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!

Ladylike, by Ella Mesma at Trinity Centre, Bristol

Ladylike, by Ella Mesma

Ella Mesma Company | Ladylike at Trinity Centre 2018 from Ella Mesma on Vimeo.

“Ella Mesma company’s glorious Ladylike: Female sensualities, power and complicity” Katy Noakes, One Dance

“At every level – technical, theme, spirit – such a layered piece. I could see it again and again for the intricacies of meaning”. Dr Edson Burton, Trinity Centre

“Raw energy and pure power from the Ella Mesma Company… one to watch for sure” Betty Adesanya, Trinity Centre, Bristol

Ladylike, VAULT Festival by guest critic Lara Alier


2018, the year of the woman – in some parts of the world. I could probably count them on one hand.

So, when I see four diverse performers on stage, I hope it will broaden my horizons. Brazilian choreographer and performer Ella Mesma uses a wide range of dance styles such as rumba, rock and South American ritual dances. All of them are accompanied by a rich combination of musical styles and traditional instruments, crossing African beats with Son Cubano.

A ring of wheat is created to define the space that the women enter into, presenting an archetype of the female mask. The performers intertwine animalistic characters and tasks such as cleaning or cooking; it’s poetic way to make the audience understand different ways we can entrap ourselves. The whole show follows a very clear structure that is emphasized by the use of symbolic props.

The ring is swept away, and with graffiti another circle appears, a space to redefine our identity. There are different approaches, opinions and moves, and yet in this physical piece one word resonates radiates one word – embrace.

“Fantastic work by EllaMesma at VaultFestival  LadyLike is important, and beautifully executed. Make sure to catch it on tour!” 201 Dance Company

“The Vaults (under railways station Waterloo) was a strangely apt setting, a dark humid womb which rumbled & vibrated from the trains, sounding like a mothers heartbeat, goddess’ thunder, or ocean waves. Condensation dripped from the ceiling on to the concrete, every dank dark alley late at night a woman has to traverse in vigilance. And the dancers conjured in their circle every fear for our bodies, & what others impose on them we have (except ageing). Hsing Ya’s piece especially had me crying, for when we are so bound up in pain can’t distinguish between helper & perpetrator, lashing out& harming oneself even more in process of freeing. Azara’s was also gut wrenching especially in the light of current events in US & across Diaspora world, where the Progress of the last generations protests, uplifting across race & gender, Women’s rights is being forcibly rolled back, stolen away again, even sometimes at the influence of other women, not just men. The final costume/piece cut so hard after the prior acts. So thank you women for a powerful performance.” Miko Jacqueline, Audience member at the VAULT Festival, London

Ladylike, VAULT Festival

Happy International Women’s Day! A blog about releasing anger and collective awakening!

Women! Men! Humans… Has something shifted these past two years? Has an anger been rising in our collective bodies? Today: Thursday 8th March is International Women’s Day: celebrated in many countries around the world it is a day when women are recognised for their achievements, commemorating the movement for women’s rights. I… and I am sure many of you would agree, that 2017 and 2018 could also be called the year(s) of the women… and for many 2018 the year of collective awakening!
I am super happy and a bit sad… but also relieved to be celebrating the last few shows of Ella Mesma Company’s piece ‘Ladylike’ down South this March: at VAULT Festival in London on the 14th & 15th March and at Trinity Centre in Bristol on the 24th March: and what better a month: with International Women’s Day today, and the Women of the World festival at Southbank happening this month too! Ladylike has been exhausting because it came from such an emotional place… it was angry… it was cathartic, but it was also joyful. Ladylike allowed me soften because it was a release… and working with a nurturing caring and loving team meant we could exorcise with love in our hearts.
This week in the UK, a young woman very dear to me and my family was sexually assaulted on a bus by two middle aged men in broad daylight on her way home from school… and it has got my blood boiling again! So much violence towards women has been exposed these past two years. There has been a collective and angry realisation that women no longer need to (nor should they) keep silent at sexism, at rape, at sexual assault and I think that is part of healing and long term change for us all. After allegations of sexual assault and harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein began dominating the headlines, sexual abuse in Parliament came out, we have realised that we are united, that it is not ok and that we can shout NO! Like many women, I grew up with a subconscious message that speaking out is shameful, to put on a brave face, and to bury being angry. The anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment movements #MeToo and Time’s Up have meant that over the past two years public conversation about women’s issues around the world have elevated global consciousness and allowed more women to speak up and expose the obstacles women encounter in their daily lives. I find it empowering and necessary that women are stepping full-bodied into the anger that many women learn they should not possess. Broadcast journalist Ria Chatterjee said, “Women can’t move forward without expressing their anger over centuries worth of inequality and misogyny… And let’s not forget that even the act of expressing that rage is manipulated by men.” Positions of power and influence in dance, television, film, media, radio, comedy, politics are still dominated by men, so is our anger helpful in making a difference?
For me, releasing my anger has been cathartic. We all know that emotions stored in the body can lead to all sorts of problems, and Ladylike has been my cleansing, my release of emotions, my #metoo. The releasing of all those supressed emotions meant I could have more compassion, and feel more deeply. Ladylike is the story of four women from across the globe in our world today. Ladylike came from us. It is about rape, violence, abuse, resistance… it is abstract, messy, in your face, disturbing, angry and real. It also represents ‘her’story: those who came before us and did not have a voice. All those anonymous in (his)tory, and who fought for us to be where we are today: the Rosa Parks, Joan of Arcs, Sojourner Truths, Camille Claudels, Escrava Anastácia, Frida Kahlos, Harriet Tubmans. In history, when women have spoken out, they have been silenced or named as unstable or hysterical. Is this still true today? I would like to think we are moving in the right direction! Ladylike helped me to understand another perspective and realise that it is society that needs to change: that it is about the education of everyone.
Founder of #MeToo Tarana Burke describes the#MeToo cause as “the start of a larger conversation” and a space for “community healing” for all. Initially with a focus on women of colour, the movement wants to a see a cultural transformation by “encouraging millions to speak out about sexual violence and harassment,” The site describes one of #MeToo’s motto’s as “empowerment through empathy,” because the founders believe it is crucial for survivors of sexual abuse to understand that they are not alone. It was inspiring to be at the women’s march in January in NYC and today, on the 8th March, I am rocking my women’s march sweater! Both male and female celebrities dressed in all black and wore Time’s Up pins at The Golden Globes in January, to represent the cause. United we stand!
So today on Woman’s day, let’s spare a thought for our for sisters, our brothers, our mothers, our grandmothers! Let’s speak up for the next generation and  show them that it is not ok, and let’s realease the anger so we can all love a little more! Happy IWD all!
We would love to see you at our last few shows:
Much love, Ella Mesma and the badass chickens xxx
#ChickensonTour #FemalesonFire #Ladylike #IWD #InternationalWomensDay #Metoo #Timesup