Collaboration with Carmen de Lavallade and Dance Theatre of Harlem

Our bodies are Music
You cannot play
Without the body
Even in stillness
There is movement

© Carmen de Lavallade

A noticing of your humble branch-hood, growing and rising thanks to the way-making grace of an elder woman’s branch.  A permeating sense of the-way-ahead-being-lit as her sweet sap of accumulated sun & refined water trans-fuses into the current of your being.

For participating directly in the celebration of an esteemed elder woman, thereby reducing the fear of isolation, and other stressors, associated with aging. For appreciating the effects of testosterone “loss” in the body and psyche of elders. For revering the distinct ways the body and knowing of an elder woman can move (us), orient (us), balance (us), and guide (us). Use as a salve to soften and open one’s capacity for listening, joy, and shared-visioning in the company of elder women. -Notice how their care and experience is the connective dream tissue between those who’ve brought us this far, and all we hope to manifest for shared thriving in the future.

During the Lower Manhattan S.A.L., we created Formwela 11, designed to help one: “slow down and remember to make space/time for your elders, amidst the myriad thoughts, people, and things you and others your age are busy busy busy solving, responding-to, interjecting-in, keeping-up-with, pursuing, showing-competency-at, figuring-out, proving-yourself-to, and/or, steadily-remaining-distracted-by, while a pantheon of life experts {elders} are available to illuminate the seconds-to-midnight construction site of your most beautiful dreams”. While working on this formwela, we realized we didn’t have an elder in our midst. We hadn’t invited any elders into the lab to co-create and converse with us. During discussion of why we failed to collaborate with elders for this lab, and how we’d fallen out of the habit of spending time at (& with) the feet of our elders, we decided we needed to make a formwela in collaboration with an elder, that would bring us younglings into honoring, and listening to elders - specifically elder women. This led to research about how the value of elder women has shifted over time in our own culture, how elder women are under-represented in feminist scholarship, and how and where other cultures revere their grandmas and great aunties as essential, way-lighting members of society. When discussing the NY based women elders in our midst, -specifically ones who have allowed me to sit at their feet, and who’s work has influenced and inspired me deeply-, Ms DeLavallade came up as the person I most would love to work with. Fortunately, she liked the concept of this formwela, and generously agreed to collaborate. During our devising, rehearsal and filming for this, Carmen de Lavallade persistently offered her luminous generosity of spirit, insight, presence, encouragement, (and so many stories!). Being in her presence during the making of this formwela was renewing, invigorating, inspiring, and oh so fun for all!

Thank you Leo Holder for your vision, manifesting-work, relationship weaving, and open-ness to co-devise and play with us improvisers! Mr. Holder specifically opened the way for co-visioning this wholly collaborative and improvisational film, dance, music and happening. Thank you to the most special and generous dancers Akua, Amanda, Lindsey and Daphne who co-conspired to bring the movement and music through in real-time. Thank you Francesca Harper for your work with these brilliant dancers, encouraging and devising rich improvisational structures. Thank you Dance Theatre of Harlem for your devotion to dance and community, for your creativity, welcoming, and trust. Thank you Virginia, Melinda, and Anna for all your guidance, insight and support. Thank you (again!) to the Lower Manhattan Cohort of the Songwrights Apothecary Lab, and Terri Lyne Carrington for all the conversations and explorations that led to the co-devising of Formwela 12. Special thanks to Lili Chopra, Héloïse Darcq, River to River Festival, and Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center for hosting the Lower Mahnattan S.A.L.. Thank you Lily for designing the Formwela 12 set/environment! Thank you to Mela, Leo and Matt. And thank you Fernando, Oscar and Alejandro. Thank you T.L., Mike, and Mecca Filmworks for your exceptional vision and generous spirit while conceiving, filming, and editing Formwela 12.

Formwela 12 (12:56)
(esperanza spalding)
Due Hope Music/Kobalt (ASCAP)
/ Budde Music / Musica De Amor BMI/ BMI
Music and Arrangements by esperanza spalding, Matthew Stevens, Francisco
Mela, Leo Genovese
Choreography by Carmen de Lavallade
Additional choreography by Francesca Harper

Produced by esperanza spalding, Leo Holder,
and Dance Theatre of Harlem
Recorded by Alejandro Venguer
and Fernando Lodeiro
Mixed by Fernando Lodeiro
Mastered by Oscar Zambrano

esperanza spalding - vocals, bass
Matthew Stevens - guitar
Leo Genovese - piano
Francisco Mela - drums
Carmen de Lavallade – author and voice for the poem
Carmen de Lavallade with Lindsey Donnell, Amanda Smith, Daphne Lee,
Akua Noni Parker -dancers
Additional credits/thank you

Photography: Idris Talib Solomon
Film Director: Leo Holder
Director of Photography, Film Editor: T.L. Benton / Mecca Filmworks
Camera operators: Mike Adeyeye & Allen Mays / Mecca Filmworks
Art Installation: Lily Consuelo Saporta Tagiuri