“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.

In these times of nationalism and global racial tension, South African born poet Toni Stuart and British born Ella Mesma question what it means to be a ‘citizen of the world,’ using silks, poetry, papyrus and paint. 

*Partial nudity


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

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

“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

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

About the work:

Touring availability: Ready for touring.

Touring team: 1/2 performers and 1 rigger/technician

Minimum performance space: 8 x 8 metres

Technical: Requires in-house technician/operator that is a rigger or can tour with technician. The work can also tour with a freestanding self-sufficient rig for outdoors.

Technical Rider:

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

Needs: Suitable dance flooring

Lighting: Adaptable to venue specifications

Tech Spec: (Coming Soon)


Maypole Scene: 25 minutes

Payllon: 25 minutes (The work can also be presented without the aerial section: 14 minutes) *Partial nudity (This can be adapted as per venue requests)

Audience participatory activities in the foyer: 10 minutes

Post show talk: 20 minutes

Wraparound activity:
Question cards: which are given to audience members before they enter the performance along with an envelope to be used during the maypole performance.

The Yellow Brick Road: Painting activity

Community Workshops: Maypole Dance

About the creation:

2017: This creation process began whilst I was an associate Artist at Dance City in 2017, funded by Arts Council of England and The National Centre for Circus Arts. I commissioned Sarah Carrie to create a sculpture installation inspired by a maypole, DNA strands, and the British flag made of fabrics from the 24 countries of my DNA. It was shared at Serendipity Leicester, GIFT in Gateshead, Dance City in Newcastle and for Moving Art Management in Middlesbrough.

2018: Serendipity Leicester commissioned me to continue working on the piece to premiere at LDIF 2018 on May 10th. I have also applied and been successful in securing my first Artist International Development Fund to travel to South Africa and work with Toni Stuart. 

Production credits: 

Artistic Director: Ella Mesma

Dancers: Ella Mesma

Aerial Consultant: Claire Harvey

Rehearsal Director: Neville Campbell

Set Design: Sarah Carrie

Lighting: James Froment, Ciarán Cunningham

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: GIFT: Gateshead

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

What you will see:

The Egg: The duet begins with papyrus and paint whilst the dancer uses the silks fabric and  angular floorwork inspired by ‘negredo’: (lead) (a process of directing oneself to find self-knowledge) *Contains partial nudity

The caterpillar: Emulating the ‘Madonna’, Venus/Aphrodite, A mummy, A straight jacket, Anima/animus, A caterpillar this scene explores Maya: the world of illusions, or the veil that prevents us from seeing and experiencing true reality. The anima/Animus represents all the female tendencies such as feelings, emotions, moods, intuition, receptivity for the irrational, personal love and a feeling for nature. She is the bearer for the spiritual.

Indigenous people recognise the chrysalis as the soul trapped inside in the body. The chrysalis stage represents fundamental changes occurring on the inside, for example in one’s mentality or point of view. This ‘pupating’, aerial scene is inspired by ‘albedo’ in alchemy (Artist =Alchemist). Albedo is often represented with gold or silver: the metal of the moon. Alchemists also talk about the white tincture. Alchemical images for albedo include the white dove and baptism which symbolizes the purification of both body and soul by ‘living water’: the creative force of the divine.

Round the world, butterflies are seen as the departed souls of our ancestors, and in some cultures, the emergence of the adult butterfly symbolises the freedom of the soul upon death. The butterfly stage was inspired by ‘Rubedo’ (Redness/red sulphur) a word adopted by the alchemists as the fourth and final stage of magnum opus (alchemical success) in the process of individuation (the merging of the ego and the self) and is also the colour of the philosopher’s stone and the colour of Iansa, the Brazilian goddess whose symbol is the butterfly and who represents change, and Iosa the Greek or Aurora the Roman goddess. This is the first time the dancer touches the floor, and is a celebration of freedom of expression and a stepping outside of the boxes of the world

Programme Notes

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? 

The Greeks likened the butterfly’s constant flitting from flower to flower to the restlessness of the mind: constantly changing from subject to subject. Indeed, the Greek word for butterfly is ‘psyche’ from where we get our word ‘psychology’ – the study of the mind.

‘Papyllon’, inspired by the four stages of transformation in the lifecycle of the butterfly is a search for soul, a search for freedome, 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. Both of mixed heritage, but how much does appearance, experience, environment dictate who you are, and what is your responsibility to (her)(his)tory, to 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’. 

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


Thank you to all who have participated towards the research and making of this work Arts Council of England, British Council, Dance City, Patricia Stead, James Froment, Claire Harvey, Sarah Carrie, Jodie-Simone Howe, Ciaran Cunningham, Patrick Ziza, David Evans, Jeff Dean, Patricia Stead, Joao Fiadiero, Freddie Opuko Addaie, Pawlett Brookes, Jazzy Dance Studios, 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.