, the jitterbug, and the twist. Black musical theatre, derived from minstrel shows, popularised and legitimised black dance traditions and black performers.

Tap combined elements of African-influenced shuffle dances, English clog dancing, and Irish jigs. Black dancers such as Bill Robinson, brought the new form respectability and popularity. Tap dancing developed further in the 1930s and 1940s when white dancers included it in motion pictures. During the 1930s and 1940s, leading white choreographers integrated African-American themes and movement styles into their dances and hired black dancers to perform them. Also during this time, two American dancers who had been trained as anthropologists, Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus made immeasurable contributions to African-influenced dance based on their research done in Africa and the Caribbean. Lester Horton and Alvin Ailey contributed significantly to modern dance.  (extracts taken from African American a Brief History)


Salsa is a music and dance that initially arose in New York City during the 1960s, but the music had already been going strong in the city for several decades prior to the use of the label ‘salsa’. New York had been a centre of Cuban-style dance music since the 1940s. By the early 1950s, there were three very popular mambo big bands in New York: Machito and his Afro-Cubans, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodríguez. The Palladium Ballroom was the epicentre of mambo in New York. At the height of its popularity, the Palladium attracted Hollywood and Broadway stars, especially on Wednesday nights, when a free dance lesson was offered. The mambo and its ‘temple’, the Palladium, were racially and ethnically integrated.

Latin jazz, which was also developed in New York City, has had a significant influence on salsa music. Salsa is primarily Cuban son, itself a fusion of Spanish canción and guitar and Afro Cuban percussion, merged with North American music styles such as jazz. Salsa also occasionally incorporates elements of rock, R&B, and funk. The first salsa bands were predominantly Cuban refugees and Puerto Ricans who moved to New York in the 1920s. Some of the founding salsa artists were Johnny Pacheco (the creator of the Fania All-Stars), Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Rubén Blades, Willie Colón, Larry Harlow, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentín, Eddie Palmieri and Héctor Lavoe.

Salsa lyrics often quote from traditional Cuban son and rumba songs. Sometimes there are references to Afro Cuban religions, such as Santeria. Salsa lyrics also exhibit Puerto Rican influences. Hector Lavoe, who sang with Willie Colón for nearly a decade used typical Puerto Rican phrasing in his singing. Politically and socially activist composers have long been an important part of salsa, and some of their works, like Eddie Palmieri’s ‘La libertad lógico’, became Latin, and especially Puerto Rican anthems. The Panamanian-born singer Ruben Blades in particular is well known for his socially-conscious and incisive salsa lyrics about everything from imperialism to disarmament and environmentalism. Many salsa songs contain a nationalist theme, centered around a sense of pride in black Latino identity, and may also be in Spanish, English or a mixture of the two (Spanglish).

Hip Hop

Hip hop combines rapping (also known as mc’ing), graffiti, breakdancing and D.J.-ing.

Hip hop music is considered to have been pioneered in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 by Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc. At a Halloween dance party thrown by his younger sister, Herc used an innovative turntable technique to stretch a song’s drum break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively. The popularity of the extended break lent its name to ‘breakdancing’, a style specific to hip hop culture, which was facilitated by extended drumbreaks played by DJs at New York dance parties. By the mid-1970s, New York’s hip hop scene was dominated by seminal turntablists DJ Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Herc.


Rocking came before breaking and is also known as ‘uprock’ or the ‘Brooklyn rock’. It is a competitive dance battle from  early 1970s New York. Evolved from salsa, the hustle and other popular dance forms, the youth were ‘rocking’ as entertainment and in an effort to avoid involvement in gangs and violence. The dance consists of footwork, burns () and a four point body movement called the ‘jerk’. While many other dance battles and popular dances happen in a circle, Uprocking battles take place in a formation called the Apache Line. The battle is like a ‘faux-fight’ and is danced to a whole song facing one another. In the break in the music (the point where there is only instrumentals and no lyrics: for example the montuno section in a Salsa song) is where they will jerk on the ‘Apache line’.


