Fire in the Mountain (2019-20) is a dance film that explores our relationship to place. Como inmigrantes (as immigrants), we carry the stories of our ancestors on our backs and the places they lived as memories in our bones. In the United States, we are told to take the pill of amnesia to forget those relationships and languages where we come from. This has not only impacted our (once sacred) relationship with the land, but also our mental health. One of our teachers spoke of our hearts as two wings of a butterfly, the visible wing being the physical realm and invisible being our relationship with the unseen. In this piece, we explore both realms as a way back home. If you watch closely, you may see a stag running free and the guardians of the land, as dance is a medium for interdimensional communication.
The film is directed and performed by Rodrigo Esteva and Mirah Moriarty with the director of photography and editor Eric Koziol. Additional photography by Cliff Traiman & Chris O'Dowd.
Made possible thanks to Berkeley Civic Arts Grant at Tilden Park, Berkeley. Stay-tuned for upcoming Premiere.
Photo Credits: Eric Koziol
The Tree and Me (2019) was a duet we created with a large, old Acacia tree on-site at the currently endangered public space, the Albany Bulb. We began by listening to the stories that were held in the land while asking the question- what wishes to be spoken and what wants to remain in silence?
Commissioned by Bulb Fest 2019
Photo Credit: Edward Grylich & Sarah Lin
TLAOLI: People of the Corn (2016) was an interdisciplinary vision of corn as essential to Mexican cultural identity; the mythical relationship between people and plants, traditional sacred farming, food and agricultural rituals. The artists asked essential questions about cultural displacement and amnesia while observing the potential of the arts as seeds to restore soul memory. In times of forced or voluntary migration, what happens to the old stories and traditions that unite people with the earth? How can we, as immigrant artists and cultural centers, create a refuge or a fertile ground for this wisdom to continue to grow for future generations? DANCE MONKS initiated a series of Tiangis (markets) for Mexican immigrants as an essential piece of this project that continues to date.
Made possible thanks to Doris Duke Foundation with the additional support of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
Photo Credits: Robbie Sweeny
The Wall Between Us (2017) was based on a collection of real stories of families currently separated by the US-Mexico border. The duet was part of an ongoing interdisciplinary exchange between US and Mexican artists to deepen relationships and hold necessary conversations, especially during the current political climate.
Premiered at the D.I.R.T Festival, San Francisco.
Photo Credit: Esteva Family
NOMAD: The Blue Road (2014) was a site-specific ritual performance that followed the (now mostly) underground Strawberry Creek in Berkeley, California. In response to the California drought and current water crisis around the world, NOMAD invited the audience to remember our vital, often forgotten relationship with water. The event was also held in continuous support of the current international movement to "daylight" rivers in urban places.
Directed by Rodrigo Esteva and Mirah Moriarty in collaboration with José Navarrete, Debby Kajiyama, Dohee Lee, Adria Otte, Pauchi Sasaki and Jennifer Curtis.
Made possible by the Open Circle Foundation.
Photo Credits: Ambre Murard
Muru (2012) signifies Seed in Quechua and Endless Dream in Japanese. This interdisciplinary performance included live dance, an orchestra and video mapping. The work was directed by OIE Collective with Pauchi Sasaki (Peru), Jennifer Curtis from ICE (NY / SF), Dohee Lee from Puri Project (Korea / SF) and Zulu Tsuruyama (Japan).
Festival de Artes Escenicas (FAEL) at Municipal Theater of Lima, Peru.
Photo Credits: Edi Hirose
Star Rider (2012) was a site-specific presentation on the site at Woodstock Public Library, NY created by DANCE MONKS in direct collaboration with young artists Aki Densmore (at age 7) and their son, Sebastian Esteva (at age 9). This whimsical production was inspired by an original song of the same title by Sebastian.
Commissioned by the Woodstock Public Library, NY.
PERFORMANCE ARCHIVES 2000-2012
Origins (2009) was an in-process sharing of a multimedia creation directed by DANCE MONKS in collaboration with Tawera (Rodney) Bell (formerly of AXIS Dance) and Olivia Eng with live music by Laura Inserra, Pauchi Sasaki and Claudia Cuentas. The artists investigated and chose the mythology of the old world connected to their ancestral origins (Maori, Mexican, Chinese, Slavic) as a starting point.
Made possible by the East Bay Arts Center / Center for Cultural Innovation, The Open Circle Foundation and the Artists Residence Program of NOHSpace, SF.
