I have now arrived at an age when many of the elders in my life have gone; my mother and father in-law, Benjamín Osorio and María Luisa Encarnación, most of my aunts and uncles, and my teachers Barbara Lea and Elaine Summers. And then there’s the loss of good friends and collaborators such as Lourdes Torres Camacho and Niles Ford. Last year, I lost my mom, Andy Soto.
The time has come to dance for the dead again.
I created Todos Mis Muertos in 1989, for a Day of the Dead altar by María Hinojosa at BACA Downtown in Brooklyn. First dedicated to my grandmother Mamita, María Eulogia Pagán, the dance came to me as a gift from the other side. It came with a kind of certainty that I didn’t question. There was the pale yellow soul light, a series of objects to wear, carry, manipulate, and balance, and a series of actions to perform. I would be unseeing, like Mamita. After my dad, Henry Soto, passed, I was compelled to restage the work and presented it in venues including Judson Memorial Church and El Museo del Barrio in NYC, and the ICA in London, UK, in 1998.
The experience of creating and performing Todos Mis Muertos, connected me to the beyond. It filled my heart.
Todos Mis Muertos is a performance altar offering to the dead as well as the living. The dancer, blindfolded, becomes a constantly transforming altar. Todos Mis Muertos is about the intersection of light and gravity; the extraordinary demands of the balancing of various objects and weights (gravity)—and the loss of sight—open a channel of energy (light) beyond everyday reality.
Along with the La Calaca Flaca (Skinny Skeleton) Day of the Dead Committee and Fleisher Art Memorial I am happy to help bring together the community of South Philadelphia in celebration of this centuries old tradition honoring the dead. Journalist Leticia Nixon, artist Valeska Garay, and I are creating an elaborate traditional altar piece dedicated to the disappeared women of Juarez, in Fleisher’s sanctuary . Audiences are welcome to contribute their own offerings to the altar. The celebration will also feature performances by traditional Aztec dance group Cenzontle Cuicatl, mariachi Pedro Villaseñor, and traditional food.
Hope to see you there! —Merián Soto