B’boying or Breaking is a style of street dance that originated among African Americans & Puerto Rican youths in New York City during the early 1970’s. A style of acrobatic and funk dancing, breaking is often performed to hip hop & funk. The dancers came to be called ‘B-boys’ or ‘B-girls’ because they got down on the floor and used the breaks in the music to show off their moves.

The earliest b-boys are said to be 90 percent African-American, and the rest mostly Puerto Rican-Americans. Elements of breaking may been influenced by a wide range of dance styles and other sources. These include Kaduna (dating from 1959 Nigeria), tap dance, salsa, ‘Good Foot’ (from James Brown’s record of the same name), Kung Fu films and capoeira. However, B boys ‘Crazy Legs’ and ‘Ken Swift’, say they never witnessed capoeira when they were young.

Breaking is clearly connected to ‘Breakbeat’. Bboying is one of the four original elements of what we know as the hip hop culture, a term coined by Africa Bambataa to include the sub cultures that were developing organically in NY City. Beginning with DJ Kool Herc, Bronx-based DJs would take the rhythmic breakdown sections (also known as the “breaks”) of dance records and loop them (in salsa these would be called ‘montuno’). These shorter ‘throwdowns’ also meant they had more energy to dance complex and highly acrobatic moves than in rocking. The breakbeat made a rhythmic base that allowed breakers to display their improvisational skills for the duration of the break. This led to the first battles (competitions between two individuals or dance crews, judged with respect to creativity, skill, and musicality). Battles occurred in cyphers (circles of people gathered around the breakers).

Breaking movements include intricate toprock (stand up moves), get downs (moves to transition to the floor), fast footwork (such as the 6 step), freezes and power moves (such as windmills). The dance spread worldwide due to popularity in the media, especially in regions such as South Korea, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and Japan.

Towards the end of the 1980s, partly out of the black community’s frustrations with racism, a more politically engaged rap music, known as ‘conscious rap’, rose as a sub-genre of hip hop.

Some important figures in the preservation and promotion of breaking include Kenneth ‘Ken Swift’ Gabbert and Richard ‘Crazy Legs’ Colon of Rock Steady Crew and Gabriel ‘Kwikstep’ Dioniso and Ana ‘Rokafella’ Garcia of Full Circle Productions.

Thank you for your follow

All things Roots of Rumba

Roots of Rumba (established 2013 at Richmix) began as a mission to create a platform for established professionals and emerging Latin dance artists to present Dance Theatre with Afro-Latin dance and themes at the heart.

I am super excited to announce that this year Roots of Rumba will be funded by Arts Council of England and will be touring the UK! This year Roots of Rumba will tour to 5 cities and will present 3 amazing UK based professional artists, One international act (NYC based) and two local artists from each touring city. Of different generations and genres within the diaspora, artists will be presenting very different work that truly showcases the potential and scope of diaspora dance theatre! The tour also includes workshops, an afterparty and more!

Why did you start Roots of Rumba?

“I LOVE Latin dance. Growing up on the salsa scene, I am naturally a huge fan of Eddie Torres, Yamulee, Swing Latino, Tropical Gem and all the others who tour the congress scenes worldwide. These dance shows are amazing: with impressive movements to showcase these beautiful dances. They are also often very ‘front facing’ and have similar teeny tiny costumes for the women and big big smiles (that often as a performer felt forced or that they didn’t convey what I was actually feeling and thinking).

