esperanza spalding Unveils “Formwela 12,” the Latest Work from Songwrights Apothecary Lab


Created in Collaboration with Carmen de Lavallade

and Dance Theatre of Harlem


“Formwela 12” Included as Bonus Track on Two-LP Vinyl Edition of

Songwrights Apothecary Lab, Out 5/20


May 18, 2022 – Today, esperanza spalding unveils “Formwela 12,” the latest work from her Songwrights Apothecary Lab. The work is a collaboration with legendary actor, dancer, choreographer, and writer Carmen de Lavallade and the storied Dance Theatre of Harlem. Accompanying the release of the song is a short film directed by Leo Holder, which features spalding in performance with her band, a quartet of dancers, and de Lavallade, who contributed choreography and the poem which opens the piece. A full list of credits is below.

Watch/listen HERE.

Our bodies are Music

You cannot play


Without the body


Even in stillness

There is movement




Intended effects of “Formwela 12:” 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.

This Friday, May 20, Songwrights Apothecary Lab – named Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 64th. annual GRAMMY Awards – will be available on vinyl for the first time. The two-LP set will include “Formwela 12” as a bonus track. The album, first released in September 2021, was created in a traveling creative space where spalding was joined by researchers, practitioners – including music therapists and neuroscientists – and musicians to make music designed to have a specific effect on the listener.

Songwrights Apothecary Lab was hailed as one of the best albums of 2021, and has been lauded by the New York Times, New Yorker, Pitchfork, NPR, NPR Music, Vogue, DownBeat, Jazz Times, and many others.

Additionally, spalding recently collaborated with Wayne Shorter on a new opera, Iphegenia, which made its triumphant debut late last year.




Music, handmade objects, & literature for additional “Formwelas” available HERE

Exclusive vinyl available HERE

About Carmen de Lavallade: Carmen de Lavallade has had an unparalleled career in dance, theater, film and television beginning in her hometown of Los Angeles performing with the Lester Horton Dance Theater. While in Los Angeles, Lena Horne introduced the then 17 year old de Lavallade to the filmmakers at 20th Century Fox where she appeared in four movies, including Carmen Jones (1954) with Dorothy Dandridge and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) with Harry Belafonte. During the filming of Carmen Jones, she met Herbert Ross, who asked her to appear as a dancer in the Broadway production of House of Flowers. Her dance career includes having ballets created for her by Lester Horton, Geoffrey Holder, Alvin Ailey, Glen Tetley, John Butler and Agnes de Mille. She succeeded her cousin Janet Collins as the principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera becoming the second black dancer to perform on that stage and was a guest artist with the American Ballet Theater. She has choreographed for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the productions of Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger at the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. de Lavallade also has had an extensive acting career as a member of the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, performing in numerous off-Broadway productions, and as an instructor at the Yale School of Drama. Lauded by numerous institutions, Ms. de Lavallade received an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the Juilliard School in 2007, the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award, the Dance USA Award in 2010, and in 2017 she received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors award. Ms. de Lavallade recently completed a tour of an original dance/theater work about her life entitled As I Remember It. Carmen de Lavallade has been an incomparable dance and theater treasure for more than six decades. In her nineties and still performing with a supreme level of grace and elegance, she is an icon in the truest sense of the word – inspiring generations of artists and audiences.

About Dance Theatre of Harlem:  Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim, encompassing a professional touring company, a leading studio school, and a national and international education and community outreach program. Each component of Dance Theatre of Harlem carries a solid commitment towards enriching the lives of young people and adults around the world through the arts. Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem is considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times). Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts. Now in its sixth decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts. Dance Theatre of Harlem has achieved unprecedented success, bringing innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression to audiences in New York City, across the country and around the world.


Formwela 12 (esperanza spalding)

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


Photography: Idris Talib Solomon

Film Director: Leo Holder

Director of Photography, Film Editor: T.L. Benton / Mecca Filmworks

Camera operators: Mike Adeyeye & Allen Mays / MeccaFilmworks

Art Installation: Lily Consuelo Saporta Tagiuri