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The arts are coming to you. Merián Soto 's SoMoS is part of a growing international movement to move major performing arts events out of the theater and into the neighborhoods where people live. SoMoS goes one further by transforming a city-block sized parking lot, the ultimate in urban deadspace, into a vibrant and immersive performing arts experience.
This exploration of the seasons and our physical relationship to the natural world works on both the gigantic and intimate scales. There will be large geodesic tents within which audiences can sit and view dancers and be surrounded by quadraphonic scoundscapes of nature in extreme close up, exposing the minute details of the wind through trees, water rushing down a creek. Large projections of nature and of the performers shadows will be cast on the inside and outside of the domes as well as on the walls of buildings facing the parking lot. Dancers will also be outside performing branch dances.
Bringing this large-scale carnival of nature images, sounds, and movement to the parking lot at 5th and Huntingdon Streets is not without its challenges. "It involves careful planning. Equipment and materials have to be purchased, rented or borrowed, and stored. In terms of video and sound we need 14 projectors, 4 laptops, 20 speakers, etc. We are building a pipe and drape wall for projection," explains choreographer Merián Soto. "And we have to practice. Practicing in the parking lot is grueling. It's dirty and noisy and the cement is rough and hard. In the summer it was excessively hot, now the wind makes it cold. And at the same time it's intriguing to think what the event will be like. It's beautiful to see such an expanse of sky, and to connect with the neighbors when we're out there."
The branch dances are both intense and meditative, inviting audiences to become intimate with the performers. As dancer-collaborator Olive Prince describes, "It is like taking a walk in the woods where you can take the time to stop and watch the slow evolution of the leaves moving in the wind or you can wander off the path to what interests you." She goes on to explain, "The audience has the opportunity to wander through a world that presents a sensory experience on nature. You will see dancers moving with massive branches, tents that capture videos of each season, bodies moving in response to the environment that is created, and leading to an overall experience that the audience can immerse themselves in."
SoMoS is presented by Taller Puertorriqueño's series Café Under the Stars: Spotlighting the Arts in El Barrio. Taller is using the parking lot, which will be the site of Taller's future home. Taller's director Carmen Febo explains, "Taller is in the middle of a capital project to build a new state of the art cultural center in that location. We felt that using the space to bring art to this community would plant the seeds for the new Taller as a cultural hub, as a place where people gather to celebrate the art of our community."