Training as a contemporary dancer was hard at first, because I moved so differently and often latin dances are based on call and response or improvisation, so I felt that Contemporary Dance was a very different world: One where I was not sure I belonged. I began to that notice that my dance forms didn’t get the same respect and opportunity to shine as contemporary and ballet and to wish for them also to be put on the stage with a similar reverance. After touring with contemporary Companies like Russell Maliphant, and working with Jonzi D (Breakin’ Convention) who is one of the founders of Hip Hop Dance Theatre, I realised there is a huge potential for creating deeper work using latin dance forms.  I began to imagine the ‘what if’s!’: “What if we lit or staged it differently?” “What if we changed the costumes slightly?” “What if we looked at creating theme or issue based work?” “Or added technology?” The potentials are endless!

My piece Ladylike (which has received a Lukas award nomination) does just that: it uses Afro Cuban dance to talk about issues around sex, sexuality and the #metoo movement. I think that Latin dance styles lend themselves really well to creating theatre, because they are at a beautiful crossroads of different cultures to creating a dialogue: in particular around subjects about migration, identity and sexuality… but I am sure this list is also endless and I would love to support more artists on this journey!

And so, in 2013, with the help of Scannersinc, I set up the first Roots of Rumba: Creating a festival that gave Afro-Latin dance theatre a spotlight on the stage.

I continued the festival over the next few years in London, but this year I decided to invest more time into understanding what the scope of the festival was, what its remit was, and what and how it helped to enable the UK scene, and am delighted to have received an Arts Council of England grant to support that.

Why did you change the remit from Afro-Latin Dance Theatre?

Originally I created Roots of Rumba as a platform for dances from South America and the Caribbean, such as Rumba, Tango, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, Samba, Salsa, Capoeira, Baile Funk, Kuduru, Bachata etc. I chose the title Roots of Rumba, because if we trace the journeys of these dances, all of them really originate in Africa.

The more I discussed, read and reflected on my creating an Afro-Latin festival, the more I understood the complexities of the definition and how political even the use of the word ‘Latin’ can be. Within my own personal practise I have come to realise that boxes and definitions can be so unhelpful, and that whilst they hep us to understand, they can also limit us. I began to wonder whether the definition of Afro-Latin dance theatre was unhelpful, and to wonder whether I should include different dances of the African Diaspora such as Hip Hop (Many forms were created by the Latin community in the USA, they also originate in Africa) and Caribbean dances including Haitian dance, Dance hall and of course African dances such as Sabar, Kizomba and Mapouka.

Seeing Germaine Acogny’s (the Mother of African Contemporary Dance) work at Southbank this year was very impactful this year: an amazing example of dance theatre which uses her  Germaine Acogny technique so powerfully…

Eventually, after talking to mentors, peers and family, I decided that because the Roots of all of these dances are in Africa, and that all Afro-Latin dance forms can be traced back to Africa in their roots, it felt right to define the festival as a festival celebrating diaspora dance theatre because all of these styles are dances of the African Diaspora at the heart.

Where is Roots of Rumba this year?

We will go to:






Who is performing?

Ffion Campbell Davies

 ‘Womb Paves Way’ meets us at the cross roads of the past and future, paving new pathways and clearing debris and obstruction. Embarking on rights of passage into womanhood, the piece is influenced by Yoruba Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban deity Ogun. A female interpretation, embodying the marriage of divine masculine/feminine contemporary and traditional forms, the piece is a returning back home to the womb residing in purity and rebirth. Taking reference from African and Caribbean women of the Victorian and Colonial era, and questioning what being a woman really means within prejudice and matriarchal society? Who are we underneath ‘his-story’, what is ‘her-story’? ‘Womb paves way’ is inspired by the book ‘Vagina’ by Naomi Wolf.

Ffion Campbell-Davies is a multidisciplinary performance artist. Cardiff born mixed Welsh Grenadian, trained at LCDS in 2010. Exchanged at Calarts, LA in 2013. Studied in Brazil and Cuba in 2014-16. Joined dance theatre company ‘House Of Absolute’ in 2015 and winner of Crooked Districts ‘Krump vs Waacking’ and Kwame Asafo-Adjei’s Spoken Movement BLOC BATTLE in experimental 2018. She’s worked alongside singer Lula Mebrahtu, performed ‘caravan’ Immersive theatre at VAULTfest and is currently presenting her own conceptual works celebrating Identity and womanhood, in particular ‘Womb Paves Way’ which was performed at Rich Mix London for ‘She Created Her Life’ Curated by Ella Mesma and Tichea Brade.