Road (to Remembrance) (2009) was a solo created by Mirah and inspired by the process of "descansos" or "to put to rest" by Dr. Clarissa Estes, a ritual process that marks the passages of life. She performed inside a tent she made of more than 1,000 pieces of paper with projections of her ancestors and a sound landscape by the renowned musician, Pauchi Sasaki.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Esteva
Body & Sound Festival (2012) was curated by DANCE MONKS with movement/practice workshops and live music performances by internationally renowned artists Pauchi Sasaki (Peru / Japan), Laura Inserra (Italy), T-Bird Luv (Brooklyn) and Dohee Lee (Korea).
KUNST STOFF ARTS, San Francisco.
Photo Credit: Pauchi Sasaki
Cave (2009) was a site-specific in a man-made "cave" on the side of the mountain in Hawk Hill, choreographed by DANCE MONKS with dancers Melecio Estrella (by Joe Goode Performance Group), Christine Bonansea, Olivia Eng and guests.
Directed by Laura Inserra de Samavesha and the piece included 20 hang players who were commissioned by Green Music Network.
Montaña Que Habla/ Talking Mountain (2008) was a music and dance collaboration performed by Laura Inserra, Pauchi Sasaki, Claudia Cuentas, Mirah Moriarty and Rodrigo Esteva.
Samavesha Space Richmond, CA.
Postcards of Mexico (2007) was a multimedia contemporary performance with traditional Mexican folk music and photographs of Sebastian Belaustegui (Author of Guardianes del Tiempo / The Guardians of Time). The piece focused on endangered ways of daily life in Mexico due to the influx of large US corporations.
Premiered at CounterPULSE, SF. Made possible by the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
GREEN: A Force of Nature (2005) was an interdisciplinary environmental performance focused on returning Nature to cities through body memory. The piece included site-specific video projections filmed along the California coast.
Premiered at CounterPULSE, SF. Performed by Olivia Eng, Mary Starr Hope, Brit Karhoff, Mirah Moriarty and Rodrigo Esteva. Made possible by the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the Círculo Abierto Foundation.
El Otro Lado (The Other Side/of the border) (2005) was created from a series of interviews conducted by artists (in Spanish and English) to a wide variety of folks living on the Mexican side of the border and their vision of "the other side." This piece asked the questions: How do you envision the "other side?" How do we see ourselves at the US border, along the US and Mexico? What are our experiences? What are our prejudices? What would you like to be different? The recorded interviews were the soundscape of a love duet between the artists Rodrigo (Mexican) and Mirah (born in the United States) and included firsthand experiences of racial prejudice, childhood imaginings, memories and folk wisdom.
Commissioned by the Summer Language Institute of Middlebury College, VT.
Tierra Imaginaria/Imagined Land (2003-04) was a specific group piece for the site directed by DANCE MONKS at the Universidad IberoAmericana (Universidad IberoAmericana) in Mexico City. The work was carried out in and around the trees on campus and included visual installations of found objects, including mountains of jacaranda flower petals (bluish).
Commissioned by the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City.
Lulabai (2002) was choreographed for dancers of the Ollin Yoliztli School of Arts. The work was inspired by drawings of elementary students in the Madrid School of their "ideal worlds", which were projected as part of the installation for the live presentation.
Premiered in Escuela Madrid and the UNAM (National University, Mexico City as Colores. Commissioned by Escuela Madrid, Mexico City.
La Casa de las Mariposas/ The Butterfly House (2000) was a series of dreamlike landscapes, inspired by living in the mountains of Xalapa, dancing along streams, rocks and in the forest for 5 to 6 hours a day. The performance included a large papier-mâché, white horse.
The Green Project (2000-present) was created from a deep and modern need for children to reconnect physically and imaginatively with nature through embodied experience. Green is a carefully constructed residency program by which young people or a multigenerational audience move in partnership with the land and each other. The project culminated in an original multimedia presentation with dance, stories and live music created in collaboration with the community, along with professional artists.
Previous youth projects include: The Great Dreamer (Malcolm X), Rain Dances (Highland Elementary), Wild Child and other tall tree tales (Berkeley Arts Magnet), Green Project Bike Tour (East Bay), Madrid School (City of Mexico)) and Conversaciones con árboles, Nayarit (Mexico).
Made possible by The Open Circle Foundation and The Zellerbach Family Foundation.