“A beautiful collage raw and honest physicality which holds you from beginning to end.” Alice Henry, Dance City

EMC | Papillon Trailer from R & D featuring Toni Stuart from Ella Mesma on Vimeo.


Thursday 10th May: Autograph: Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2018: Autograph is an opportunity for a select number of dancers and choreographers that have previously participated as emerging artists in the LDIF programme to showcase their developed work.

***** Audience members at Dance City

Is our identity born with us? Inherited? Or is it our environment that makes us who we are? 

The butterfly represents transformation, renewal, life, the soul. The colours and patterns we see on a Butterfly’s wings are actually made by the reflection of hundreds of tiny scales covering their white wings. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Is our identity real? Or do we weave a web to disguise our shadow from ourselves? 

‘Papillon’ is inspired by the four stages of transformation in the lifecycle of the butterfly, an empowering maypole dance using an aerial silk surrounded by a structure of vine ribbons to represent strands of DNA and the British flag, the piece is a search for soul, paying respects to the folkloric dance forms of an ancestry that traces across the world, from the traditions of British folk dances, to the Yoruba dances of West Africa.

Collaborating with the world renowned spoken word artist Toni Stuart from South Africa, this work is an exploration and celebration of identity, of femininity, of ethnicity. We are both of mixed heritage, but how much does our appearance, our experience, our environment dictate who we are, and what is our responsibility to our story, to (her)(his)tory, to our ancestry? 

In the current climate of the UK: with Brexit looming, and Teresa May’s statement ‘if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’, this piece is to protest that in our modern society, no-one is truly ‘British’, and we are all ‘citizens of the world’. 

“Original use of silks and fabrics – loved the sensory rolling on the fabric on the floor. Soundtrack supportive and rich I got lost in the piece – the lights, the membrane like fabric, the braids”, Audience member, Dance City

About the work:

Touring availability: Ready for touring from June 2017 or with re-development from Autumn 2017.

Touring team: 1 performer and 1 rigger/technician (or from Autumn 2017 1 performer)

Minimum performance space: 8 x 8 metres

Technical: Requires in-house technician/operator that is a rigger or can tour with technician. From Autumn 2017, the work will tour with a freestanding self-sufficient rig.

Sound: Sound run from laptop (Q-lab) over PA system

Needs: suitable dance flooring

Lighting: adaptable to venue specifications

Tech Spec: (Coming Soon)

Duration: 20 minutes plus optional audience participatory activity in the foyer, and a video (4 minutes). The work can also be presented without the aerial section: 14 minutes

Wraparound activity
Question cards: which are given to audience members before they enter the performance,

Separation exercise: To extend the audience experience and provoke thought by including a little disruption to some audience members for about 10 minutes of their experience, under the theme of Identity and privilege.

About the creation:

When I was born they thought I had jaundice. At primary school in a small town in the Uk, I was called the ‘N’ word. Later, I was asked ‘Is that really your Mum?’ At secondary school, when I braided my hair I was called ‘wigga’. And as my curves arrived asked, ‘are you Latina?’. Not looking like my mother, never quite fitting in the different groups at school, and not knowing my ancestry, I discovered Brazilian and Latin culture, a place where people looked like me and I belonged. Does a person’s ethnic group define their identity? Do different cultures enrich our life experience? How do we define belonging?

This work was created whilst I was associate Artist at Dance City in 2017 funded by Arts Council of England and The National Centre for Circus Arts. The sculpture installation created by Sarah Carrie is inspired by the maypole, DNA strands, and a British flag made of fabrics from the 24 countries of my DNA. Thank you to all who have participated towards the research and making of this work Dance City, Patricia Stead, James Froment, Claire Harvey, Sarah Carrie, Jodie-Simone Howe, Ciaran Cunningham, Serendipity, National Centre for Circus Arts: Labtime and in 2013: Breakin’ Convention, Pavillion Dance West, Alessandra Seutin, Tony Mills where I spent four days with the initial idea.

“Tremendous personal performance with a clear and significant theme” Audience member, Dance City

Production credits: 

Artistic Director: Ella Mesma

Dancers: Ella Mesma

Aerial Consultant: Claire Harvey

Rehearsal Director: Neville Campbell

Set Design: Sarah Carrie

Lighting: James Froment

Music: Toni Stuart, Jocelyn Pook, Keith Mills

Photography: Nicola Hunter

Producer: Phil Douglas

Previous performances

Sharing: 20th February 2017 Moving Frontiers: Middlesbrough

Preview: 23rd March 2017 Dance City

Sharing: 28th April 2017 PUG St Mary’s Heritage Centre: Gateshead

Sharing: 5th May 2017 as part of Lets Dance International Frontiers: Signatures: Serendipity  Arts Movement at The Curve Theatre, Leicester

You have made a very intelligent piece – you lifted your very personal work into the realm of provocative and meaningful call-and-response: vital and timely thoughts and concerns. It became political, personal, emotional, sensual, positive and strongTim Rubidge, Dance City

What you will see:

The Egg: Using the silks fabric, inspired by ‘negredo’: lead.

The caterpillar: Emulating the ‘Madonna’, a mummy, a straight jacket, a caterpillar.

The chrysalis: ‘Pupating’, inspired by ‘albedo’.

The butterfly: Wrapping the cloths in a dance of Iansa, the Brazilian goddess, inspired by ‘rubedo’, to create one giant DNA strand.

Papillon Full Edit Dance City Sharing from Ella Mesma on Vimeo.