“I am excited to unite in the excellence of the African Diaspora at Roots of Rumba”

Iris De Brito

Uprooting: a work in progress centred around the family bonds severed through migration & immigration. Iris will explore how the forced movement of people creates new identities and cycles of trauma that reflect through generations.

Iris has worked with “Badejo Arts”, “Kokuma Dance Company” and Sheron Wray. In the commercial sector, with artists such as Jay Z, Madonna and Kylie Minogue. Iris has travelled extensively to Cuba to study Afro Cuban movement. She was 2x UK Salsa champion and In 2006, and toured the International Afro Latin festival circuit for over 15 years performing and teaching. Iris organises BATUKE International Festival in London promoting awareness of Afro Luso culture. In 2017, as part of LTSF, she travelled to Angola on a research trip culminating in a one hour documentary. She is a 2107-2018 One Dance UK – DAD Trailblazer starter fellow.

“I am excited to be part of Roots Of Rumba because I thinks it is the right platform for my work and I am passionate about developing an audience for this kind of work”

Myriam Gadri

‘The Lost Goddess” is a dance piece about the Lady of the River: a goddess who has been asleep for over 100 years. A ceremonial dance has been passed down through the generations is used in an attempt to wake up the goddess. Those who know it have dedicated their lives to this ritual. Legend states that the goddess can only be awakened by someone worthy of learning the ways of the four elements (earth, water, wind, fire). The Lost Goddess is inspired by one of Maya Angelou’s poems 

Myriam Gadri was born in Switzerland and also raised in Togo ( Africa) and London ( UK). She is a dancer, performer, actor, model now living in New York. Myriam has performed on the “Today Show” numerous times including “Summer Concert Series” with Pitbull and Mark Anthony, the “Ugly Betty” season 4 launch party, “Fake Off” Season 2 with DECA Crew on TrueTV, NY KNICKS ‘Latin’ halftime show at Madison Square Garden, performed in Miami for Don Omar in the Latin Billboard Awards two years running choreographed by Maria Torres, Marc Jacobs – Decadance fragrance launch, The Latin Quarter Casino Show and made an appearance on SNL Christmas Special with Amy Adams.called, “Alone”.
“Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out there alone.” …Maya Angelou

She has made numerous appearances infusing Latin and African dance styles with several dance companies. She made her U.S musical debut with “The Wiz” at Arkansas Theatre Rep, and then two productions of “In The Heights” directed and choreographed by Luis Salgado, where she was the first woman to play the role of Graffiti Pete in one of these productions. She toured with The Hip Hop Nutcracker where she played the ‘Mother’, Performed at the IIFA Awards 2017 and “Broadway Bares – Equity Fights Aids” in Sekou Mcmiller Ii‘s piece.
She also had the honor of playing the first female ‘Graffiti Pete’ in the critically acclaimed US premier of In The Heights in Spanish which won 9 awards at the Helen Hayes Awards 2018 and 3 Broadway World awards Directed and choreographed by 3 times Broadway veteran Luis Salgado.

“I am very excited to be able to present and share this original piece in the line up of ‘Roots of Rumba’ Tour because In today’s world, the answers given to face struggle tend to divide us… and reaching out to what we all have in common and to what was here before us is one of the beautiful ways to finally unite”.

Sandra Passirani

“Mine or theirs” is a piece about what I could or would do, as a queer woman of color, if my body was truely mine. It is hard to believe we really have a choice over our actions, as if everything we do was a reaction to gender expectations. Perhaps remembering all the magic and the sacred there is in us, would help not to bend under the weight of social constructs.

