Choreographic Work

“cuerpalatina*” is the first work of Impropias Collective. It premiered at Finland Through Other Eyes Festival (FOE Fest), Maunula, on July 31st 2021. 

The piece deconstructs popular dances from Latin America and reinterprets them through dance improvisation, thus challenging the strict gender-coded movements of traditional pair-dancing. The dance-installation arises from the performers’ experiences as foreign women and artists living in Helsinki. It is built around three moments, each establishing a different dynamic between audience and performers.

Initially, audience members are inside a house, looking at performers through a window. They see dancers appear and disappear as they interact with elements in the space, indifferent to the audience’s gaze. Each performer has headphones and dances to their personal selection of Latin American music. It is impossible to know what they’re dancing to. 

After this first round, the audience joins performers in the garden; they’ve started their dance again. This time, songs are playing on small wireless speakers attached to performers’ clothes. The soundscape transforms, each individual playlist overlaps with the other two, creating a mobile sonic composition. Immersed in this cacophony, audience members move around the space, choosing how to shape their perception and experience. 

Individual playlists fade progressively, and performers gather to dance to the same song, playing from inside the house. Once this song is over, another one begins. Little by little, performers extend their hands to invite participants to dance. People get closer to each other, tuning in with each other’s movements. Together, performers and participants decide when to stop, finding an ending to the dance. 

cuerpalatina’s choreographic language relies on improvised movement, making room for transgression and creativity beyond cultural stereotypes. Moreover, Latin dances are often over-stylized and might appear out-of-reach for many people. By bringing the spontaneity of dance improvisation to the forefront, cuerpalatina wishes to disseminate the joy and freshness at the core of several beats from Latin America. 

*In Spanish, a gendered language, the word for “body” (cuerpo) is a “male” word. Cuerpa is a symbolic reappropriation of the word in the “female” form. 

Founded by Mercedes Balarezo Fernández, Yes Escobar, Paola Nieto Paredes, and Daniela Pascual Esparza in 2021, Impropias Collective researches Latin American identities from an embodied, situated, and feminist standpoint. In Spanish, “impropia” is the female form for inappropriate, for something inadequate or untimely. It is also a play of words between “improvisation” and “propio”, which means cool and street-smart in Ecuadorian slang. 

cuerpalatina was supported by The Art Promotion Centre Finland

“Untitled ritual: Memorial for my lost fat”
My nemesis could not be completely executed because that would mean I have to kill myself… the joke laughs at itself! 2310 is the amount of dollars I invested in a half successful self-murder. In the process of washing off the guilt, this is an attempt to tell a story that is shameful to share. A way to find what is there beneath the shame. In short, a memorial could be the first step to befriend the enemy. By an eclectic collage of invented rituals that revisits the deceased’s last years and our relationship, I am making a point on something that I am not sure of yet.

Premiere: Helsinki-Finland 2020
Production: Vocational College Live
Choreographic direction: Mercedes Balarezo & Maia Nowack
Dance and soundscape: Student from Vocational College Live (Vocational Qualification in Dance)
Photo: Maia Nowack

“All you can do is breathe and hope” was the result of an artistic-pedagogical process created as part of Maia Nowack’s and Mercedes Balarezo’s MA theses in Dance Pedagogy. The piece is a crystallization of the explorations around the relationship between voice and movement. The piece is formed of four worlds, each of which has an atmosphere of their own. Based on the different physical actions, different soundscapes were created with the performers’ voices. “The Voice as a Limb: Sounding Dance Laboratory” was the artistic practice that generated material for the choreographic work. This practice researches the connection between improvised movement with vocal improvisation as one unity of expression.

“La Tuna” (The Prickly Pear) was a project of knowledge exchange and togetherness. The project sought to challenge the boundaries between dance styles which are related to social division (classism and racism) in Ecuadorian society as a result of the colonial wound. Two groups whose main technique was contemporary dance met two groups of African Ecuadorian dance. Through the rehearsal period, the groups had the chance to attend workshops on contemporary dance and traditional African Ecuadorian dance respectively, sharing their knowledge with the other dancers. Together they created a piece that was a celebration of diversity.

Premiere: Ecuador 2017
Production: Mercedes Balarezo
Choreography, soundscape and dance: Mercedes Balarezo y Diego Zurita
Photo: Ricardo Centeno

“Lazos convergentes” (Converging ties) started with the question: what is possible to do from limitations? How is it possible to create art when our hands are tied?  This exploration came as a critique to the unhospitable environment for artistic production in Ecuador. Hindrances, scarcity and precarity tighten bonds between humans, while demanding a huge amount of creativity and compromises. Relying on each other is the only thing that artists in Ecuador can do. The elements on stage were limited to two bodies strongly tied. There was no recorded music, the soundscape was created by exploration of the performer’s voices, breath, and body percussion. The ties started to become elements of the scene such as rudimentary scenography and musical instruments.

“En 15 semanas 1 siglo” (In 15 weeks, 1 century) was an artistical-pedagogical project where visual arts and dance students explored the art of the 20th century together. During 15 weeks of participatory workshops they became acquainted with the main art movements from the last century. With the dance students we created choreographies based on cubism, dadaism and surrealism, expressionism, pop art and kinetic art. Visual art students created the scenography, costumes and props for the staging of the performance. This event was open for the students, their families, and to everyone in the community.

Premiere: Ecuador-Mexico 2010
Production: Mercedes Balarezo
Direction and choreography: Mercedes Balarezo y Javier Contreras Villasenor
Dancers: (ECU) Sara Acosta, Gerardo Guerrero y Mercedes Balarezo; (MEX) Marisol Cal y Mayor, Laura Ruiz, Coatlicue García y Marien Perez
Music composition: Javier Sandoval
Photo: Eli Vynk

“Cartas desde los valles” (Letters from the valleys) was a project funded by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage of Ecuador. Two groups of dancers, one from Ecuador and the other from Mexico, collaborated in this process. The piece was composed of three parts: the first and second were the presentations of each group’s exploration on the identity as inhabitants of the valleys: Mexico City and Quito. The third part was an instant composition by the two groups which together created one dance piece. They gathered first in Ecuador and later in Mexico to perform in different cities in both countries. This project started from the need to put in contact two Latin American cultures and reflect on our Mestizo identity.