Sandra Passirani is from France where she trained at Choreia Le Centre des Arts Vivants in Paris. She continued training at the Alvin Ailey School. In New York, some of her favorite performing memories include: the New York Times annual gala, the 25th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil, being a soloist at the Museum of Natural History for two years, and feeling the magic dancing in the Apollo Club Harlem show directed by Maurice Hines. She is grateful to have been part of Lynn Neuman’s company for eight years, and for every moments she got to dance with friends and family. Sandra taught at the Manhattan Youth Ballet, Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, Broadway Dance Center, and Steps on Broadway.
“I hope to always explore new grounds”

“Roots of Rumba is a great platform for international artists. I am grateful to be able to share a message and magical moments with its audience.”

Azara Rowena Meghie

“Just Another Night” is a piece where, over the course of one night, at a house party, Azara struggles to shrug off questions about her race, gender, sexuality and just dance.

Azara Meghie is a black LGBTQI performer. Her first live solo performance I Am A Woman was created in Jamaica. She collaborated with Kai Fi’ain to develop a video piece which screened at the BFI Flare Film Festival 2017 and seven film festivals across London, Berlin and New York. She has just finished her second film Breaking Down my Trans-Lation.

“I am excited about performing at Roots of Rumba because I can share my roots and journey with and to more people”.

Franck Lusbec

“Di-Osmosis” Your roots are the base of who you are, no matter how much you grow they will be a part of you and affect your life in one way or another. They are always linked to your core. I grew up on a Caribbean Island that I left at a young age. Today I’m a man very far from his original home, geographically but also mentallity, still my blood is encrypted with the rich culture of Martinique and no matter what I do, I’m always influenced by it, even in the smallest ways. Whether it’s in my dancing, the words I use, my accent, or the way I percieve everything around me. I want to be a citizen of the world, build myself with help from the cultures and the people I encounter all over but no matter what, I’ll always be “Martiniquais”. In this piece I want to explore that duality, that tricky yet perfect osmosis, between my roots and who I’m building myself to be…

Franck ARNAUD-LUSBEC aka Duracel Freaks grew up between Paris and a French Caribbean island called Martinique. Dance has always been a part of his life and at the age of 16, after a year of hip-hop classes he decided he would make dance his career. At the age of 20 he attended Rick Odums International Jazz Center where in trained in Ballet, Jazz and Modern. During his time there he had the privilege to work with amazing teachers and choreographers such as Geraldine Armstrong, Cathy Grouet and Magalie Vérin. They helped him develop a strong technique in Jazz, and Modern dances. Meanwhile, he was also part of a hip-hop company, Insolite Crew with whom he participated in events, music videos (I Got It by Diversidad) and contests such as “MTV Shake ton Booty” (2nd place in 2010, 1st place in 2011). After 2 Years He moved to New York where he joined the Certificate Program at Peridance Capezio Center. There he trained in many styles with great teachers and choreographers such as Lajon Dantzler, Joanna Numata, Tweetboogie, KCDC, Princess Lockeroo, Ms Vee, Archie Burnett, Marlena Wolfe, Milton Myers, Djoniba Mouflet… He also appeared in ABC’s Good Morning America and in a couple of music videos. Back in Paris since 2015, he has been working on various project, as a dancer and a choreographer. He’s the director of “Free FAL’L Dance Comany”, within which he brought together skilled dancers with different backgrounds, from France and the US. Today Franck travels, to perform with his company but also to teach, trying to share his artistry with the world and hoping to keep on learning from his surroundings

“I’m very happy to have the opportunity to explore this subject with other artists.”

DJ Lubi

Awesome Latin and Hip Hop sounds from Leeds based DJ Lubi (Lubi Jovanovic) is one of the UK’s best known salsa and Latin music DJs both at home and abroad. He is also a long time jazz/soul/funk/world music DJ and live music promoter. His career spans over 30 years working in all aspects of the business – international DJ, live music promoter, club promoter, radio presenter, record label PR and CD compiler. He began in 1982 spinning Mongo Santamaria/Tito Puente/Art Blakey/Tania Maria records in Bradford in the north of England as part of the UK jazzdance movement – hard bop, jazz fusion, samba batucada and mambo – and was soon running weekly sessions in the city including The Jazz Cellar (a DJ and live band night) and Wild Style (two floors – one rap/electro, the other jazz/Latin – breakers and jazz hoofers battling it out under one roof). By 1986, he was promoting his first salsa clubnight, Club Afro Latino in Leeds, one of the earliest outside London, plus guesting as a DJ across the country, playing bass in local jazz groups and leading his own Latin jazz bands. In the 1980s, DJ Lubi was also a working musician.

“Looking forward to playing at Roots Of Rumba once again and working with Ella Mesma who I have a long and happy association with going right back to her forming Element Arts in Leeds in 2005. DJing at her events’ after-parties is so natural as we both share a common love of great Latin American, Caribbean, Afro-American and African music past, present and future – salsa, samba, timba, funk, soul, hip-hop, jazz, rumba, reggaeton, afrobeat and dancehall. I’ll be playing all these on the night and look forward to an amazing dancers jam across all the genres represented by Roots Of Rumba. Bring it on!”

Nandy Cabrera Capucho – Selectorchico TM

Born in Sweden in 1978 as a stateless person, mother and father uruguayan political refugees in exile. He resides currently in Montevideo, Uruguay.

DJ, and active music producer since 1999 under the pseudonym ​SelectorchicoTM having edited on independent labels such as Angel’s Egg (Japan) Vampi Soul (Spain) Flora & Fauna (Sweden) Frente Bolivarista, Psicotropicodelia (Brazil) Soundsister (Mexico) Sondor ( Uy) and having participated in festivals FILE (Brazil) FUSION (Germany) VAMOS (UK) Liminaria (Italy) Latinarab (Argentina)

Curator of the transmedia performance ​Revisitando Macondo on the Uruguayan record label of the 70’s of the same name. Co-curator of the sound area of ​​the British festival of Latin American culture ​VAMOS Festival of the city of Newcastle since 2016.

Institutional sound designer for ​Latinarab​, an international Arab film festival in the city of Buenos Aires since 2014. Post-producer and sound designer in several Uruguayan films, shorts and documentaries, having received several awards for his work, some of which are La Casa Muda, El hombre muerto, Chau Pelado, NEGRO, Amazónica.

Founder of the ​Espectral sound design studio (2005-2012) having done work for clients such as Unión Latina, Nat Geo and Uruguayan National Television, among many others. Founder, of the collective, party and virtual label Club Subtropical (2010-2016). Musician and composer in the band Tráfico, whose debut album was released in 2013, member of musical projects such as Plátano Macho, Spanglish Trax, Chocadores, Colectivo Remezclación, Ritmi e Rumori. Activist of the cultural association Triangulación Kultural in events such as AFRO EXPO and Uruguayan Music for Haiti, among others.

He is the youngest son of the Uruguayan poet Sarandy Cabrera (1923 – 2005) He has academic studies in arts, sound and computer science, parallel self-taught training in constant process. He speaks fluent French, English and Spanish, notions of Italian and Portuguese.

Thank you for your follow

We are Lukas Finalists 2018

Thank you everyone for your support… we aere through to the finals for ‘BEST DANCE PRODUCTION’ alongside…


‘Acosta Dance’ by Carlos Acosta @ Sadlers Wells

‘Born a Shadow’ by Compañía Rafaela Carrasco @ Sadlers Wells

 Ímpetus’ by Ballet Flamenco Jesús Carmona @ Sadlers Wells

‘Ladylike’ by Ella Mesma @ Trinity (Bristol) and Vault festival (London)

‘Painter and Flamenco’ by Úrsula López, Tamara López, Leonor Leal @ Sadlers Wells

Thank you for your follow

May Newsletter


View this email in your browser

Dear beautiful ones,

I am delighted to have met/worked/collaborated/connected with you in 2018 and I hope to continue to engage with you for a long time in the future, but first… you guessed it! It is GDPR time!

Below is my latest newsletter in which I tell you about all things Ella Mesma Company (including Papyllon at LDIF 2018 and in South Africa, the last Ladylike show at Dance City in Newcastle and our Lukas nomination, plus if you opt in to our newsletter you will receive a bonus link to watch the full length show online. I will also tell you about She Created Her Life: a collaboration between the amazing Tichea Brade and myself and the Roots of Rumba tour!

First please check out the compulsory GDPR stuff below: To continue hearing from me you will need to opt in to my emails… BUT when you opt in (click on the button below), I will give you a loyalty bonus link to watch the full length Ladylike production at Trinity Centre Bristol online… and don’t forget that underneath the GDPR there are lots of juicy informations about the company…

If you choose not to stay and receive emails: Thank you so much for your time! It has been great to have made contact with you and I hope to see you in person somewhere soon.

Opt In

In preparation for 25 May 2018, when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enforced, we would like to verify that you are happy to continue to receive marketing material from us. If you would like to receive our e-newsletters, containing the latest news from Ella Mesma and Company, which will include details of upcoming events, performances and opportunities, please click the link below to sign up to our new newsletter.

We know and understand that you are busy, and so we will only email you when we have important things to share with you. We do not spam, pass your data onto anyone and are committed to sending you emails that are relevant and engaging.

If you would like to continue hearing from us, please update your subscription settings by using the buttons below.

You can always unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of each email we send you.

We do not share personal information with any third party or external organisations for any purpose unless we have prior permission or we are legally required to do so. Where we do share information we only share what is absolutely necessary to fulfil that contract.

To find out more about how we use personal data, please read our Privacy Policy.

Opt In

Now back to our latest news…


We have just performed a section for Let’s Dance International Frontiers by Serendipity in Leicester at the Curve along with an extract of our new work in progress ‘Foreign Bodies’ performed by Patrick Ziza and David Evans. (Above is a little snippet of rehearsal footage). Thank you for having us Serendipity: We loved the whole process! Read our blog about the making of Papyllon with Serendipity We also loved seeing the work of Germaine Acogny and taking class with the amazing Barbara Ramos (Santiago de Cuba) and Jeanguy Saintus Riché (Haiti): Thank you!

We are also extremely excited to announce that we have been granted an AIDF fund (Artists‘ International Development Fund funded by the British Council and Arts Council England), to collaborate with poet Toni Stuart in South Africa: both developing the work as a duet, and performing the finished product (more on that next month!)

We will next perform an extract of Papyllon for COLLABO Bristol on the 23rd June



We have our last Ladylike show coming up and it is going to be a little different! Our family member Azara will be travelling to LA and so we have an honorary Ladylike member joining us for this show with a twist!
Show information and tickets

We have been nominated for a LUKAS award for best dance production: alongside the likes of Sidi Larbi and Carlos Acosta! So we need your votes! Vote for best dance production here (US!)

If you missed out on seeing Ladylike, or if you want to check that we really are the best production, well we want to bring the show to you! If you opt in, we will give you a link to the full length show from Trinity Centre (The above clip is the trailer, but opt in to be sent the full show!)

Trying It On
She Created Her Life
Roots of Rumba

Trying it On: Ella Mesma had so much fun working for Lea Anderson’s Chomondeleys in Bristol this month in her piece ‘Trying it On’ at the Bristol Museum: Thank you Lea Anderson and team!

ROOTS OF RUMBA: It is nearly time! We are waiting to hear about funding, but meanwhile we can announce that we have shows and events happening in 5 UK cities!
Participate: Get involved in the cities near you! 

SCHL: We had so much fun creating, curating and hosting this with the best collaborator ever: Tichea Brade! Thank you to everyone who attended. Here are some quotes from the event: 

“You created magic on Saturday” Cindy Claes: 1000 pieces puzzler

“In our scene people are scared to show vulnerability: you created a safe space for that. Wonderful” Iris De Brito: Batuke/DAD Trailblazer 2018

And the next one (We Created) is coming soon! Mark the date: 3rd November 2018! (Would you like to present? Email us!)

We would love to hear from you: would you like us to be involved with your project? Do you have an idea you would like help to bring to life? Do you just want to share an opinion with us?  Don’t be shy: we will be happy to create, collaborate, receive or just listen! Thank you for your time reading this and we hope to continue the relationship after GDPR!

Thank you,

Copyright © *2018* *Ella Mesma Company*, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.



Thank you for your follow

An interview with Serendipity

This year I have been developing a duet called Papillon with Toni Stuart a poet from South Africa, and the support of Dance 4 and Serendipity. I will be sharing a section at the LDIF 2018 in Leicester on the 10th May.

Here is my interview with Dance 4 about the creation!

Q. Can you tell us about how you feel you have developed as an artist over the last year working with Dance4?

A. Meeting Joao Fiadeiro through Dance4, Serendipity and Dance Umbrella, to my own journey and chats with Pawlet, through digging super deep and facing my fear I have grown as an artist. From going into my cave (exposing myself; being honest about my feelings), I have emerged and really do feel like I have come out the other side much lighter. The things that occupied my mind and made me worry, are not as big or important as they were inside my head.  I will never forget Hakeem Onibudo talking about the ‘Hero’s journey’ back in 2013, and I really do feel like that has been this year.  It is not like some miracle has happened outside, but I have stepped into me this year, I have realised who I am, and taken the blessings in that.

Q. After performing at signatures in LDIF17, showing a piece about transformation and renewal. Have any new ideas or concepts arisen after working on this piece over the last year?
A. The piece has totally transformed. Originally, I had a twenty-minute piece using a huge maypole type structure inspired by DNA: The piece was all about DNA: As a mixed heritage Britain, I felt so angry by Theresa May’s statement “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means.” at the Tory party conference in 2016. I wanted to make a piece about polarity, about opposites, that said no to Theresa May, and that said that really we are all mixed, and that undressed what is British?
The piece is still around all of these ideas, but it has become much more abstract and much more layered as I have resolved my own stuff.
Q. This piece is also relevant to questioning identity and privilege. How have you explored that with more depth over that last year? 
A. The main thing I have learnt is that it was all in my mind! Whilst labels exist, they do not make me anymore or any less who I am. Making this piece, I was able to step outside of the complex issues I had that were making me feel guilty, unworthy or apologetic.  All the experiences I have had, caused me to grow into who I am and now I can just be: I realised I do belong everywhere. I am a citizen of the world and that is ok: even the way I move reflects my mixture: it is not definable as one thing.
Q. What are your plans post-Autograph for both you and this solo piece?
A. I am super excited to have been awarded an Artist International Development Fund, so I will be travelling to South Africa to work with the poet Toni Stuart. We will develop the piece as an hour-long show with two halves: The first half using the original maypole structure, storytelling and poetry by Toni Stuart. The second half will begin with the section you saw this evening around the idea of the butterfly and transformation, but with Toni on stage too. We want to work with caligraphy and mapping live on stage as well as the scroll which you will (hopefully) see tonight.
I also want to research and develop a group piece called Foreign Bodies, which will delve more into these very sad racist times, look at power struggles and look at the polarities of religion and science: it is also about journeys and transition, about getting to know ourselves, a kind of release too.

Thank you for having me Serendipity and Dance 4 it has been such a fantastic opportunity!

Thank you for your follow